Abraham and After
Rabbi reading the Torah
The history of Judaism is the continual story of exile and settlement, of adaptation and preservation in the face of a constantly shifting world. And it continues, stretching from Biblical times until today.
2000-1250 B.C.
According to the Bible, a covenant between God and Abraham is established and Abraham moves his family to Canaan. The family remains there and Abraham's son Isaac raises his family there until famine forces Isaac's son Jacob to Egypt. Later, Moses leads the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and receives the Torah - the Jewish holy book that contains the Ten Commandments - at Mt. Sinai. They return to Canaan where they are governed by the biblical Judges.
King David, who killed the nine-foot Philistine giant Goliath as a young man, rules over a united kingdom and establishes Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, while expanding Israel's empire. David's son King Solomon builds the First Temple to house the Ark containing the Ten Commandments.
Following the death of Solomon, his kingdom divides in two, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyrian forces destroy Isreal and the ten northern tribes are exiled. Invading Babylonians destroy Judah the First Temple. The people of Judah are exiled to Babylon.
Photo Univ. of Pennsylvania Museum, Alexander the Great
Persia conquers Babylon allowing Jewish exiles back to Israel and the Second Temple is completed. Hellenistic Culture is brought to Israel by Alexander the Great.
The Maccabees head a successful rebellion against the desecration of the Second Temple and restrictions placed on Judaism by King Antiochus IV. Jerusalem is recaptured and the Second Temple is purified, giving rise to the Hannukah holiday.
A.D. 73-135
During what is known as the Great Revolt, Masada, the last Jewish stronghold in the revolt against the Romans, falls after the 960 people defending it commit suicide rather than face defeat against the Roman Tenth Legion. Jews are sold into slavery and sent into exile, while Jerusalem and the Second Temple are destroyed. The Synagogue begins to play a more prominent role in Jewish life.
Thousands of Jews, led by Shimon Bar-Kokhba, are killed by Romans after three years of steady battle, in which serious damage is dealt to the Roman Empire. The Jews are expelled from Jerusalem and Judea, part of what is now the West Bank, is renamed Palaestina.
Prompted by great losses of life in the defeat against the Romans, the Mishnah, the codification of the Torah into law, discussions and debate, is compiled for fear that it might be forgotten. Jews are granted citizenship by the Romans, and Jewish academies are established in Babylon, which becomes the center of Jewish life. The first legal restrictions are placed on Jews, prohibiting intermarriage between Christians and Jews.
The Babylonian Talmud, the authoritative interpretation and expansion of the Mishnah, is completed. The city of Rome falls. The Muslim conquest of Israel and Spain allows Jews relative peace and freedom to worship. Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem.
Jews flourish within Muslim society and the Yiddish language emerges in Northern Europe, influenced by German, French, Italian, and Hebrew.
Christians massacre Jews in major European cities during the Crusades and crusaders capture Jerusalem.
Jews in England are accused of murdering Christian children in order to use their blood for religious rituals during Passover. These allegations incite anti-Jewish violence. Jews are expelled from parts of Western Europe, many move east.
In Spain, Jews are forced to convert to Catholicism or face death while Jews across Europe are accused of poisoning drinking wells with the Black Plague, which is ravaging Europe. The accusations lead to violence and the destruction of many Jewish communities. Pope Boniface continues the favorable policies initiated by Pope Clement VI and forbids Christian violence toward Jews.
The Spanish Inquisition is established to investigate heresy and uncover forced Catholic converts who continue to practice Judaism. Jews are expelled from Spain, sending over 200,000 people away.
AP, The Portico d'Octtavia (Portico of Octavia) in Rome's Old Ghetto
The first Jewish ghettos are constructed in Venice and Rome as a separate quarter of the city segregated by walls and gates. Joseph Caro writes the Shulhan Arukh, accepted today as the authoritative Jewish legal code. Many Spanish and Portuguese Jews settle in Amsterdam and the Netherlands.
The first Jewish community in the New World is established in Recife, Brazil. Many in this community soon settle in New Amsterdam (New York) seeking refuge from the Inquisition. Bogdan Chmelnitzki leads Cossack uprising against Polish rule; 100,000 Jews are killed and hundreds of Jewish communities are destroyed. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov founds Jewish Hasidism in Eastern Europe.
The American Revolution; religious freedom is guaranteed in the New World. Jews in France and Prussia are granted full citizenship. The Reform Movement in Judaism begins in Germany. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise heads the American Reform movement and founds two of the movement's principle organizations, the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.
Helen Ostroff, left, locks the door to the tiny synagogue down the street from her Rosenhayn, N.J. home. Rosenhayn is one of a handful of South Jersey towns established by Jewish settlers at the turn of the 20th century.
Major Jewish immigration from Germany to the U.S. begins. Mishkenot Sha'aninam is established as the first Jewish neighborhood in Israel outside the walls of Jerusalem. The Jewish Ghetto in Prague is abolished.
Ghettos are abolished in Italy; Jews are granted full rights in Germany.
About 35,000 Jews, primarily early Zionists from the Eastern Europe, attempt with varied success to immigrate to Israel and settle agricultural villages in what is known as the First Aliyah. Over half of the participants leave within several years.
The Conservative Judaism Movement is founded in the U.S. by Rabbi Solomon Schechter as a reaction against the Reform Movement. The Conservative Movement aimed to retain traditional observances including dietary laws, which the Reformers saw as anachronistic. In 1902 Schechter became president of the Jewish Theological Seminary and was later involved with establishing the United Synagogue of America, representing all the Conservative Congregations.
Lib. of Congress, Artist dipiction of Theodor Herzl
Convened in Basle, Switzerland, the First Zionist Congress is organized by Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism. Zionism is a movement calling for the return of the Jews to Israel and the creation of a Jewish state. The World Zionist Organization is formed.
Founding of the Modern Jewish Orthodox Movement. The Last Russian Czar, Nicholas II, commissions the most notorious work of antisemitism, "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," alleging an international Jewish conspiracy. Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew speaking, all-Jewish, modern city is established in Israel.
In the Balfour Declaration British declare support for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. During World War I, approximately 250,000 Jewish soldiers serve the United States.
The first immigration quotas are proposed on Jews in the U.S. By this time at least 2,300,000 Jews have settled in America.
AP, Adolf Hitler
Adolph Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. Soon after, the Nuremberg Laws revoke the rights of German Jews. On November 9 and 10, 1938, Jews in Germany and Austria are freely attacked in the streets. At least 1000 synagogues are burned and 30,000 Jews are arrested and sent to concentration camps. By the next year, Jewish ghettos are established in Germany.
AP, Starved and maltreated prisoners of war huddle at the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany
Known as the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women, and children are gassed and shot in extermination camps by German Nazis.
In Warsaw, Polish Jews facing deportation to Nazi death camps lead an armed uprising against German soldiers, holding them off for 28 days until the resistance is crushed by Nazi soldiers. The resistance is an important symbolic victory for the Jews and leads to similar uprisings in other ghettos.
The United Nations votes to partition Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. The next year, the day after Israel's Declaration of Independence is ratified, Arab forces attack Israel, beginning a yearlong civil war. In 1950, Israel's parliament passes the Law of Return allowing any Jew to return to Israel and claim citizenship.
The Jewish Reconstructionist Movement is founded as a distinct denomination. Based on the 1935 book Judaism as a Civilization by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, the Reconstructionist Movement was a revaluation of the foundations of Judaism. Among the changes advocated by Kaplan were a democratic organization of the synagogue, gender desegregation and election of Temple leaders. Kaplan performed the first American Bat Mitzah on his daughter in 1922.
Rabbi Stephanie Aaron is one of maybe 100 or so women rabbis in the country.
Sally Priesand becomes the first ever women to be ordained a Rabbi by Hebrew Union College, a Reform Jewish seminary. Within a decade, one third of the students at the Reform Seminary were women and in 1983 the Jewish Theological Seminary began ordaining women, provoking attacks from the Orthodoxy and Conservative Movement.
Nov. 1, 1975
The United Nations adopts Resolution 3379 condemning Zionism "as a form of racism and racial discrimination." However, on Dec. 16 1991, the UN revokes this resolution.
Adapting to the dramatic increase of intermarriages in the U.S., the Reform Movement rules that if children of mixed marriages whose father's are Jewish are educated as Jews, then they are Jewish. Until this time Jewish law held that a Jew is one who is born to a Jewish mother. The controversial decision broke with basic Jewish law, Orthodox, and Conservative beliefs.
Dec 9, 1987
AP, Palestinian Fatah activists hold axes, firearms and a portrait of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a march to mark the 13th anniversary of the 1987 Intifada in Gaza City, Dec. 9, 2000.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip begin a national uprising, called Intifada, with riots, demonstrations, and violence directed toward Israelis, which continues for more than five years. By 1990, at least 800 Palestinians and 50 Israelis had been killed in the violence.
Nov. 4, 1995
AP, Yitzhak Rabin
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is gunned down by a young Jewish extremist during a Tel Aviv peace rally.
Terrorist attacks in Israel escalate as the peace process stalls. Benjamin Netanyahu is elected Israeli Prime Minister, followed two years later by Ehud Barak. On Sept 28, 2000 right-wing Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon leads a group of Israeli legislators on a tour of the bitterly contested Temple Mount, marking the beginning of intense violence that quickly became known as the al-Aqsa or Second Intifada. On Feb. 6, 2001 Sharon is elected Prime Minister of Israel.