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Judaism is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Some scholars argue that modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions. Judaism is considered by religious Jews to be the expression of the covenant that God established with the Israelites, their ancestors. It encompasses a wide body of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization.
The Torah, as it is commonly understood by Jews, is part of the larger text known as the Tanakh. The Tanakh is also known to secular scholars of religion as the Hebrew Bible, and to Christians as the "Old Testament". The Torah's supplemental oral tradition is represented by later texts such as the Midrash and the Talmud. The Hebrew word torah can mean "teaching", "law", or "instruction", although "Torah" can also be used as a general term that refers to any Jewish text that expands or elaborates on the original Five Books of Moses. Representing the core of the Jewish spiritual and religious tradition, the Torah is a term and a set of teachings that are explicitly self-positioned as encompassing at least seventy, and potentially infinite, facets and interpretations. Judaism's texts, traditions, and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. Hebraism, like Hellenism, played a seminal role in the formation of Western civilization through its impact as a core background element of Early Christianity. (Full article...)
The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is perhaps the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period. Constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, the works were probably not finished during his lifetime. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall-a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.
It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, various Jews tried, without success, to purchase rights to the wall. In the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, and outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel recaptured the Old City Six-Day War in 1967. (Read more...)
The First Roumanian-American congregation is an Orthodox Jewish congregation that for more than 100 years occupied a historic building (pictured) at 89-93 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. Those who organized the congregation in 1885 were part of a wave of Romanian-Jewish immigrants who settled mostly in this precinct. The building had previously been a church, then a synagogue, and then a church again. It was transformed into a synagogue for a second time and extensively remodeled when the First Roumanian-American congregation purchased it in 1902. The synagogue's high ceiling, good acoustics, and seating for up to 1,800 people made it famous as the "Cantor's Carnegie Hall". The congregation's membership was in the thousands in the 1940s, but by the early 2000s had declined to around 40 as Jews moved out of the Lower East Side. Though its building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, the congregation was reluctant to accept outside assistance in maintaining it. In January 2006, the roof collapsed and the building was demolished two months later. (Read more...)