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Judaism, a brief overview of an age-old faith

The Centre for the Jewish Community of Bermuda

When I started in this role as Religion Correspondent I did so with the intention of diversifying the stories that were shared in this section. I wanted this space to accurately reflect our readership and the wider community.

Collectively, we have done an amazing job sharing stories of faith in these pages over the last two years. So many people in our community have been brave enough to share their personal journeys while others have taken courage to host faith-based events and share their faith with the community.

I’ve learnt so much through my interactions and research from week to week. Most profound has been the education I’ve received on religions and practices that I knew very little about. It’s been an ongoing course in world religion and, just when I think I’ve learnt it all, I interview someone who introduces me to whole new way of thinking and believing.

Taking the time to listen and learn about the beliefs of my neighbours, the people I share this island with, has been an incredible lesson in respect and love. A lesson I don’t know I would have ever learnt had I not stumbled into this role.

I thought it would be meaningful to share some of things I have been learning in a more formal way. So, I’ve decided to set aside space each month to share about the history of various religions and faith-based organisations that are represented in Bermuda.

Statistics show that 83 per cent of the global population identify with one of twelve classical religions – Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.

As our little isolated island evolves more and more into a melting pot, diversity becomes a part of the fabric of our community. Embracing and celebrating that diversity, including the religious diversity, is part of loving our neighbour. It’s love in action.

I hope you will join me on this journey with an open mind and open heart. And I hope that what we learn will transform your mind and heart in some of the ways this role has transformed mine.

The first religion to be featured in this ongoing series is Judaism. I chose Judaism to start with because it is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in human history, despite spirituality existing from the beginning of time. This is a brief overview.

Followers of Judaism believe in one God – sometimes called Yahweh, Adonai or Elohim – who revealed himself to ancient prophets. These revelations are chronicled in the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books form the basis of the Jewish faith and has been used by Jews throughout centuries as a blueprint for living a Godly life.

The Torah includes a total of 613 commandments, including the Ten Commandments which are most well-known and observed by other faiths.

The history of the Jewish faith is also found in the Torah. According to the holy book, God first revealed himself to a man named Abraham, who became the founder of the Jewish faith.

Jews believe that God made a special covenant with Abraham and that his descendants were chosen people who would become a great nation. Abraham’s son and grandson, Jacob and Isaac, also became central figures in Jewish history, followed by the prophet Moses over 1,000 years later.

Practising Jews recognise Shabbot – or Sabbath – as a day of rest and prayer. It is observed from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. This observance can take many forms, including collective worship at a synagogue, reading the Torah, sharing meals with loved ones and taking time off from work and physical labour.

It’s important to mention that Judaism is more than a religious belief. It has been debated whether Jews are a racial, religious, ethnic or cultural group. In many ways Judaism is a fusion of all of the above. There are people of Jewish ancestry and ethnicity who do not practice the religion and likewise there are others with no Jewish bloodline who ascribe to its beliefs. This is one of the features that make Judaism complex and beautiful.

Throughout history Jewish people have been persecuted for their beliefs and ethnicity. It is a major part of the Jewish story dating back to ancient Biblical times and continues through the Middle Ages and into modern history.

Most well-known of the atrocities against Jewish people is the Holocaust, which took place between 1933 and 1945. This horrible event in human history was a systemic attack on European Jews by the German Nazi regime, led by Adolf Hitler, which resulted in the murder of millions of Jewish people in concentration camps in parts of German-occupied Europe.

Despite this cruel attempt to extinguish the Jewish nation, today there are over 14 million people who identify as Jews worldwide. Unfortunately, Bermuda’s census reports have not accurately captured statistics on religion and ethnicity, so we do not have data for how many adults identify as Jewish. But their presence is certainly here and felt.

The Jewish community of Bermuda, while smaller in number compared to other religions on island, has a diverse membership, including orthodox, conservative and reform members. The Centre for the Jewish Community of Bermuda, located on St John’s Road in Pembroke, is a hub for those who believe in and observe Judaism.

You will notice Jews in Bermuda observing Hannukah, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, among many other religious and cultural celebrations throughout the year. Their entire community is volunteer-based, with all education programmes, celebrations and administration executed by its community members.

Globally, Judaism has played a significant role in the development of Western culture and monotheistic religion. It is considered one of the main world religions and its continuing existence and solid membership speaks to its significance and value.

I’m looking forward to connecting more with the members of the Jewish community and sharing their stories of faith, steeped in rich history and sacred tradition.

For more information, or to get involved with the Jewish Community of Bermuda, visit www.jewishbermuda.com

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Published January 22, 2022 at 8:13 am (Updated January 24, 2022 at 8:01 am)

Judaism, a brief overview of an age-old faith

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