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 » Shine A Light Day 2

Who are the Jews? What is Judaism?

Thank you for joining us for Day 2 of “Shine a Light on Antisemitism”. Tonight Jews around the world will light the second candle in celebration of the second night of Hanukkah.
Today we have an ambitious agenda.  We hope that you will select from the portions of our site that will help you to learn something new about Jews, Judaism and antisemitism.  Our topics today explore:
  • The origins of the Jewish people and what Jews believe
  • The variety of ways Jews observe and practice Judaism
  • The diversity of the Jewish people
  • When being Jewish feels unsafe
For our Deep Dives we have included additional videos and articles on those topics.

Who are the Jews? What is Judaism?

Judaism is an ethno-religion, meaning an ethnicity and a religion, originating in Judea (Israel) almost three thousand years ago.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion and follows the customs, traditions and laws of the Torah (Hebrew Bible). 
WATCH: Introduction to Judaism (2:46)
Just like many other religions, there are a variety of ways Jews observe and practice Judaism. Some Jews strictly adhere to the Torah, Jewish laws and customs, while others are less traditional. Some Jews (by ethnicity) are atheist (with respect to religion). Some Jews were not born Jewish, but converted to and practice Judaism as a religion. 
READ: The Jewish Denominations
Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted and many were forced to leave their ancestral homeland, dispersing to Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Spain and throughout the Middle East. In modern times, Jews fled from oppression and emigrated to the United States, Australia, Latin America, Western Europe and Canada. Jews living outside of Israel today are referred to as living in the “diaspora”. Despite the displacement of many Jews from their homeland, Jews have continuously remained living in Israel.
The initial dispersions of Jews from Israel led to distinct, regional, sub-ethnic groups depending on where each group of Jews settled, maintaining their Jewish identities while developing regional customs.
WATCH: Types of Jews: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi and More (1:40)
READ: Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews
READ: Diversity has long defined America’s Jewish community
Although their traditions, interpretations and practices may vary, Jews still share a unified sense of cultural and religious Jewish identity. 


Globally: 15.2 million (just 0.2% of the world’s population)
  • Israel: 6.9 million
  • United States: 6 million (The most recent Pew Research study of Jewish Americans estimates that 2.4% of US adults are Jewish)
  • Greater Omaha Metro: 8,000


Two-thirds of American Jews say they feel less safe than they did a decade ago — and the threat of physical violence has never felt more real. With antisemitism still a palpable threat across the globe, calling it out must be a fundamental part of living a Jewish life.
WATCH: When Being Jewish Feels Unsafe (6:36)


Community Conversations: The State of Antisemitism in Nebraska
January 11, 2023
7pm  |   Alan J. Levine Theater at the Staenberg Omaha JCC


For additional videos on the topics of Jews and Judaism, we invite to you to watch the following:
WATCH: What makes a Jew? (11:56) 
WATCH: History of Jewish Movements: Orthodox, Reform and Conservative (5:25) 
WATCH: Ethiopian Jewry (9:23)
READ:  Subjected to anti-Semitism and racism, Jews of color feel ‘stuck in the middle’