We explain what Jewish culture is, how it originated and what its characteristics are. Also, Jewish customs, prohibitions, and more.

What is Jewish Culture?

set of cultural phenomena, both religious and secular , is known as Jewish culture , involving the Jewish people and their descendants, their spiritual leaders, and individuals who identify themselves as Jews in varying degrees and proportions.

The Jewish people have an ethno-religious identity, whose code of life and moral code is dictated by Judaism , one of the three great monotheistic religions on the planet . Jewish culture is a mixture of cultural productions typical of the Jewish church and its community and of the hybridizations that it has suffered throughout the centuries, since it was a culture of emigrants until the 20th century .

Origin of Jewish culture

Origin of Jewish culture

Despite the fact that the Jewish people have been geographically dispersed for more than 2000 years , the Jewish culture has maintained its unity and has fostered dialogue among its practitioners, often as a form of resistance or ghetto against the community. majority (Muslim, Christian, etc.). In this, religious practices have a central place, especially in Orthodox populations .

However, at the beginning of the 20th century in Central and Eastern Europe a secular Judaism was created , which allowed descendants of Jewish families to recognize themselves as such, but not to rule their lives by Jewish religious laws .

Characteristics of Judaism

The oldest of the three monotheistic religions (along with Christianity and Islam ) is Judaism, despite being the one with the least faithful of all. Its practices are governed by the Torah or Pentateuch , collected in five different books and which is part of the Tanakh or Old Testament, so it has common roots with Christianity.

The central belief of Judaism has to do with a single God, present everywhere, aware of everything , creator of the universe , who would have chosen the Jewish people among all peoples as his favorite to reveal the ten commandments, rule in a divine way and live by his law.

Those who choose to rule their lives by the ethical, moral, and religious codes of Judaism often call themselves Orthodox Jews .

Customs of Jewish culture

Customs of Jewish culture

Some of the best known customs of Jewish culture are:

  • Circumcision. Eight days after being born, every Jewish male child is circumcised in a rite known as Berit Milah ("covenant of circumcision"), as a symbol of the covenant between God and Abraham, as it appears in Genesis.
  • Shabbat. The seventh day of the week is the holy day of Judaism and coincides with the sunset on Friday and the appearance of three stars on Saturday night. During this period, the Jewish people abstain from work, just as in Genesis it is said that "God finished the work [of creation] that he had done and rested."
  • Break a drink at the wedding. At Jewish weddings, a cup wrapped in a white handkerchief is broken with the foot to commemorate the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, where the ark of the covenant and the seven-branched candelabrum with which the Hebrew worship was celebrated in the antiquity.

Prohibitions of Jewish culture

Prohibitions of Jewish culture

Jewish culture is reputed to be one of the most restrictive in the world:

  • Forbidden food. The intake of pork is forbidden for Jews because it is considered an impure animal . The same occurs with blood , whose consumption is totally prohibited in the Torah, so no type of sausage is consumed (chorizo, blood sausage, etc.) that contains it in its preparation and in order to eat meats, they must be prepared at the same time. Kosher mode , that is, by prior and rigorous bleeding. Crustaceans and shellfish are also forbidden in the Torah. Wine that is not kosher , in some cases, too.
  • Food separation. Dairy intake should be given at specific times and never mixed with meat. If a Jew eats meat, he must wait at least 3 hours to be able to eat milk or some derivative. The same dishes should not be used for meat and dairy.
  • Grief prohibitions. The Jewish mourning is extremely specific: it must last 30 days during which the relatives of the deceased cannot leave their home, nor listen to music until one year after the death. The corpses cannot be cremated, nor buried in height, nor partially buried: if a Jew dies in a terrorist attack, every last piece of his body must be gathered .
  • Other prohibitions of the body. Tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body art are prohibited by Jewish law. Children should not cut their hair until they are three years old, when the upsherin ceremony takes place .

Orthodox Jewish dress

Orthodox Jewish dress

Some of the Jewish dress standards are:

  • Prohibited fabrics. Jewish clothing is usually very simple, but it can never be made of wool or linen, according to the Torah. It is also not acceptable for a man to wear women's clothing or vice versa.
  • Male clothing. While Jewish priests must always wear black, with their characteristic flat hat, the rest of the men wear corkscrew locks of hair on the sides of their faces.
  • The kippah. The kippah or skullcap is a typical hat used by Jewish men, round or oval in shape, often black or dark in color, which is placed on the back of the head and reminds the Jew of the constant presence of God. The use of the kippah is not mandatory.

Jewish customs around women

The place of women in Judaism has been highly criticized, as it is subject to many controls:

  • The Jewish woman cannot show her hair in public. That is why she uses kerchiefs and often wigs.
  • Jewish women cannot have sexual intercourse after childbirth or menstruation until they have taken a bath by immersion in the micvĂ© , a type of bathtub found in synagogues. Cold running water is used for this , it should be done at night and the bathtub should be in a low place.
  • The woman must be at home and educate the children, especially during early childhood . She is in charge of ensuring family order and preserving traditions, so she does not usually have a profession and sometimes not even studies.
  • The Jewish woman cannot use contraceptives of any kind.

Jewish languages

Jewish languages

The language of the Jewish people is Hebrew, an Afro-Asian Semitic language that has more than six million speakers in the State of Israel and in more than 80 countries, a product of the Jewish diaspora. It is the sacred language of Judaism.

However, the history of migrations and exiles of the Jewish people led them from ancient times to learn other languages and mix theirs with them, so their majority language during different times has been Aramaic , Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Greek , Judeo-Italian or Yiddish.

Christ for the Jews

Jesus, according to tradition, was a Jew. It was as a result of his death that the separation between Christians and Jews took place since the latter continued to be governed by the Old Testament and refused to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah. The difference between these two religions is around the validity of the New Testament.

Persecution of Jews

Persecution of Jews

Jews have been received with distrust and often persecuted by different peoples at different times , from Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire or Christian Europe , to Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany . The reasons for this said cruelty are not clear, but they ultimately led to the creation of a Jewish state: present-day Israel.

What is Zionism?

Zionism is an international political movement that advocated from its beginnings for the creation of the Israeli State ( Eretz Israel ) , that is, of a safe homeland for the Jewish people. To a large extent, this international movement is responsible for the creation of this Middle Eastern country . There are different forms of Zionism, with different ideological orientations: socialist, revisionist, religious, etc.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Abubakr Conner brings a diverse skill set to our team, and covers everything from analysis to the culture of food and drink. He Believes: "Education is the most powerful weapon that exists to change the world." .

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