Page created by John Berman: 2 August 2004
Page reformatted by David Shulman: January 2006 and subsequently expanded
Latest revision or update: 2 July 2017

Glossary of Terms and Background Explanations
in connection with terms used on this Website

NOTE: As regards the links to the Synagogal Organisations listed in the Glossary
below (previously discussed in greater detail on this page), please follow
the link to the new dedicated page for the relevant synagogal organisation.
(Links to these organisations listed on thi spage are being
gradually replaced by direct links to the dedicated pages.)

GLOSSARY OF TERMS
(The spelling of many of these terms vary, depending on how the same have been transliterated into English.)


arba minim
(''four species") - four species of products (date palm, willow and murtle, which are bound together, and etrog, a particular citrus fruit) used during the service on the Succot festival.

ark (or holy ark)- the ornate closet in which the scrolls of the Law (Sifrei Torah) are kept. It is the focalpoint of the synagogue.

aron kodesh (or aron hakodesh)- the Hebrew term for the ark.

Ashkenazi - Originally used to describe the Jews of Medieval Germany and Northern France (on the strength of a Talmudic passage, the word "Askenaz" is identified with Germany) or their descendants. Now generally used to describe the Jews of Central or Eastern European origin and their ritual (often described as the German or Polish rite). The order and type of service (nusach) may differ slightly in Ashkenazi synagogues.

ba'alei batim - a term used, generally until the mid nineteenth century, to describe the full members of a congregation, namely those with voting rights and eligibility for executive office.

bar mitzvah - the confirmation ceremony and celebrations for a boy, usually at the age of thirteen.

bat mitzvah - the confirmation celebrations for a girl, usually at the age of twelve.

beit knesset - the Hebrew word for synagogue.  (plural - beitai knesset)

beth din - a Jewish religious court of law.

beth hamedrash - Hebrew for "house of study", a colloquial term often used in Yiddish for a synogogue, and, in many cases, adopted by congregations in the West, generally by those of a more orthodox persuasion. Can also be used for a room within a synagogue building used for study and small prayer meetings.

bima - a raised platform, usually centrally located, in the synagogue, from which the principal services are conducted.

Chanukah - the Jewish Festival of Lights (or Dedication), occuring in or about the month of December, and lasting eight days. on which the lights of the nine pronged candelabrum are kindled It commemorates the victory of the Jewish Maccabeans over the Syrian-Greek Seleucid regime in 167-160 BCE.

cheder - the Hebrew religious school for children, usually attended in the evening and on Sundays, in addition to their regular school. (The word actially means "room" in Hebrew.)

chevra - a small congregation, frequently established by Jews of Eastern European origin. (plural - chevrot)

Chevra Kadisha - Burial Society

Chovevei Zion - one of the earliest Zionist Mmovements, originating in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century.

chupa - the canopy under which the Jewish wedding ceremony takes place.

dayan - a judge in a Beth Din. (plural - dayanim)

etrog - the citrus fruit used as part the arba minim on the Festival of Succot.

Federation of Synagogues - a union of Orthodox Ashkanazi synagogues (primarily in London) established in 1887, initially as a grouping of minor synagogues or "chevrot", and at first known as the Federation of Minor Synagogues. (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues and cemeteries, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage - Federation of Synagogues)

kaddish - a prayer most frequently recited following the death or on the anniversary of the death, by a near relative of the deceased.

kashrut - the observance of food regulations ensuring that the food to be consumed is "kosher", namely it complies with Jewish dietary laws.

kahilla - the Hebrew word for congregation (plural - kahillot)

kiddush - the santification ceremony, usually over wine, before a Sabbath or Festival meal. (plural - kaddishim)

Kol Nidre - the opening words of the prayer that introduces the service on the Eve of Yom Kippur.

levoya - the Hebrew and Yiddish word for funeral.

Liberal Judaism (formerly the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogue) - An umbrella organisation of liberal and progressive congregations established in 1902. (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage -  Liberal Judaism)

Masorti Judaism (formerly Assembly of Masorti Synagogues. The Masorti Movement, sometimes referred to as Conservative, was founded in Britain in the mid-1960s.  (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage - Masorti Judaism)

matza - the unleavened bread, usually eaten during the festival of Pesach.

mechitza - a partition or curtain separating women congregants from the men in the synagogue.

mezuzah - a case, containg specific holy writing, attached to the doorposts and the entrance to romms in Jewish homes, synagogues and othe buildings where Jews live or work. (plural - mezuzot)

mikvah - the Jewish ritual bath.

minyan - the quorum of at least ten Jewish men or boys (of at least 13 years of age) required for communal Jewish prayer. The term is also sometimes used to describe a small congregation that meets regularly for prayer. (plural - minyanim)

mohel - a person trained to perform the ritual act of circumcision according to the Jewish faith. (plural - mohelim)

ner tamid - the eternal lightthat hangs over the Ark in the synagogue.

nusach (pl. nusachim) - the order and type of service. For example, the nusach used by the vast majority of Ashkenazi synagogues in the UK is known as Nusach Ashkenaz.  Another, Nusach Ari (or Ha'Ari) is used by a number of old or Chassidic congregations. It was compiled by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century.  A third, Nusach Sefard, which is close to Nusach Ari, is the Ashkenazi nusach most widespread in Israel, and is used by a number of synagogues, including several established in the UK by Israelis, as well as by several old congregations. 

parochet - the decorative curtain placed in front of the doors to the ark or, in some instances, inside the doors.

Pesach - the Jewish festival of Passover (in or about April), which commemorates the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

Purim - the Jewish festival (in or about March) at which the Book of Esther is read, commemorating the saving of the Jews in the Persian Empire from the intended massacre planned by the wicked Haman.

rav - shortened form of the word "rabbi".

Reform Judaism, Movement for (formerly the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain) - - An organisation of Reform congregations established in 1942. (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage -  Movement for Reform Judaism.)

Rosh Chodesh - the new Jewish month, when special prayers are recited, lasting one or two days.

Rosh Hashannah - the Jewish New Year (in or about September), lasting two days.

sefer torah (plural - sifrei torah) - the Scroll of the Law, (containing the five Books of Moses). .

selichot - the penitential prayers said on the lead-up to Yom Kippur and on other Fast days.

Sephardi Congregations (including the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation. (Full details, including lists of  synagogues and cemeteries, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage - Sephardi and other Eastern Rites Congregations.) The term "Sephardi" was used originally to describe the Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin ("Spharad" is the Hebrew word for Spain) or their descendants. Often loosely used also to include all Jews of oriental origin and their ritual, other than the Yemenites, although the term Edot HaMizrach would be a preferable term to describe all Jews of oriental origin (including Yemenites).

Shavuot - the Jewish Festival of Weeks (in or about May/June, seven weeks from Pesach), commemorating the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.

shochet - ritual slaughterer of animals.

shnoddering - making a (public) offereing in the synagogue in return for the honour of being caled up on the reading of the Torah.

shamas - beadle in the synagogue.

shul - the Yiddish word for synagogue.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation - see Sephardi Congregations (above).

succah (pl. succot) - the tabernacles or booths, built for the Festival of Succot, in which Jews traditionally eat, and some sleep, throughout the course of the festival.

Succot - the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles, commemorating the forty years of wandering by the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt.

Temani (Yemenite) - Jews from the Yemen (genearally excluding Aden). Although often included as Sephardi, their ritual differs considerably from that of the Sephardi Jews, and they themselves are divided between Nusach Baladi and Nusach Shami, the latter having, to some extent, adopted many Sephardi rites.

Tisha b'Av - the 9th of the month of Av, a Fast day that commemorates the destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the destruction of the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE, as well as certain other catstrophies that have befallen the Jewish people.

Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) - often referred to as Adath, an umbrella organisation of London Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox congregations established in 1926. (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues and cemeteries, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage - UOHC.)

United Synagogue - the largest union of Orthodox Ashkanazi synagogues in Britain (primarily in London) established in 1870. (Full details, including lists of affiliated synagogues and cemeteries, now contained in dedicated JCR-UK webpage - United Synagogue.)

yahrzeit - the anniversary of a person's death, according to the Hewbrew calender

yeshivah - an academy of advanced Jewish religious study. (plural - yeshivot)

Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israel's Independence Day.

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Day, commemorating the murder of six millions Jews by the Nazis and their allies.

Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement., the most solemn Fast day, which takes place on the tenth day of Ten Days Repentence (which start with Rosh Hashanah.)

 

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NOTE ON REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGES

There are different laws relating to the registration of marriages performed in synagogues (or elsewhere, pursuant to Jewish rites), depending on which area relevant Region of the British Isles:

The following relates to  England and Wales.

The Registrar General of the Office of National Statistics publishes an 'Official List' each year. This includes all synagogues that are "Certified to the Registrar General pursuant to Section 67 (A-D) of the Marriage Acts 1949, as amended".

The certification is undertaken by:

A - Board of Deputies of British Jews for all synagogues that are not affiliated to the Reform or Progressive Movements.

B - West London Synagogue of British Jews for synagogues that are within the Reform Movement (or members of Reform Judaism - formerly the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain), ONE OR OTHER.

C - Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, London, for Liberal and Progressive Synagogues.

The 1949 Act states that Jewish marriages can only take place with both spouses being Jewish. Since 1837, when registration began, Jewish marriages can to take place in any location under the auspices of a certified synagogue. The overall conduct and certification of marriages is the responsibility of the Marriage Secretaries that have been notified and hence approved by the Registrar General. Prior to the Wedding ceremony, Notice of Marriage is given and made public at the Local Register Office.

Worship Number -  This is given by the Registrar General for England and Wales when a place of worship is registered. This is not compulsory. There have been some number changes for certain synagogues.

 

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NOTE ON FORM OF PRAYER

Ashkenazi - Originally used to describe the Jews of Medieval Germany and Northern France (on the strength of a Talmudic passage, the word "Askenaz" is identified with Germany) or their descendants. Now generally used to describe the Jews of Central or Eastern European origin and their ritual. 

The order and type of service ("nusach") may differ slightly in Ashkenazi synagogues. The one used by the vast majority of Ashkenazi synagogues in the UK is known as Nusach Ashkenaz.  Another, Nusach Ari (or Ha'Ari) is used by a number of old or Chassidic congregations. It was compiled by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century.  A third, Nusach Sefard, which is close to Nusach Ari, is the Ashkenazi nusach most widespread in Israel, and is used by a number of synagogues, including several established in the UK by Israelis, as well as by several old congregations. 

Sephardi - Used originally to describe the Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin ("Spharad" is the Hebrew word for Spain) or their descendants. Often loosely used also to include all Jews of oriental origin and their ritual, other than the Yemenites., although the term Edot HaMizrach would be a preferable term to describe all Jews of oriental origin (including Yemenites).

Temani (Yemenite) - Jews from the Yemen (genearally excluding Aden). Although often included as Sephardi, their ritual differs considerably from that of the Sephardi Jews, and they themselves are divided between Nusach Baladi and Nusach Shami, the latter having, to some extent, adopted many Sephardi rites.

 

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 JEWISH CALENDAR

See Explanation of the Jewish Calendar

 

 
   

 

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