Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Taking It Home: Judaism 1: The Birth of the Abrahamic Tradition

The Jews started it all—and by "it" I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and atheist, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings ... we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives. — Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels

IN TODAY'S WORKSHOP... we examined the ancient religion of Judaism, including how it began and some of its enduring values and contemporary expressions.


One can be ethnically Jewish, culturally Jewish, religiously Jewish, or a combination of these. How is your ethnicity connected to your religion? Have you inherited both from your birth parents? As you have grown from an infant to a youth, what layers of ethnicity or religion have you acquired? From whom, or where?

Do you think of yourself as being a hopeful person? Do you believe in hope? What might be the benefits of practicing hopefulness, intentionally thinking more hopefully about things?



Religious Jewish practice involves prayers of praise and gratitude toward God. In our increasingly secular society, a common time for people to say a prayer is before a meal. Use these questions to begin a family discussion:

  • Does your family or anyone in it say a prayer before meals?
  • Do older family members remember times when their family prayed together? At mealtime? At bedtime? When someone died? In a church, a temple, a mosque, or a civic community gathering?
  • What benefits might there be of praying as a regular part of daily life? What drawbacks might there be?
  • If the term "prayer" is off-putting, or if praising or thanking God does not reflect someone's beliefs, an affirmation can have the same reverent influence. Would incorporating a regular affirmation into your daily or weekly routine make sense for your family? Why or why not? Why might you want to do it? Why might you not want to?

No Touching

With the exception of opposite-gender parents, children, or spouse, ultra-Orthodox Jews do not touch members of the opposite sex, even to shake hands. Avoiding physical contact is seen as a way to keep the covenant; the rule is intended to help people focus on a close relationship with God and Torah rather than on other people. Limiting physical contact to only a few people—those very precious to you—reinforces the importance of the physical contact you do have. Discuss the restriction with your friends.

  • What might we learn from this practice?
  • What benefit do you and your friends see in raising the value of physical contact by making it more rare?
  • What value do you place on human touch?

English's Yiddish Words

Yiddish is a Germanic language of Jewish origin that is spoken worldwide in Jewish communities with European roots. Yiddish has contributed many words to common English. See if you, your family, and friends can match the Yiddish words below with their English definitions. For answers, check out the playful Bubby Gram or the more formal Yiddish Dictionary Online.

  • Yiddish: borscht, chutzpa, glitch, kvetch, maven, meshugeneh, oy vey, putz, schlep, schmooze, schtick, schpiel, and tush
  • English: a comic bit; a little problem; a crazy person; to haul or drag; guts or daring; buttocks; to complain; to make small talk; an expert; an idiot or a jerk; a beet soup; an expression of disbelief or horror; a sales pitch

Unitarian Universalist Connections

Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness is an organization committed to addressing the Jewish dimension of Unitarian Universalism's multicultural challenge.