Jew-ish podcast

What are Jews?

15 Sekunden vorwärts
15 Sekunden vorwärts

Just kidding we couldn’t possibly answer a question that big in one show. Or one lifetime. 

But, in this first episode of Jew-ish, Rabbi Susan Shankman, Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, will take our hand, and walk us through some of the basics, just in time for the end of Jewish American Heritage Month! 
We’ll cover things like whatever the heck “identity and culture” is, to the formulaic structures of prayer, to things you’ve possibly never heard of (oh you’ve heard of keva and kavanah? Suuuuure..), and do some deeper dives into things you maybe thought you knew.  And, there's a glossary below of terms you may hear in the show.

We’ll cover some lighter fare, too of course, like what it really means to be “the Chosen People” (it’s probably not what you think) and how to repair all that is broken in the world. Ok but really, don’t worry, there will be giggles, and hopefully I didn’t say anything my mother is going to call me about.


Beshert: a Yiddish word meaning “destiny.” It’s often used to talk about soulmates but works for anything that’s “fated.” 

Torah: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament (AKA Pentateuch) Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. A physical Torah is a two-handled scroll on kosher animal hide parchment, hand-lettered by a trained scribe, and kept in the ark of a synagogue. 

Bimah: also spelled bima, the raised platform from which services are led and the Torah is read.

Ark: also known as the Aron HaKodesh, the ark houses the Torah at the front of the synagogue and is usually ornately decorated and accompanied by an “eternal light,” or “ner tamid”  

Confirmation: a ceremony primarily in Reform Jewish tradition for high-school age kids, usually in 10th grade, age 16-17, marking the end of their “formal” Jewish education and reaffirming their commitment as “adults” to Jewish learning and living.

Bar/Bat/B’nai Mitzvah: the name for both the ceremony, and what a person becomes (“bar” for boys, meaning son, “bat” for girls, meaning daughter, “b’nai” is plural) when they have “come of age” in Judaism and lead a Torah service for the first time. 

Shul: a Yiddish word meaning “school” used interchangeably for “synagogue” and “temple” for the place of worship and learning in Judaism. 

Pirkei Avot: Translated at the “Ethics of the Fathers” or “Chapters of the Fathers”, this is a collection of writings on ethics and education from great rabbis in history. It is part of the “Mishnah,” the code of Jewish law compiled in the early third century C.E.

A note on Jewish American Heritage Month: The month was first designated in 2006 by President George W. Bush, after the efforts of the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition, and passage of a 2005 resolution introduced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of FL and Sen. Arlen Specter of PA. Since then, presidents have made annual proclamations recognizing the designation and contributions of American Jews. Read President Joe Biden’s 2023 proclamation here, and learn more at the official website here

A note on Washington Hebrew Congregation: Rabbi Shankman was unable to comment on events surrounding the Edlavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center, but the congregation has a statement,

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