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GUIDES

The Broadly Guide to Judaism

From bubbelehs to Birthright, the Broadly guide to Judaism will definitely illuminate your Hanukkah season.

Alison Stevenson

Photo by Sean Locke via Stocksy

Ashkenazi

Ashkenazi Jews are the division of Jews that pop culture has taken most of its cues from. These Jews hail from European countries and are responsible for popularizing Yiddish slang like bubbeleh and goy as well as for bagels with lox and Seinfeld. Non-Ashkenazi Jews are usually referred to as Sephardics, and hail from the Iberian Peninsula, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

The transition from boy to man or girl to woman that takes place at the ripe old age of 13 (12 for girls if you're orthodox or conservative). To celebrate this coming of age, a huge party is thrown in the new adult's honor, and they get to do the things most people at this age love: public speaking, dancing, and being surrounded by relatives. On the plus side, a lot of checks are written in their name and a bunch of men raise them up in chairs and sing to them.

Challah

A delicious and deeply symbolic bread essential to weekly Sabbath—or Shabbat, in Hebrew—rituals. In recent years challah has become mainstream thanks to trendy restaurants including it on their menus as well as to the ease in which it can be swapped with holla. This has spawned hundreds of punny graphic T-shirts no self-respecting Jew should ever own.

Deli

If you haven't been to a Jewish deli, what the hell is wrong with you? Cramming piles of meat between thin slices of bread is our very generous contribution to American cuisine. Be grateful.

Evil Eye

Many Sephardic Jews come from regions where the "evil eye" is very real. The evil eye is essentially the belief that someone who is gravely envious of you has wished or will wish harm on you, though it can also look upon you if you have flaunted too many blessings. If you were fortunate to grow up in a Jewish family who believes in the evil eye, you were probably forced to wear a Hamsa somewhere on your body in order to ward off ill will. It probably didn't work.

Find You a Nice Jewish Boy

Your mom's friend Hannah—you remember Hannah, right? From that one time she came to dinner when you were twelve? How can you not remember her? Well anyway, her son is in town. On vacation from law school. Don't worry about reaching out to set up a date, your mother already has.

Guilt

It's why you're going on that date with Hannah's son even though you're already in a relationship with someone else.

Humor

We've always been good at telling jokes. For centuries Jews have used humor to cope with the many struggles we've faced. In America, Jews helped define mainstream humor thanks to the success of comedians like the Marx Brothers, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, and Gilda Radner. Please forgive us for Adam Sandler.

Israel

The reason you get into heated arguments with your distant relatives at the dinner table every Rosh Hashanah.

Josh or Jacob

If you frequently date Jewish guys, there is no doubt at one point you dated a Josh or a Jacob.

Kabbalah

It's not really Judaism, but it sort of is. It's often defined as "Jewish mysticism" or "Madonna Judaism." While there are different kinds of Kabbalah, each having different teachings, most of those who practice it do so with the goal of achieving an elevated sense of a spiritual self. Basically, they meditate more, or something.

Latkes

Fried potato pancakes traditionally served during Passover and Hanukkah but can and should be consumed year-round.

Mother

The Jewish mother is a mother like no other. She is the reason a Jew is born a Jew, and doesn't let you forget it. Our moms are an extremely present force who are never afraid to tell us exactly what it is we are doing wrong with our lives, which is pretty much everything we don't take their advice on. They love us, spoil us, worry about us way too much, boss us around, leave too many voicemail messages, feed us too much food, reprimand us for looking like we've gained weight, and then feed us more food. Basically, Jewish mothers are the reason your grown-ass boyfriend or girlfriend still doesn't know how to do laundry.

Non-practicing

A large quantity of modern, urban Jews are non-practicing. Meaning, I know it's Saturday but I'm too hungover to go to temple, and have been for the past ten years.Also, I'd like extra bacon on that cheeseburger please.

Overbearing

See: mother.

Purim

One of our more fun and lighthearted holidays that still manages to be centered on the fact that we barely survived horrific death by yet another people who wanted to see our extinction. Purim is kind of like our Halloween. We dress up in costumes, and eat delicious junk food. Instead of candy, our star junk food is a triangular cookie called the Hamantaschen, which is meant to represent the ear of the bad man who wanted us dead (this time), Haman.

Questioning if a Celebrity is Jewish or Not

Tatum? Is that Jewish? It sounds like it could be. Someone look up if Channing Tatum is Jewish! (He's not.)

Rebecca or Raquel

The female versions of Josh and Jacob.

Star of David

Our version of the cross. We wear this symbol to spot each other at retail stores and inform one another of where the best sales are.

Torah

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. No, these are not this year's most popular celebrity baby names. These are the first five texts that started it all, baby! Adam and Eve, that Abraham guy almost killing his son for God, Moses and the Ten Commandments. All great stories that have yet to be adapted into films by the Coen Brothers.

Upset

Something your parents feel towards you for dating a non-Jew or for pursuing a career in the arts.

Voyage to Israel

Also known as Birthright. Many believe Birthright is an attempt to try and convince Jews to move to Israel. I personally believe it is a conspiracy to increase the sales of Teva sandals.

Wondering if We're White

Conclusion: It depends on the situation.

Xenophobia

Unable to learn from the harsh treatment dealt to us (though some might argue it's because of this), many Jews have a problem co-mingling with people who aren't also Jewish. Even within the faith, certain Jews don't get along with other Jews because of where those Jews happen to come from. This struggle is best portrayed in the 1974 musical film, Kazablan, which is the Israeli version of West Side Story but with Ashkenazi Jews pitted against Sephardic Jews.

Yarmulke

That circular cloth hat you see religious Jewish men wearing on their heads but never know how to spell. Now you know.

Zeppo Marx

Just because when I mentioned the Marx Brothers earlier, you weren't thinking of him.