Star of David
The six-pointed Star of David is a common symbol for both Judaism and Israel. Known in Hebrew as a Magen David (shield of David), it is a combination of two inverted triangles superimposed on each other, forming the shape of a hexagram. This symbol is at the center of the Israeil flag and is commonly found on Judaica and jewelry.
The hamsa is a hand-shaped amulet that has become a significant symbol in both Islamic and Jewish culture. It has many different meanings across ethnic groups, but most often symbolizes protection from evil and is commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings. Depicting the open hand and often the image of an eye in the center speaks to its mysterious origins and intrigue that has popularized this symbol.
Chai Chai: חי
Chai is the Hebrew word for “life” and a common Jewish symbol. Chai consists of two Hebrew letters, chet (ח) and yud (י) and also represents the number 18. As a result of its connection to the word for life, the number 18 is considered a special number in Jewish tradition. For this reason, Jewish people frequently make gifts or charitable contributions in multiples of $18.
Mezuzah, which means “doorpost” in Hebrew, is affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes. The case contains a parchment called a klaf, inscribed with two Hebrew verses from the Torah. One of these verses is the Shema, the most important and well-known prayer in Judaism. The klaf parchment is prepared by a specially trained scribe and then rolled up and placed inside the case. Mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) are often affixed to the front door and to doorposts of other living spaces within a Jewish home.
Ten Commandment Tablets
The Ten Commandments are the first of the ten laws believed to be given to Moses by G-d on Mt. Sinai. They are often depicted on two stone tablets that were carried down the mountain and given to the Israelite people. The Ten Commandments are not the complete laws given to the people, but are a starting point for the people to begin establishing a system of laws.
Shabat Candle Sticks
A pair of Shabbat candles is one of the most iconic images of the weekly holiday. To begin Shabbat (the day of rest) a minimum of 2 candles must be lit. There are many reasons given for the number, but the commandment in Torah is to light one to “remember” and the other to “keep” Shabbat. Some households have a tradition of lighting more candles, often one for each
member of the household.
Hannaukah: 9 Branches
A Chanukiyah is a special nine-branched menorah used to celebrate Chanukah, or Hanukkah. Eight of the nine branches hold candles that represent each of the eight nights of the holiday. The ninth branch is called the shamash, or the helper candle. On the first night, we add one candle. Each subsequent night, we add another candle, until, on the eighth and final night of Chanukah, all the branches of the Chanukiyah are lit. We light the Chanukiyah to commemorate the original Chanukah miracle of one container of oil burning for eight days.
A Tallit, also known as a prayer shawl is a garment worn by Jewish people during specific prayer services. It has fringes on the four corners that are knotted and tied in order to equal the 613 commandments that are given in the Torah and serves as a physical reminder of the laws given to the Jewish people in the Torah.
The Torah is most commonly known as the Pentatuech, the Five Books of Moses. It contains Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Torah is hand written by a specially trained scribe on a scroll of parchment. In the Jewish faith, a different section of the Torah is read each week and on a yearly cycle.
Tree of Life
Etz Hayim in Hebrew is a common term used in Judaism and translates to Tree of LIfe. The expression can be found in Genesis 2:9, referring to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The Torah is often referred to as the Tree of Life for the Jewish people as it provides a strong foundation to live by and branches to grow and learn as individuals and a community.
Challah is an egg bread that is braided into many different shapes. It is used at the Shabbat and holiday table and is blessed before the meal. It is common to use two loaves on Shabbat to represent the double portion of manna that was provided for the Israelite people on Friday during the time they were in the desert.
Kiddush is the Hebrew word for sanctification or being set apart for a purpose. Kiddush blessing is said over a cup of wine or juice as part of Shabbat, holiday, and life-cycle celebrations. Many families have a special glass or goblet specifically for the purpose, often an heirloom that has been passed down through the generations, but any cup can be used as a Kiddush cup.
Nir Tamid: Eternal Light
Ner Tamid or Eternal Light hangs above the ark in every synagogue. It reminds the congregation of the holiness of the Torah scrolls that are housed within the ark and is a symbol of God's eternal and imminent Presence and light in our communities and in our lives.
Although the Ner Tamid was originally an oil lamp, today they are powered by electricity. The Eternal Lights are never extinguished or turned off.
L’dor V’dor: לדר ודר
In Hebrew, L’dor V’dor literally translates to “from generation to generation”. It is a term that is recognized as a transmission of values, traditions, customs, and personal family history from one generation to the next and is an important part of the Jewish religion. The passing of history to the next generation is also an important learning tool to ensure that the memories of those who came before us are remembered and we are not doomed to repeat our past.
A shofar, used during the High Holidays, is an ancient musical instrument typically made of a ram's horn. Shofars come in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending on the choice of animal and level of finish. The shofar is blown in synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur; it is also blown every weekday morning in the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Its sounding represents a “wake-up” call and encourages us to reflect on and reevaluate how we did in the previous year and strive to bring a better version of ourselves into the new year.
Dove of Peace
The first appearance of a dove is found in the book of Genesis and is part of the story of Noah. Noah sends out the dove twice when he was trying to determine if the rain had ended and if they could safely leave the ark. The second time the dove is sent out, it brings back an olive branch in its mouth. This is why the dove symbolizes peace and healing.
Menorah: 7 Branches
The seven-branch menorah, or candelabrum, is one of the oldest symbols of Judaism. This seven-branch menorah stood in the Tabernacle, and subsequently in the Holy Temple. Today, this menorah can be seen on the bimah in synagogues, representing the light of the Jewish people. It is also the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel.