The cultural and religious terms used in these interviews may be unfamiliar to some website visitors. Here is a glossary to help clarify.
Alev Hashalom: Lit. “may peace be upon them”; an honourific for the deceased, used for a non-rabbinic or biblical figure.
Aron HaKodesh: Lit. “holy ark”; the place in the synagogue where the Torah scrolls are kept.
Bar Mitzvah (Bat Mitzvah – female): Literally, Son (or daughter) or commandment. At 13 (12 for girls), a boy is responsible for his own mitzvot. In North America, this is celebrated with him reading from the Torah and a party afterwards.
Baruch Hashem: (literally) Thank G-d.
Bimah: Raised platform with a reading desk in a synagogue from where the Torah is read.
Brit Milah/Bris: Ritual circumcision for baby boys on their eighth day; part of the covenant with G-d.
Challah: Braided egg bread used on Shabbat and holidays.
Chanukat Bayit: Lit. “dedication of the house”.
Chavurat Hashir: Temple Beth Ora’s choir.
Cheder: Jewish school where children were taught religion and Hebrew language.
Chevra Kadisha: Burial society; Jewish men and women that see to it that bodies are properly prepared and observed before burial.
Cohen: Refers to those who are descended from the Kohanim, the priestly class in the times of the Temple.
Daven: In English, “pray”.
Derech eretz: Lit. “the way of the land”; acts of decency not formally mandated.
Frum: Yiddish, Jewishly observant.
Hamentaschen: Three cornered pastries with fillings such as jam, chocolate, poppy seeds, eaten on Purim.
Hannukah (Chanukah): Holiday commemorating the Greek desecration of the Second Temple and ensuing war between the Jews and Greeks, beginning of the Maccabean revolt and the rededication of the Second Temple.
Heimishe: Yiddish, describing things that are “homey” or comforting.
Im Yirtzeh Hashem: “If G-d wills it”
Kashrut/kosher: Kashrut means a state of being kosher; kosher is food that adheres to strict dietary rules (ie not mixing meat and milk; no pork; etc).
Kiddush: The prayer over the wine recited on Shabbat evenings and meals, as well as holiday and festive meals.
Kiddush cup: The cup which holds the wine for kiddush.
Klezmer: A style of folk music that draws from Eastern European and Ashkenazi Jewish folk traditions.
Kollel: An institute for serious, full-time Jewish talmudic learning often led and maintained by Orthodox men.
Lag B’Omer: The 33rd day of the counting of the Omer; commemorates the day in which Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students stopped dying from a plague. For many, this day is when the mourning festivities in the Omer period finish.
Maariv: Evening prayer service
Machzor: Prayer book used for high holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Maftir: The last person called up to the Torah on Shabbat and morning services.
Matzah: Unrisen “crackers” eaten on Passover.
Mashgiach: A Torah observant Jew who oversees the Kashrut status of a production company or restaurant.
Mechitza: Partition separating men and women during prayer services.
Menorah: Found in the Temple, a seven-branch lampstand of pure gold; today, used to hold Hanukkah candles.
Mezuzah: A piece of parchment (called a klaf) inside a decorative case hung on a doorpost to recognize a Jewish household.
Mincha: Afternoon prayer service
Minhag: Literally, custom.
Minyan: Prayer quorum of ten men (men means at least 13 years old in this case).
Mitzvah: a commandment; a good deed.
Mohel: The individual who performs the Brit, the ritual circumcision.
Motzei [Shabbat]: The rest of the evening once Shabbat is over.
Mussaf: An additional prayer service recited on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the new month), Yom Tov, and Chol HaMoed.
Nusach: Exact text of prayer service; differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs.
Oneg Shabbat: Literally “joy of Shabbat”; gathering held after Shabbat services involving food, socializing, discussion, and learning.
Pareve: Food made without dairy or meat ingredients.
Pesach: Passover; the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt.
Purim: Holiday commemorating when the Jews of Persia were nearly annihilated by King Ahashverosh’s advisor Haman, saved by Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai.
Rebbe: Yiddish, Spiritual guide.
Rosh Hashanah: The Jewish new year. Literally, head of the year.
Tallis (singular; tallesim for plural): Fringed prayer garment worn during morning prayer services.
Talmud: central text of rabbinic Judaism; text includes the Mishna (written compendium of the Oral Law) and Gemara (elucidation of the Oral Law); compiled in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Ta’am: flavour; taste.
Tefillin: Phylacteries; cubic black leather boxes with leather straps men wear during morning prayer (weekday only).
Torah: Scroll of the five books of Moses.
Treif: Non-kosher food.
Schlep[ping]: Yiddish, to drag something around.
Seder: Ritual feast that occurs the first two nights of Passover (only one in Israel) that includes the retelling of the exodus from Egypt.
Shabbat/Shabbos: “Sabbath”; the seventh day, or day of rest G-d took and Jews have been given as a day for them too to rest.
Shabbaton: A retreat held on Shabbat.
Shacharis/Shacharit: Morning prayers.
Shaliach tzibbur: The person who leads the congregation in services.
Shammash: Salaried sexton in a synagogue.
Shochet: Kosher animal slaughterer.
Shul: Yiddish, Synagogue.
Shpiel: Yiddish; a long or involved story.
Simchat Torah: Holiday that marks the completion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings done on Shabbat.
Siddur/Siddurim (plural): Prayer book(s).
Vaad HaKashrut: Representative body overseeing kashrut in an area.
Yiddishkeit: Yiddish, Jewishness.
Yizkor: Memorial prayer services for the deceased. Typically said around high holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Shavuot, etc.
Yom HaAtzmaut: Israeli Independence Day, celebrated according to the signing of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Signed on May 14, 1948 on the 5th of Iyar in the Jewish calendar.
Yom Kippur: Jewish day of atonement.
Yontif: Yiddish, “Yom Tov” or holiday.