• Agune: According to Jewish religious law, every married woman whose husband disappears (for whatever reasons) and who cannot be declared dead is an Aguna, i.e. a bound woman. She cannot remarry, which can entail very serious consequences, social, psychological and also in respect to her material security.
  • Aliyah: (pl. Aliyot): lit. »ascent«; Call to the lectern to read from the → Torah in religious services; also immigration to Israel.
  • Antisemitism: hostile attitudes and actions toward Jews. The concept arose at the end of the 19th century and defines Jews not primarily in terms of their religion but rather as a people, nation or race. A. thus is distinguished from Anti-Judaism, which rejects Jews for religious reasons.
  • Aryan: A term originally from linguistics and misused by the National Socialists. In racist, antisemitic and ethnic ideologies, the term refers to members of a supposedly existing group of Nordic people who are supposedly mentally, politically and culturally superior. Jewish people in particular were thus excluded from society during the National Socialist era. People with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent were described as “non-Aryan”.
  • Aryan Paragraph: “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service,” issued on 7 April 1933. The law allowed the National Socialist rulers to dismiss politically objectionable or non-Aryan civil servants or to force them into retirement, if they had been working as civil servants already before August 1914. “Front-line” soldiers were spared from dismissal. Whoever was compelled to go into retirement was granted a pension, which later on was reduced in amount several times. Subsequently, every civil servant had to present a so-called ‘Aryan certificate’ with documentation proving he or she had no Jews among their ancestors. Several implementation decrees extended the law to clerks, employees and workers in public service who were not in the legal category of ‘civil servant’ (i.e. beamtet), and in the case of employees in semi-public enterprises as well. Later on, Aryan certificates were demanded not just by employers, schools and universities but also by clubs and associations.
  • “Aryanization”: After 1933, A. was defined in the narrower sense as the transfer of property between “Jews” and “Aryans” and in the broader sense as the process of the economic displacement and destruction of the existence of Jews under National Socialist rule.
  • Ashkenaz: hebr. for Germany; Ashkenazim: pl. term for Jews from Central and Eastern Europe


  • Bar Mitzvah: lit. »son of the commandment«, designates the boy who has come of legal age as well as the initiation ceremony associated with this.
  • Bet (K)halutz: hebr. »houses of the pioneers«, also sing. Beth Chalutz; commune-like house, also home for apprentices, where young Jewish workers in the Hechalutz (Pioneer) movement in Germany lived together before their → Aliyah
  • Bet Din: hebr. »house of the law«; rabbinical court
  • Bet Knesset: lit. »meeting house«; synagogue
  • Brit Mila: hebr. »covenant of circumcision«, the circumcision takes place on the eighth day of the infant male’s life, Ashkenazi pronunciation Brit(h) Milo, Sephardi Brit Milah, also Berith Mila, Yidd. Brismile.


  • Chabad: grouping of the → Hasidim
  • Challah: lit. »dough«; originally sacrificial offering, Term both for the commandment to separate a lump of the Sabbath bread dough and also for the Sabbath bread itself
  • Chevra Kadisha: aram. »Holy association«, Burial fraternity or burial society, Ashkenazi pronunciation also Chevro Kadisho, pl. Chevros Kadisho; Societies in which, separated by gender, men and women band together in order to care for the dying and deceased. This includes terminal care,washing of the corpse, vigil or wake and burial. The men take care during the year of mourning for prayers and the regular study of the Talmud, for the benefit of the soul of the deceased person. These acts are considered in Judaism to be the highest form of beneficence since the deceased can no longer reciprocate for the good deeds carried out. Today one no longer speaks of fraternities but rather of burial societies.
  • Congregation: In contrast to community, this term refers to an institutionalized association. For reasons of distinguishing groups vs. formal bodies, Gemeinde is translated as congregation, even though community may be the more common translation.
  • Converso: (pl. Conversos). A term for Jews converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition and their descendants.


  • Diaspora: Greek »dispersion«, Exile, dispersion of the Jews throughout the world


  • Emancipation: Jewish emancipation is a term used to described a process where Jews as a marginal group, discriminated legally, socially and religiously, became equal members of the society, no longer at its periphery.
  • Eretz Israel: the Land of Israel


  • Galut: hebr. »banishment, exile«; Exile, diaspora, the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world
  • Gemara: »Completion«; initial oral commentary interpreting the → Mishnah
  • Goy: hebr. »people, non-Jew«; pl. goyim


  • Hakhshara(h): This concept designates the regimen of mental and physical preparation for a life in Palestine. The movement developed at the end of the 19th century, in so-called Hakhshara centers knowledge was imparted concerning agriculture, artisan crafts and home economics, need in Palestine and for the building up of a kibbutz settlement. Most participants also resided in the Hakhshara centers, studying Jewish history intensively and learning modern Hebrew.
  • Halakhah: lit. »way to walk, passage, change«; the body of religious law; pl. Halachot)
  • hamesh Megillot: the five ‘scrolls’ or Biblical books (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther)
  • Hanukkah: lit. »consecration«; Festival of lights in commemoration of the purification of the Jerusalem Temple by the Maccabees
  • Haredim: self-designation of ultra-Orthodox Jews
  • Hasidim: proponents of a mystical-religious movement of spiritual awakening founded in the 18th century
  • Haskalah: hebr. »Enlightenment«
  • Hazzan: cantor, leader of prayer in the synagogue


  • Jewish calendar: Lunar calendar with 12 or 13 lunar months (leap year). The Jewish year begins in the autumn. The years are reckoned from the Biblical act of Creation, which according to the Biblical chronicles was in the year 3761 B.C.E..


  • Kabbalah: lit. »received tradition«; Term for Jewish mysticism since the Middle Ages
  • Kaddish: aram. Prayer from the daily religious service. In addition, Kaddish is also recited for remembrance of the dead and at the graveside during burial.
  • Kehila: community, congregation
  • Kettubah: aram., pl. Ketubot; Jewish marriage certificate
  • Kiddush: lit. »sanctification«; benediction welcoming  → Shabbat
  • Kippah: hebr. Kippah, pl. Kippot, Yiddish yarm[u]lke. The traditional head covering for male Jews. The small round cap is made of cloth or leather and is worn on the back of the head. Depending on religious affiliation, the kippa is worn only during prayers or in holy places, or is worn all the time. This is a tradition that does not go back to a Mosaic commandment.
  • Kohen: also Cohen, pl. Kohanim; member of the priestly lineage and its descendants of Aaron
  • kosher: term in Jewish religious tradition for ritually »pure«, »suitable« or »fit« edibles, objects or actions. Kashrut (doctrine of dietary commandments) regulates what foods are suitable for consumption. Its main principles are laid down in the five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch. Central to a kosher life style is the separation of dairy and meat products. Orthodox Jews interpret this separation so strictly that they use separate cutlery, cooking utensils and dishes, and some also have separate refrigerators, stoves, kitchen sinks or dishwashing machines. In kosher restaurants, there are often two separate kitchens for this purpose.


  • Maskilim: Jewish Enlighteners → Haskalah
  • Matzah: hebr. »unleavened bread«, pl. matzoth, Ashkenazi pronunciation Matzos, eaten during → Passover.
  • Menorah: (seven-branched) candelabra
  • Mezuzah: lit. »doorpost«; capsule with Bible verses that is attached to the door frame
  • Midrash: rabbinical interpretation of the Bible
  • Mikra: term for the Hebrew Bible
  • Mikveh: hebr. »accumulation, gathering«, (building for) the ritual »immersion bath«, also Mikva, Mikvo, pl. Mikvot, Mikva’ot
  • Minyan: lit. »number«; Quorum of ten males necessary for a prayer service. In egalitarian congregations, ten individuals considered of legal age for religious purposes.
  • Mishnah: hebr. »repetition«, doctrine, pl. Mishnayot; the written codification of the (previously) oral doctrine, forming together with the → Gemara the Talmud as the first authoritative corpus of law of post-Biblical Judaism
  • Mitnaggedim: Orthodox opponents of the → Hasidim
  • Mitzvah: duty, commandment
  • mixed marriage, "privileged" and "non-privileged": In December 1938, Hitler created the categories of “privileged” and “non-privileged” mixed marriage, which were never established in legal terms. “Privileged” were couples where the wife was Jewish (in the National Socialist regime’s sense of “race”) and the husband was non-Jewish, if they had no children or children not brought up as Jews; and couples where the husband was Jewish, the wife non-Jewish, if they had children not brought up as Jews. Families in these constellations were allowed to remain in their previous house or apartment and their assets could be transferred to the non-Jewish spouse or the children. Later on, it was ruled that the Jewish member from a “privileged” mixed marriage was not required to wear a “Jews’ star” and was exempted from deportation (until the beginning of 1945). “Non-privileged” were couple where the husband was a Jew and there were no children, where one partner to the marriage was a Jew and the children were brought up as Jews, or a marriage where the non-Jewish spouse had converted to Judaism upon marriage. These couples did not have the above-mentioned rights, and when emigrating they were treated as Jews. The Jewish partner had to wear the “Jews’ star” but he or she was “deferred” from being deported. If a marriage was dissolved due to divorce or death, the remaining Jewish partner was deported, in most cases to Theresienstadt. Quite separate from the status of the marriage, if the Jewish partner was convicted of a criminal offense, protection from deportation was cancelled. The “prisoners in protective custody” were then deported to Auschwitz. At the war’s end, some 12,000 Jews were still living in such a mixed marriage, 631 of them in Hamburg.
  • mixed-blood: According to the implementation decrees of the Nuremberg Laws, “half-Jews” who had not been brought up as Jews were classified as “mixed-blood of the 1st degree.” However, if they belonged to a Jewish congregation, they were subject to all anti-Jewish measures as so-called “persons considered to be Jews” (Geltungsjuden) By contrast, as “mixed-blood of the 1st degree,” they were under special legislation. They were not allowed to practice a medical, legal or artistic profession and could not be employed in the civil service. But technical professions and jobs in commerce were open to them. Difficulties initially were made for them to acquire a school diploma or university degree; later this was completely prohibited to them. The National Socialist state initially drafted them into military service, but then dismissed them from service, except where they had distinguished themselves by special bravery. “mixed-blood” were not deported unless they were inmates behind bars in a prison or concentration camp after October/November 1942. In 1939, there were some 8,000 “persons considered to be Jews” living in the Third Reich, along with ca. 64,000 “mixed-blood of 1st degree.” At the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 and at two subsequent “Final Solution conferences,” dangers to the “mixed-blood” reached their peak. They were either to be sterilized or deported. But a decision was postponed until after the war’s end, which saved their lives. Beginning in 1942, “mixed-blood of the 1st degree” of compulsory school age were banned from general secondary schools and other types of high schools; beginning in 1943/44, those over the age of 17 were conscripted into forced labor.


  • Nuremberg Laws: The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor and the Law on German Reich Citizenship. They forbade marriages and criminalized sexual intercourse between “Aryans” and “non-Aryans.” Subsequently decrees were issued regulating the classification into “Jews” and “hybrids” of different degrees. These laws were passed on 15 September 1935 at the Nuremberg Party Convention of the NSDAP.
  • Nuremberg trials: Nuremberg Main War Criminals Trial from November 1945 to April 1949. It is considered the first large-scale attempt to deal legally with the National Socialist crimes by administration of justice. In the dock accused were leading representatives of the National Socialists.


  • Passover: hebr. »passing over«, also the »sparing«; Holiday to commemorate the exodus from Egypt, during which characteristically unleavened bread is eaten. → Matzah
  • Possek: (Pl. Possĕkim). Legal scholar (decisor) who makes binding decisions regarding the → Halakhah
  • Purim: lit. »lots«; half-day holiday commemorating the saving of the Persian Jews from their persecutor Haman (as depicted in the Book of Esther)


  • Rabbi: master, teacher, Rabbi is both a functional title and also an honorary title for a special erudition in matters of the Tora. It is derived from hebr. Rav or aram. Rabbuni. Other designations are Rebbe and teacher.
  • Restitution: Refund or indemnification of illegal confiscations during the time of National Socialism
  • Rosh Ha-Shanah: Jewish New Year


  • Sephardi: descendant of Spanish-Portuguese Jews
  • Shabbat: שבת: Day of rest, Sabbath
  • Shavuot: Festival of weeks. One of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals and holiday commemorating the Revelation at Sinai
  • Shekhita(h): designates the ritual slaughter of kosher animals. Adherence to the rite of Jewish slaughter serves to promote the greatest degree possible of bleeding of the animal before death in order to guarantee the ritual purity of the meat for human consumption. Judaism prohibits the consumption of blood.
  • Shemoneh esreh/Amidah: also: »Amida« (because recited in ‘standing’ position) or Tefilla (the »prayer« per se); together with → Shma Yisroel one of the core prayers of synagogue rite and ritual
  • Shma Yisroel, שמע ישראל: Prayer »Hear Oh Israel«; together with the → Shemoneh esreh/Amidah one of the key prayers of the synagogue rite; consists of passages from Deuteronomy 6,4-9; 11,13-21 and Numbers 15,37-41
  • Simkhat Torah: lit. »joy in the Law«; festival to conclude the one-year cycle of Tora reading, coming after the holiday Sukkot
  • Star of David: The police decree pertaining to the visible marking of the Jews, issued on 1 Sept.1941. It obligated all Jews older than the age of 6, from 19 Sept. 1941 on, to wear a yellow ‘Jews’ star’ on their left chest. Exempted from the ‘star duty’ were Jews living in so-called “privileged mixed marriages” and the “hybrids, 1st degree.” Leaving one’s home without the “star” or concealing it on one’s person resulted in penalties, which often led to an accelerated deportation.
  • Sukkah: hebr.,Ashkenazi pronunciation Sukkoh, tabernacle
  • Sukkot: Festival of Tabernacles, commemorating the sojourn of the Israelites in the desert


  • Tallit: prayer shawl
  • Talmud: lit. »study, teaching«; collective compilation of oral traditions and the essential basis of the → Halakhah
  • Tanakh: designation for the Hebrew Bible in its entirety → Mikra
  • teachings of emanation: it states that Creation is the outflowing of the Godhead, welling forth from a divine substance. The doctrine derives from classical philosophy of religion. It was widespread among Indians and Persians, and was later also espoused by Christian Gnostics and Neo-Platonists. Philosophers of the Enlightenment such as Hegel also took up the doctrine of emanation, but denied it had any divine character.
  • Tefillin: phylacteries
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Anti-Semitic pamphlet that first surfaced in Russia ca. 1900 and dealt with the Jewish world conspiracy. Although the pamphlet is readily discernible as a clumsy forgery, it is among the most widespread anti-Semitic writings.
  • Torah: lit. »teaching«, designates the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses in Christian Bible translations) and also religious instruction as a whole
  • Tzedakah: hebr. »beneficence, charity«, Ashkenazi pronunciation Tzedohkoh


  • Wedde: ancient Germanic. »fine«. The Wedde consisted of four councilors who together with the praetura constituted the Hamburg Police Department. After the departure of French troops in 1814, a police force of its own was established in Hamburg. The Wedde thereafter limited itself to regulation of marriage, acceptance of citizens and protected kin, affairs of the Jewish Community, supervision of lifting and weighing and matters pertaining to auctions.


  • Yiddish: language of the Ashkenazi Jews. The language is ca. 1,000 years old, derived from Middle High German, enriched with Hebrew, Aramaic, Romance, Slavic and other linguistic elements. Yiddish is written in Hebrew orthography.
  • Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement, foremost holiday and last of the ten days of penance in the autumn, a day of strict fasting.


  • Zion: Poetic designation for Jerusalem or for all of → Eretz Israel
  • Zionism: The aim of the Zionist movement was the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The Zionist movement emerged in the 19th century. Within the Zionist movement, there were religious and secular currents side by side..
  • Zionist: adherent of → Zionism