Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism

This book reviews types of Iberian Conversos (i.e. primarily forced but also voluntary Jewish converts to Christianity) from the late 14th to the 17th centuries and surveys the Christian and Jewish attitudes towards them. The book begins with a brief history of Jewish life in the Iberian Peninsula noting critical events such as the forced conversions of Jews under the Visigoths and the Almohades. The direct events leading to mass conversions of Jews in the late 14th century and the aftermath in the 15th century are reviewed. This study examines texts and decrees that reveal that many Christians doubted the sincerity of these Jewish conversions to Christianity, and how they still regarded and treated Conversos as Jews. Different types of Conversos are then discussed. Check it out at Secret Jews.

The Converso Dilemma: Halakhic Responsa and Forced Converts

The year was 1391. Spring was about to turn into summer. The Jewish communities of Castile and Aragon had undergone difficult times for more than thirty years. A civil war fought in the middle decade of the 14th century put Jews in a no-win situation. They were loyal and supported the ruling monarch and faced the ire of the pretender. If they had defected to the pre-tender, then they would have been labeled as traitors. The consequences could have been severe in either case and indeed proved to be so. Nevertheless, they survived. Check it out at The Converso Dilemma.

An Introduction to Jewish Theology: Biblical and Rabbinic Concepts on God, the Torah, Life After Death, and More

Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, once noted that many Jews seemed convinced that since traditional Judaism is focused on Halachah, i.e., the practical observance of the commandments, any discussion about theology is superfluous. Some go as far as to say that traditional Judaism does not have a theology. The problem, of course, is that any discussion about God, the Torah, and the people of Israel immediately raises fundamental questions such as which God are we discussing, how was the Torah revealed, who are the people of Israel, etc. All these questions are the domain of theology, the study of religious beliefs. Check it out at An Introduction to Jewish Theology.

What is Kosher? An Introduction to the Laws of Kashrut

The term Kashrut refers to the Jewish religious dietary laws derived from the Torah. The term kashrut is derived from the Hebrew word kasher meaning fit or acceptable. From the word kasher, we derive the word kosher in its anglicized form. But before we discuss what kosher is, let’s discuss some ideas as to “why” kosher exists. Check it out at What is Kosher?

Planning a Jewish Funeral

Death is, unfortunately, a part of life. As much as we may not want to acknowledge it, death comes to us all though it often comes to us at different stages in life. Many are confronted with death early in their childhood, with the loss of a grandparent, for example. In some cases, living in different places often shields us from the extent of the pain that might be associated with such a loss...Learn more at Planning a Jewish Funeral

What is Jewish Prayer?

Almost every religious tradition includes a form of prayer or meditation. That being the case, what exactly characterizes prayer as Jewish? Jewish prayer utilizes the idioms and expressions of the Hebrew Bible and the Sages of Israel. In short, traditional Jewish prayer expresses the fundamental values and beliefs of Judaism. What is Jewish Prayer?