Jewish culture is a stream with roots deep in history and tied to a particular nation and religion. The religion is the framework on which it exists, but the culture is bound together by a set of shared festivals. Jewish culture is characterised by a strong sense of family and a belief in learning.
Jewish culture and nationality are a stream beginning with Abraham [2200 b.c.e] and running into the present. Given shape by the religious genius of Moses, the religion became a religion of law that formed the framework of a sacred community under the One deity. Then known as the Hebrews, they became known as the Jews after the Babylonian exile, when only a remnant of the Hebrews remained. The community is spread across the world [the Diaspora] but has its focus in Jerusalem.
Jewish religion is rich in intellectual vitality, so Jewish culture contains great variety of views. But they share a set of festivals and scriptures. Jewish festivals grew out of historical events. Pesach celebrates the escape from Egyptian slavery under Moses. While other festivals celebrate harvest. Channukah celebrates the liberation of the temple from Hellenistic misuse. Two other festivals, Yom Kippur [day of atonement] And Rosh Hashannah [New Year] have evolved to strengthen the social bonds holding the community together.
Jewish culture involves the Torah, the 651 commandments of the law. These include a set of dietary laws. Rooted in the book of Leviticus, the third Book of Moses, they arose to mark out observant Jews as a people distinctly consecrated to God in everything they do.
Jewish heritage has developed throughout Jewish history. The Jews are people who strongly value family bonds. It is these bonds that have maintained them through difficult centuries in Europe after the Romans exiled them in A.D.70.
From ancient times the Jews were known as a literate people. They have always valued scholarship. The institution of the rabbinate developed in the late first century b.c.e. and it is characterised by immense devotion to learning. Great Jewish centres of learning existed in Mesopotamia in the first few centuries. It is there that much of the later Jewish scriptures were written.
Jewish scholars were instrumental in the recovery of learning in Europe after the collapse of Rome. Scholars such as Maimonides in Spain produced philosophical works that influenced European thought. In later years, Jews, such Einstein, contributed to science and other disciplines.
In recent years, the trauma of the Shoa [holocaust] has led to the restoration of Israel, which plays a great part in Jewish culture, as it is the land where their identity is rooted.