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Subject: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Introduction to the FAQ and s.c.j Newsgroups (1/12)
This article was archived around: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 11:07:14 -0800 (PST)
Frequently Asked Questions on Soc.Culture.Jewish
Part 1: Introduction to the FAQ and Soc.Culture.Jewish
[Last Change: $Date: 1995/10/19 15:23:13 $ $Revision: 1.3 $]
[Last Post: Sun Mar 28 11:07:14 US/Pacific 2004]
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer
questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family
of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the
various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to
accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In
all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your
local rabbi is a good place to start.
[Got Questions?] Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your
questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to
email@example.com. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct
your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you
would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs
questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at
The deceased sages described within are of blessed memory, (assume a
Z"L or ZT"L after their names) and the sages alive today should live
to see long and good days (assume SHLITA). May Hashem grant complete
recovery to the ill. Individual honorifics are omitted.
The FAQ was produced by a committee and is a cooperative work. The
contributors never standardized on transliteration scheme from Hebrew,
Aramaic, Yiddish, or Ladino to English. As a result, the same original
word might appear with a variety of spellings. This is complicated by
the fact that there are regional variations in the pronunciation of
Hebrew. In some places, the common spelling variations are mentioned;
in others--not. We hope that this is not too confusing.
In general, throughout this FAQ, North American (US/Canada) terms are
used to refer to the movements of Judaism. Outside of North American,
Reform is Progressive or Liberal Judaism; Conservative is Masorti or
Neolog, and Orthodoxy is often just "Judaism". Even with this, there
are differences in practice, position, and ritual between US/Canada
Reform and other progressive/liberal movements (such as UK
Progressive/ Liberal), and between US/Canada Conservative and the
conservative/Masorti movement elsewhere. Where appropriate, these
differences will be highlighted.
The goal of the FAQ is to present a balanced view of Judaism; where a
response is applicable to a particular movement only, this will be
noted. Unless otherwise noted or implied by the text, all responses
reflect the traditional viewpoint.
This list should be used in conjunction with the Soc.Culture.Jewish
reading lists. Similar questions can be found in the books
referenced in those lists.
There are also numerous other Jewish FAQs available on the Internet
that are not part of the SCJ FAQ/RL suite. An index to these may be
found at www.scjfaq.org/otherfaqs.html
This FAQ is a volunteer effort. If you wish to support the maintenance
of the FAQ, please see Section 20, Question 99 for more
Subject: The following is an index to all the sections of the SCJ FAQ. It is
grouped by the files available through the SCJ FAQ Autoretriever.
 Network and Newsgroup Introduction
 Who We Are
 Halachic Authority
 Jewish Holidays
 Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut
 Sabbath and Holiday Observance
 Woman and Marriage
 Jewish Worship
 Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"
 Miscellaneous Practice Questions
 Jewish Thought
 Jews as a Nation
 Jews and Israel
 Churban Europa (The Holocaust)
 Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews
 Countering Missionaries
 Reform/Progressive Judaism
 References and Getting Connected
 Children and Judaism
Credits and Acknowledgements
The following separate FAQ related to Judaism is also published as
part of the S.C.J. FAQ:
Jewish Resources by Mail Order and Computer
Steve Seidman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following is an index to the questions and other information contained
in each section:
Section 1: Network and Soc.Culture.Jewish Information
1. What is USENET? How is it different than "the Web"?
2. What are the major Jewish newsgroups on USENET?
3. Why soc.culture.jewish? Wouldn't soc.religion.jewish be more
4. What are the charters of the various Jewish newsgroups?
5. Are there other newsgroups about which Jews should be aware?
6. I notice that some of these newsgroups are moderated. Isn't
7. How do I submit postings to a newsgroup?
8. Some of these newsgroups have quite a bit of traffic? How do
you cope with it?
9. What topics are appropriate for S.C.J?
10. What topics are not appropriate for S.C.J?
11. When should I post to talk.politics.mideast?
12. Is it appropriate to discuss Israel in soc.culture.jewish?
13. How should I respond to inappropriate articles? Somebody
posted an inappropriate article to S.C.J or T.P.M.
14. But I don't get T.P.M? Now what?
15. A. Random Jew posted X to a.b.c; I disagree. What should I do?
16. Can non-Jews post to S.C.J?
17. May I post this great Jewish essay I just read?
18. I have a question nogaiah hilchos maaser kesafim b'zman
hazeh... Eem yeish lee meah or fewer shekalim and some are hefker
19. I've just found Jesus/ LaRouche/ Muhammad/ Marx/ Moon/
L.RonHubbard/ Cthulhu and I'd like you to find him, too. Here's an
essay written by someone raised in a Jewish home who converted to
20. I've just gotten this antisemitic email. What should I do?
21. What are the Do's and Don'ts?
Section 2: Who We Are
1. Who reads the soc.culture.jewish newsgroups?
2. What are the major Jewish movements?
3. What is Conservative Judaism?
4. What is Orthodox Judaism?
5. What is Reform/Progressive Judaism?
6. What about other movements?
7. What are some of the Orthodox sub-groups?
8. What is Chassidism and how does it differ from other Orthodox
9. What is Lubavitch Chasidism and Chabad?
10. What is Breslov Chasidism?
11. What is Satmar Chasidism?
12. What other forms of Chasidism?
13. What are OCR (O-C-R) wars? Why all the flames?
14. But Reform Judaism isn't Judaism? Why don't they see that?
15. But Orthodox Judaism isn't Judaism?Why don't they see that?
16. Why shouldn't I say "ultra-Orthodox", "Reformed Judaism", or
17. How does a Chassid differ from Misnagid?
18. What is a "Torah Jew?"
19. What about homosexual Jews?
20. Is it true that Jews are all (fill-in-the-blank)?
21. How many Jews are there today in the U.S.A.?
22. How many Jews are in the world?
23. Who was the first Jew?
24. What is Judaism all about?
Section 3: Torah
1. What is the Written Law?
2. What are the books of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh)?
3. Why, in the Tanakh, does G-d have so many Names?
4. Who wrote the Torah?
5. What is the Oral Law?
6. How was the Oral and Written Law passed down to us?
7. What is the Great Assembly (Anshe Knessest HaGedolah)?
8. Who are the Zugot (pairs)?
9. What is the Mishna?
10. What is the relationship between the Mishna and the Torah?
11. What are the Orders of the Mishna?
12. What is the Tosefta?
13. What is the relationship between the Tosefta and the Mishna?
14. What is the Gemara and what is the Talmud?
15. What is the Talmud?
16. What is Talmud Yerushalmi?
17. What is Talmud Bavli?
18. What is Rashi's commentary on the Talmud?
19. What is the Tosafot?
20. Who wrote the Tosafot?
21. What is the relationship of the Tosefta to the Talmuds?
22. What are Baraitot?
23. What are the extra-canonical (minor) tractates?
24. What is a Midrash?
25. What are Halakhic (or Tannaitic) Midrashim?
26. What are the main Halakhic Midrashim?
27. What are the main Exegetical Midrashim?
28. What are the main Homiletic Midrashim?
29. What are the Midrashim on the Five Megillot (aka The So-Called
30. What are some other important Haggadic works?
31. What is the Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation)?
32. What is Sefer haBahir, The Bahir (The Book of Illumination)?
33. What is The Zohar?
34. What are the Major Codes of Jewish Law?
35. What is the Rif (Hilkhot of Rav Alfassi)?
36. What is the Mishneh Torah (Yad Ha-Hazaqah , Sefer Mehoqeq)?
37. What is the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (The Semag)?
38. What is the Arba'ah Turim (The Tur , The Four Rows)?
39. What is the Shulkhan Arukh?
40. What is the Hamappah of Rabbi Moshe Isserles?
41. What is the Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh?
42. What is the Mishnah Berurah?
43. What Other Codes of Jewish Law Are Used by Non-Orthodox Jewish
44. What is the Meaning of 'All is Futile' from the beginning of
45. What does it mean in the psalm of Habakkuk when it says that
G-d hides His power?
46. What is meant by G-d's throne and the Serphim worshiping him
in Isaiah 6:1-6?
47. Why is G-d referred to in the plural in the book of Genesis?
48. What is the Mekhilta on Deuteronomy?
Section 4: Halachic Authority
1. What is "Halacha"? How is it determined?
2. Traditionally, what are the levels of halacha?
3. Traditionally, what are the different rabbinic eras?
4. How can differing halachic rulings all be considered valid?
5. How does the Conservative movement deal with Halachic
6. What is the difference between two Orthodox rabbis who
disagree and an Orthodox and a Reform who disagree?
7. Who is RAMBAM that is mentioned and what are his 13
8. Who was Rashi?
9. Who was the Ramban?
10. What is Kabbalah and how can I learn about it?
11. Who is allowed to study Kabbalah?
12. Who was Rabbeinu Tam?
13. What are she'elot u'teshuvot?
14. What is the midrash halachah and the midrash agadah?
Section 5: Jewish Holidays
1. What are the different holidays?
2. What are the dates of the upcoming Jewish holidays?
3. How can I get a Jewish calendar
4. Why do some people take off one day, and others two?
5. Why does the Jewish day start at sundown?
6. What are the origins of the Chanukah Dreidel?
7. Is it appropriate for Christians to "celebrate" Pesach using
the form of a seder meal?
8. What are the months of the Jewish Year?
9. How does Judaism measure the day?
10. Are the Four Questions asked on Pesach in the Torah?
11. What are the different days of the Jewish week?
12. How are Yahrzeits observed in Leap Years?
13. What happened to the observance on 14 Nisan as Passover?
14. For Mother's Day, how should one bless their mothers?
Section 6: Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut
1. What is Kosher? Doesn't a rabbi just bless the food?
2. How can I learn about Kashrut? Is there a "Kosher" FAQ?
3. There are a wide variety of kosher symbols. How do I learn
who's behind them?
4. I'm going to be in (insert city here). How do I find the
5. Do I need to have a kosher kitchen and kosher home to keep
6. I have heard that Polish Orthodox Jews wait 6 hours between
eating milchig and fleishig and Dutch Orthodox Jews wait about an
7. Why do Sephardim and Ashkenazim have different customs
regarding permissible foods on Pesach (Passover)?
8. I'm a vegetarian health-food proponent. Is kosher food
9. Is vegetarianism kosher?
10. What process is involved in Kosher Slaughter?
11. I work in a prison, and I have an inmate that is demanding
Kosher Food? How do I know if his claim is justified?
12. What are the issues involving Filet Minion?
13. Why don't Jews eat Pork?
14. Would the laws of Kashrut prevent Mad Cow Disease?
15. Is Monkfish Kosher?
16. Why do Jews separate Milk and Meat?
17. Must Jews use wine?
18. Are there parts of a kosher animal that cannot be eaten?
19. I have a friend coming over that keeps Kosher. What do I do?
Section 7: Sabbath and Holiday Observance
1. What is the Jewish Sabbath and why is it on Saturday?
2. Why do my Orthodox Jewish friends leave work early on Fridays
and before Jewish holidays?
3. Why can't Jews use electrical appliances and motor vehicles on
4. Why are there 18 minutes from the time candle lighting starts
on Shabbat until the last time you can light?
5. I've heard that Jews can't tear on Shabbat? Why? What is
6. How do people know when to light candles in the Arctic?
7. What is the significance of Challah?
8. Why do women wave their hands three times before lighting
Shabbat [or Holiday] candles?
9. What is an Eruv?
10. If your home is burning, can you put out the fire on Shabbat?
11. What Medical Procedures May Be Performed on Shabbat?
12. What happens on Shabbat?
13. Do Conservative Jews play musical instruments on Shabbat?
14. Why is there a prohibition on travel on Shabbat?
15. Can an observant Jew use a camera on Shabbat?
Section 8: Woman and Marriage
1. What role do women play in Judaism?
2. What is the Conservative view of the role of women in Judaism?
3. What is the Reform view of the role of women in Judaism?
4. What is the Orthodox view of the role of women in Judaism?
5. Is it true that Orthodox men bless G-d every morning for not
making them a woman? What do you mean, this isn't terrible?
6. I've heard polygamy is permissible among Sephardic and
Yemenite Jews. Doesn't Judaism mandate monogamy?
7. What does clean/unclean refer to?
8. What is "Niddah"?
9. I've heard that Orthodox men can't touch women. Is this true?
10. Are there any rituals for purification after childbirth for
11. What is the Jewish position on contraception and abortion?
12. How does Judaism view Marriage?
13. How do Jews find Mates?
14. What is a Jewish Marriage?
15. What happens before a Jewish Wedding?
16. What happens during a Jewish Wedding?
17. What happens after a Jewish Wedding?
18. What should I wear to a Jewish wedding?
19. Why is the glass broken at Jewish weddings?
20. What is a Ketubah?
21. What are the "Seven Blessings"?
22. What does Judaism say about premarital sex?
23. What are some good wedding greetings?
24. Can a wife refuse to have marital relations with her husband?
25. What should a man do if his wife leaves him for another man?
26. Can a Jewish woman who has not been to a mikvah get married in
an Orthodox wedding?
27. Is it possible for a Cohanim to marry a divorced Jewish woman?
28. I've heard Jews can't get married on certain days. What are
29. What is the role of the parents or the rabbi at a wedding?
30. How long after a spouse dies can the surviving partner
remarry? Must they marry their spouse's younger brother?
31. What relationships are prohibited?
32. What is the restriction on woman to sing in public and infront
33. What can be done if the wife refuses to sign the get (divorce
Section 9: Jewish Worship
1. How does a rabbi differ from a priest?
2. Do you need a rabbi for a wedding?
3. Do you need a rabbi for a divorce?
4. How do Jews pray?
5. Is there a distinctly Jewish form of meditation?
6. Does Judaism have a strong tradition of religious art and
7. What is a synagogue?
8. What will I find in a synagogue?
9. How is a synagogue operated?
10. What functions does a synagogue serve?
11. What is the name of the Jewish God?
12. What is the reason for a "minyon" (a quorum of 10 men requried
for certain prayers)?
13. What is the "Shema"?
14. Where can I learn about the prayers before eating?
15. What is the structure of the morning service?
16. When should morning services start?
17. Why do people put their tallit over their heads when they
18. What is the importance of collective worship in Judaism?
19. What is the difference between Conservative Prayer and
20. What is the Timeline of Women in the Rabbinate?
21. Are extremely observant men permitted to pray at home?
22. What is the Qetzatzah Ceremony?
23. What time of day were the sacrifices offered?
Section 10: Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"
1. Does Halacha (Jewish law) permit intermarriage?
2. I'm a Jew who married a gentile. Am I still Jewish?
3. I'm a Jew who accepted the tenets of another religion, but now
wants to practice Judaism again. Am I allowed? Am I still Jewish?
4. OK, then apart from halachic considerations, why do many Jews
of all types oppose intermarriage?
5. Is objection to intermarriage a form of bigotry?
6. But I still want to intermarry? Do you know of a Rabbi that
7. How does one convert?
8. What about adults who are not circumcised?
9. What does the word "Jew" mean?
10. Who is a Jew?
11. What is the origin of Matrilineal Descent?
12. I've heard that Jewish parents consider an intermarried child
as "dead". Is this true?
13. Why is the conversion process so complicated? The matriarchs
didn't have to convert.
Section 11: Miscellaneous Practice Questions
1. Why do some Jewish women wear wigs or cover their hair
with a snood, beret, tichel, turban, kerchief or hat?
2. Why do many Jewish men wear head coverings (variously
referred to as "yarmulkas," "skullcaps," and "kipot")?
3. What is a Tallis? Tzit-tzit(those fringes)? Why do Jews
4. What are those black boxes and leather straps Jewish men
5. Why do many Jewish men sport beards and/or long
6. Why do some Orthodox Jews, especially Chassidim, wear a
distinctive style of clothing (i.e., fur hats, black coats,
7. What is Shaatnez?
8. Are there any special dress rules or customs for women?
9. What is a Kittel?
10. What is the large high ceremonial hat that the Rabbi
wears in the synagogue called?
2. Sex and Purity
1. What's this I've heard about a hole in a sheet?
2. Can a Jewish man only uncover his wife a hands-breadth?
3. What is a "mikveh"?
4. What are Jewish hygene practices?
1. Why do some people write "G-d" with a hyphen instead of
2. Why do some Jews write "J-s-s" and "Xianity"?
3. Why are somethings written in Hebrew, and others in
4. Practices towards others
1. Does Judaism permit slavery?
2. What does "eye for an eye" mean?
3. Is it permitted for a Jew to sell Christian objects?
+ This material has been moved to Section 8.
6. Death and Burial
1. Is it true that someone with tattoos cannot be buried in
a Jewish cemetery?
2. I've heard about a custom of putting stones on the grave.
Do you know where this custom originated?
3. Is "stone setting" at the cemetery within a year after
death is a Jewish tradition?
4. What are the Jewish mourning customs after the death of
an immediate relative?
5. What are Jewish funeral customs?
6. Is getting cryogenically frozen against Judaism?
7. Are Jews buried facing West?
8. Can Jews be cremated?
9. What is the Jewish position on Suicide?
10. Can pregnant women attend a funeral?
11. If a Jewish person lives in an area where there is no
synagogue, no Jewish funeral home, and no Jewish cemetery,
what would the rules be in regard to burial?
12. Can Jews and Non-Jews be buried together?
13. Must the Chevra Kedisha be family members?
14. How have burial customs changed over time?
15. Why do Jews emphasize burial within 24 hours?
1. What are the levels of giving?
1. When did Jews stop making animal sacrifices?
2. What replaced animal sacrifices in Jewish practice?
3. How do sacrifices relate to compassion for animals?
4. Will sacrifices be restored if the Temple is rebuilt?
1. Why are Jews called Jews?
2. What does the Star of David represent and what is its
3. What is the signficance of "Chai" and the number 18?
4. What is a Mezuzah?
5. What is a Menorah?
6. What is the significance of the number 5?
7. What is the significance of the number 3?
8. What is the significance of the number 40?
9. What is the significance of the number 7?
10. Are there any Jewish housewarming rituals?
11. What is the significance of blue in Judaism? Are there
other special colors?
12. What is the significance of the number 8?
Section 12: Jewish Thought
1. What is the Jewish concept of G-d? Do Jews think of G-d as an
angry old man with a long white beard?
2. Can one doubt G-d's existence and still be a good Jew?
3. Does modern science (e.g., "big bang" theory, evolution, the
age of the world) contradict traditional readings of the Torah?
4. Does modern science contradict liberal readings of the Torah?
5. Can one be Orthodox and a scientist too?
6. I've heard that Jews consider themselves "chosen." What does
7. What is the Jewish concept of the Messiah?
8. What do Jews say happens when a person dies? Do Jews believe
in reincarnation? In hell or heaven? Purgatory?
9. What was the job of a prophet?
10. It seems that prophecy was once central to Judaism; why don't
we have prophets today?
11. Who were the prophets? How many?
12. What is the Jewish view on the question of "free will."?
13. What about angels, demons, miracles, and the supernatural?
14. What do Jews hope/expect of the future?
15. How can Jews reject (insert true belief here)?
16. Why do Jews need organized religion or Jewish laws? Isn't it
good enough to be a good person? How about gentiles?
17. How does Judaism differ from Xianity, Marxism, Communism,
Humanism and other -isms?
18. Where can a Gentile learn about Judaism?
19. What does Judaism say about non-Jews and their role? What does
G-d demands of gentiles to get to Olam Ha'aba ["The
World-to-come"]? What are the Noachide laws?
20. What do Jews believe about Good and Evil?
21. What is the Jewish position on Capital Punishment?
22. What is the Jewish position on communicating with the dead?
23. What is the significance and importance of suffering and
punishment in Judaism?
24. Why are there different names for G-d?
25. What is the "Book of Life"?
26. How does one atone for sins?
27. What does Judaism say about the punishments in the Torah?
28. What does the Torah mean by Abomination?
29. Why does the Torah talk about Other Gods?
30. What is the purpose of life? Why did G-d create man?
31. How does tithing work in Judaism?
32. Does Judaism permit organ donation?
33. Is numerology part of Jewish Mysticism?
34. What is Jewish thought on Gog and Magog?
35. What does Judaism believe about Satan?
36. In Judaism, what are some of the laws related to gleaning and
tithing for the poor?
37. What is the Jewish view of Salvation, i.e., how a person from
a given religion is ''saved''?
38. Can a Jew donate blood?
39. How does halacha, the messiah, and the prophets affect the
daily life of a Jew?
40. What must one do to lead "a good life" in Judaism?
41. I've heard about 36 taddiks?
42. What is the theological understanding regarding the affect of
the expulsion from Eden?
Section 13: Jews as a Nation
1. What are the different racial and cultural groups of Jews?
2. What are the differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim?
3. Where did the Beita Yisrael (Falashas) come from?
4. Who were the Khazars? Are Ashkenazi Jews descended from the
5. Who are Crypto-Jews (also known as "marranos")?
6. How does the Sephardi/Ashkenazi differences differ from the
7. I've heard of a group called the "Black Hebrews". Who are
8. What about the black jews in South Africa?
9. Who Are The Jews of India, And What Are Their Origins?
10. Are Jews a Nation or a Religion?
11. Who are the Edot Mizraxi?
12. What About Yeminite Jews?
13. Who was Donna Gracia?
Section 14: Jews and Israel
1. Who is an Israeli? Who may enter Israel under its Law of
2. What is Zion?
3. What is Zionism?
4. Are all Jews Zionists?
5. Do Diaspora Jews (Jews outside Israel) support Zionism?
6. I've heard there were/are very Orthodox Jews who were/are
against the state of Israel. How could this be? Who are they?
7. Did Zionism end with the establishment of Israel?
8. Are antisemitism and anti-Zionism the same thing?
9. Is Zionism racist?
10. What are the roots of Arab opposition to Zionism?
11. Can't you criticize Israel without being antisemitic?
12. Why is opposition to Israel often seen as being antisemitic?
13. Why is Jerusalem so important to Jews?
14. I want to move to Israel. Can I become a citizen?
15. What is the Wailing Wall and why is it so important?
16. Questions on aliyah, military service for olim and more
Section 15: Churban Europa (The Holocaust)
1. Why do Jews seem to treat the Holocaust as their tragedy alone?
2. Where can I get information on the Holocaust?
3. How do I get tickets to see the United States Holocaust
4. Is there any online information available on Yad Vashem?
Section 16: Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews
1. Why is antisemitism used to mean anti-Jewish?
2. Is there any truth to the myth of the Jewish American Princess?
3. What is the connection between Judaism and Freemasonry?
4. How do I counter antisemitic postings such as the infamous
5. Did the Jews kill Jesus?
6. Can you tell me about the Disputation at Barcelona?
Section 17: Countering Missionaries
1. Are groups calling themselves "Jews for Jesus" or "Messianic
Jews[sic]" Jewish movements?
2. Is belief in Jesus-as-G-d compatible with any Jewish movements?
3. Countering the Question: Why Don't Jews Believe in Jesus as
4. What do missionary groups believe?
5. What sort of deceptive terminology do missionaries use?
6. How can these missionaries be countered?
7. Who is financing "Jews for Jesus" and similar groups?
8. Are the key Christian beliefs derived from Judaism?
Section 18: Reform/Progressive Judaism
* Introduction to the Reform/Progressive FAQ
1. General Questions
1. What is Reform Judaism?
2. What, if any, are the fundamental principles of Reform?
3. Is a Jew affiliated with Reform Judaism less "religious"
than one affiliated with another movement?
4. How is Reform Judaism structured in the North America?
5. How is Reform Judaism structured in the rest of the
6. How big is Reform Judaism?
1. How did Reform Judaism start?
2. Why did Reform Judaism start?
3. I've heard reference to "Classic German Reform". What is
4. What is Reform Judaism today?
3. What is Reform Judaism's position on...
1. The authority of Torah?
2. The authority of Talmud?
3. What is acceptable practice?
4. What is unacceptable practice?
5. The necessity of belief in G-d?
6. The role of Israel?
7. Other Jewish movements?
11. Mixed (Interfaith) Marriages
12. The role of women
14. How an individual's Jewish status is determined
15. The Messiah
4. Stereotypes: The fallacy verses reality
1. Fallacy: Reform Jews choose practice based solely on
2. Fallacy: Either patrilineal or matrilineal descent is
3. Fallacy: Reform Conversions take no study, and are for
4. Fallacy: Reform Judaism encourages intermarriage
5. Fallacy: Intermarried couples have exactly the same
rights as non-intermarried couples in Reform Congregations
6. Fallacy: Reform Judaism has Rabbis and congregations that
don't believe in G-d
7. Fallacy: There are no 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews.
8. Fallacy: An atheist could be considered a "good" Reform
9. Fallacy: Reform Jews don't have Bar Mitzvahs
10. Fallacy: Reform totally ignores "Jewish" divorce (i.e.,
11. Fallacy: All Reform Congregations Are Rich
12. Fallacy: Reform Rabbis do not study Halacha
13. Fallacy: Reform Jews don't care about Jewish ideals and
14. Fallacy: Reform Jews don't need to attend synagogue.
15. Fallacy: Reform Jews don't believe in Zionism and don't
16. Fallacy: Reform Jews have no concept of the Messiah.
17. Fallacy: Reform Jews do not observe Shabbat
18. Fallacy: Reform Jews ignore the laws of Kashrut
19. Fallacy: Reform rejects most of Maimonides 13 Principles
5. Differences from Traditional Judaism
1. Why does Reform liturgy say "m'chayey hakol" [who gives
life to all] instead of m'chayey meytim" [who gives life to
the dead] ?
2. What other changes to liturgy reflect Reform ideals?
3. Why does Reform generally celebrate Rosh Hashanah for one
4. How does a Reform conversion differ from an Orthodox
6. The Rabbinate
1. How does one become a Reform Rabbi?
2. What is the course of study for the Rabbinate?
3. How does one become a Reform Cantor?
4. What is the course of study for cantors?
5. What other courses of study are available?
6. Can Reform Rabbis be sanctioned for their beliefs
7. For Further Information
1. How do I contact the main organizations in Reform
2. How do I find a Reform congregation?
3. Are there any Reform Rabbis on the network who will
4. How do I start the conversion process?
5. I'd like to do some further reading. Where do I start?
* Special Credits for the Reform/Progressive FAQ
Section 19: Miscellaneous
1. I want to become more observant. Where do I start?
2. Why is "shabbat" spelled sometimes shabbath, shabbath, shabbos,
3. What are some common Hebrew and Yiddish phrases I see on
4. What do all those abbreviations like Z"L mean?
5. Is "shvartze" offensive? Is "goyim" offensive?
6. What does "shiksa" and "shaygetz" mean?
7. I am going to be in (name your city), where can I eat, stay
8. What do bagels, lox, pastrami, falafel, garlic pickles,
kishka, and kasha have to do with being a Jew?
9. What does Warren Burstein's signature mean?
10. Who was the sixth Marx brother?
11. Why do Hebrew clocks run clockwise, not counter-clockwise?
12. I'm not Jewish. How do I show my love for the Jewish people?
13. What is the origin of the word "kike"?
14. What is the meaning of the part of the book of Ruth where the
guy at the gate takes off his shoe?
15. I'm a health care provider? What do I need to know for Jewish
16. What would be a good housewarming gift for a Jewish friend?
17. What is the meaning and origin of the phrase B'shaah Tova?
Section 20: References and Getting Connected
1. I'd like to learn more? Do you have any books to recommend?
2. What are the different hechsher symbols?
3. Where can I find Jewish-oriented mailing lists?
4. What are the good Jewish search engines?
5. What are some good Jewish links on the WWW?
6. Is S.C.J available via a Listserv or other e-mail means?
7. What divrei Torah are posted to Usenet?
8. Where can I find collected divrei Torah?
9. What software is available for Hebrew applications?
10. What other Jewish software is available?
11. Are there any Jewish Libraries on the Internet?
12. I'm interested in ordering books or music on the internet.
Where should I look?
13. Boy, you did a wonderful job on the FAQ? How do I show my
Section 21: Children and Judaism
* Introduction to the Jewish Childrearing FAQ
1. Entering the Covenant
1. What is circumcision?
2. Why are Jewish boys circumcised?
3. Who performs the circumcision?
4. When is the circumcision done?
5. But doesn't it hurt?
6. But shouldn't the child make its own decision?
7. But circumcision is only required for boys. What about
8. What are our options for welcoming our new baby girl?
9. Can we hold a welcoming ceremony on the 8th day for a
10. What is a pidyon haben?
11. When is a pidyon haben required?
12. What about babies who are stillborn or die shortly after
birth with respect to pidyon haben?
13. What about an adopted child?
14. Does Judaism have a tradition of Godparents?
15. Is Circumcision required for a boy to be Jewish?
1. What are the Ashkenazi customs regarding the naming of
2. But my grandmother was named (insert old-fashioned out of
use name here? No one uses that name today? How do I name
after that relative?
3. Is it appropriate to name a child after a relative of the
4. Is it appropriate for multiple children (i.e. cousins) to
be named after the same relative?
5. My spouse has a living relative with the same name as my
deceased relative. Can we name our children after my
6. What are the Sephardi customs regarding the naming of
7. What about babies who are stillborn or die shortly after
8. Are there any distinctly non-Jewish names?
1. Can I let my kid swim on Shabbat?
2. Can I let my kid play in the sandbox on Shabbat?
3. Can children play sports such as Soccer on Shabbat?
4. What is appropriate dress for swimming?
5. Can my kid play with Playdough during Pesach?
1. Where can I find kosher baby food?
2. Where can I find kosher for passover baby food?
1. What are good activities for children for the major
1. How do I determine the right type of religious program:
day school vs. afterschool?
2. How are teachers in Chasidic schools trained?
7. B'nai Mitzvah
1. What is a bar/bat mitzvah?
2. What's a good gift for a b'nai mitzvah?
3. What is appropriate dress to wear to the b'nai mitzvah
4. What are the characteristics of a good b'nai mitzvah
5. How do I select a good b'nai mitzvah tutor?
6. I need to speak at my child's bar/bat mitzvah? What do I
8. Other childhood lifecycle rituals
1. I've heard of a ceremony called "Consecration". What is
2. I've heard of a ceremony called "Confirmation". What is
3. What is Upsherin? I know it relates to the cutting of the
hair of boys at age 3, but tell me more.
4. I've been invited to a Bat Barakah. What is it?
9. Coping with other religions
1. My child says all of his friends have Christmas Trees,
and he wants one too. What do I say?
2. My child's non-Jewish grandparents have asked her to help
trim the tree. What do I do?
3. My child has been invited to an Easter Egg roll? What do
4. My child has been invited to the Easter Egg roll on the
White House lawn? What do I do?
10. Growing Older
1. My child wants to start dating? How do I ensure proper
2. My child wants a tattoo. What forms of body modification
are allowed? Tattoos? Earrings?
3. When do I need to start worrying about issues of modesty?
11. Resource References
1. I need some information on Jewish Genetic Diseases. Where
do I start?
2. Are there any recommended online resources on Jewish
Childrearing or specifically for Jewish children?
* Special Credits for the Jewish Childrearing FAQ
Subject: Question 1.1: What is USENET? How is it different than "the Web"?
USENET refers to a network of systems that exchange "news" via a
protocol called the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP). This
protocol, and its predecessors, predate what is commonly called "the
web", but are now incorporated into it as one of the supported
protocols in Universal Resource Locators (URLs).
News is a form of broadcast protocol. Articles are posted, and are
exchanged on stored on newsservers throughout the network. Your ISP
quite likely has a newserver; for example, if your ISP is "isp.net",
look for a machine named "news.isp.net" or "nntp.isp.net". Uses use
news reading agents to connect to the newsservers; these agents read
and display news. In the Unix world, common agents are programs such
as rn, trn, vn, and various newsreaders with Emacs, such as gnus. In
the PC world, there are programs such as Agent. Most browsers also
provide support for news. Configure your browser to connect to a
newsreader (look at the configuration options), and then try using the
URL <news:soc.culture.jewish>. If you need a newsreader, a good
source to try is The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software, TUCOWS,
located at www.tucows.com.
If you do not have the ability or desire to add software, or you do
not have access to a newsserver, you can visit groups.google.com to
access a web-based newsreader.
So, how is news different than the web. In news, one typically
subscribes to newsgroups, and then reads the articles in that group,
in a manner similar to a bulletin board. In some ways, this is more
active (you still need to retrieve the article, but finding the
articles of interest is easier). It also supports more discussion, and
threading of discussion. The web (and by this we mean normal HTML
pages) is more interactive: one must hunt down the pages one wants.
One can implement bulletin boards and forums via web pages in a manner
similar to news; however, such pages do not use the news protocols and
cannot be accessed by newsreaders.
Subject: Question 1.2: What are the major Jewish newsgroups on USENET?
The following are the main "positive" Jewish newsgroups. "Positive"
refers to the fact that the newsgroups tends to take a positive
attitude towards Jews/Judaism; the goal of the group is not to make
fun of Judaism, to have non-Jewish discussions, or to be anti-Jewish.
This list also does not include regional newsgroups.
* Unmoderated Newsgroups. These newsgroups provide no outside
control over content; posting appropriate content is left to the
discretion of the article author. Alas, this results in a high
level of noise in such groups; however, some individuals find the
noise an acceptable price to pay to avoid the oversight of a
+ soc.culture.jewish. The granddaddy of all the Jewish
newsgroups. This group is pretty freewheeling, and is
moderated only by user self-control, usually guided by this
FAQ. Any sort of Jewish topic is discussed here.
+ alt.humor.jewish. The unmoderated Jewish humor group.
Expect anything in this group, including Jewish jokes of
questionable taste. There are a number of more questionable
subgroups under alt.humor.jewish.
+ alt.music.jewish. This unmoderated group focuses on the
discussion of Jewish music and Jewish musicians.
+ alt.personals.jewish. This unmoderated group is a forum
for Jews looking for Jews, inorder to form relationships of
* Moderated Newsgroups. In a moderated newsgroup, all submissions
are sent to a moderator or moderation team, who must review the
submission according to some standards to determine if it is
appropriate for the group. Only if it is appropriate is it posted
to the newsgroup.
+ soc.culture.jewish.moderated. This newsgroup is for
discussions of anything Jewish, but with the gentle hand of a
moderator to filter out the noise and personal attacks.
+ soc.culture.jewish.holocaust. This newsgroup is
specifically for discussion of issues related to the "shoah"
or "holocaust"; i.e., the massacre of Jews that occurred
during World War II.
+ soc.culture.jewish.parenting. This newsgroup, an offshoot
of both misc.kids and soc.culture.jewish, provides a
moderated forum for the discussion of Jewish parenting
+ rec.food.cuisine.jewish. This newsgroup is for the
discussion of Jewish and Jewish-style cooking and related
+ rec.humor.jewish. Got a good Jewish joke? Then this is
the place for you.
+ soc.geneology.jewish. This newsgroup is for individuals
researching their family trees.
+ alt.religion.judaism.orthodox. This newsgroup (a rare
moderated newsgroup in the alt hierarchy) is for discussion
of things Orthodox. It is a good source of traditional Torah
Subject: Question 1.3: Why soc.culture.jewish? Wouldn't soc.religion.jewish
be more appropriate?
The name "soc.culture.jewish" (S.C.J) is a net.historical relic. In
the early years of Usenet, there was only one Jewish newsgroups, and
it was named net.religion.jewish. In the late 1980s, the Usenet
namespace was reworked in what was called the "Great Renaming". This
renaming took the flat namespace of net.* groups, and created the new
top-level groups: comp, rec, soc, talk, sci, misc, and news. At this
time, there was a common belief that renaming net.religion.jewish to
talk.religion.jewish would be detrimental to the group's success, for
it was believed that talk. groups would have lower propagation and be
less likely to be carried by administrators. So the net's collective
"yidisher kop" [or "yidisher kop"] did an end run around this, and
proposed that the group be moved into the soc.culture.* hierarchy. And
here we are.
At time has passed, a number of split-offs from soc.culture.jewish
have been created. Some of these have been created in the
soc.culture.jewish hierarchy, for various reasons (e.g.,
s.c.j.parenting, s.c.j.holocaust, s.c.j.moderated). Others have been
created in other hierarchies, with a clear identification of their
Jewish nature (rec.food.cuisine.jewish, rec.humor.jewish,
soc.geneology.jewish). Other newsgroups have been created in the
free-for-all "alt" hierarchy, with almost any name.
So, while Jews have argued forever about whether Judaism is more of a
"culture" or a "religion" or a something else, the choice of name for
this newsgroup is not proof of anything. So if you start arguing "but
this group is soc.culture.jewish, so...," please, as a well known
character in a 1970's US television comedy series says: "just stifle."
Subject: Question 1.4: What are the charters of the various Jewish
A charter of a newsgroup bounds the content of the newsgroup. The
following are the charters of the main Jewish newsgroups. Note that
the charter descriptions listed here are abridged (condensed);
usually, a pointer is given to the source of the full charter.
* Unmoderated Newsgroups:
+ soc.culture.jewish. S.C.J does not have a formal charter;
it predates the time when charters were required as part of
group creation. This FAQ serves as the primary guideline
regarding acceptable content for the group.
+ alt.humor.jewish. This group appears to have no regularly
+ alt.music.jewish. This group appears to have no regularly
+ alt.personals.jewish. This group appears to have no
regularly posted charter.
* Moderated Newsgroups:
+ soc.culture.jewish.moderated. This is a moderated
newsgroup for the discussion of all aspects of Judaism,
including its history, philosophy, culture, practice, and
law. In general, any post which contains substantive Jewish
content is appropriate. The following posts are unacceptable
in SCJM, unless they have substantive Jewish content: (1)
inappropriately crossposted discussion (more than 3 groups,
or to any group on a list of banned groups, with some
exceptions, such as the FAQ); (2) posts whose connection to
Judaism consists solely of the Jewish identity of one of its
participants or subjects (personal announcements are an
exception); (3) political discussion, including Israeli,
Middle Eastern, and Arab politics; (4) posts whose connection
to Judaism consists solely of a relationship to Israel; (5)
offensive or derogatory statements aimed at any individual or
group (criticism of ideas or actions, however, is acceptable,
provided they meet the other requirements); (6) posts that
deny or question the existence or extent of the Holocaust
(responses are similarly off-topic, but discussion of how
Jews can/ought to respond to such ideas is OK); (7)
proselytizing or witnessing for any non-Jewish religion
(discussion of how Jews can/ought to respond to such attempts
is OK); (8) discussion of the beliefs or doctrines of Jews
for Jesus, Hebrew Christianity, Messianic Judaism, or other
similar groups (again, discussion of how Jews should respond
to such groups is OK); (9) binary posts, with some small
exceptions; (10) commercial posts for non-Jewish items. Note
that Gnosticism falls under category (8), and is not
considered a Jewish movement in the contemporary sense, for
there is no contemporary communal organization, no
contemporary Jewish religious literature, no contemporary
social setting, and no contemporary educational context for
gnosticism, even though it may have been a "Jewish movement"
in the first few centuries of the Common Era. There is also a
prohibition about posting of material that constitutes a
probable copyright violation.
Additionally, discussion of the moderation policy of the
newsgroup and the moderators' decisions are also unacceptable
in SCJM; such discussion belongs on a side mailing list,
email@example.com. Specifically, this list is for
discussion of potential changes to the charter or moderation
policy, changes to the composition of the moderation panel,
changes in the way the moderation guidelines, or any other
subjects regarding the way in which the group is moderated.
[The restriction about Meta-discussion to the scjm-policy
list was an interpretation of the original charter's
definition of "discussion of all aspects of Judaism..."] To
subscribe to the scjm-policy list, send a message to
firstname.lastname@example.org with the body text
For more information: The charter and moderation policy is
regularly posted in the newsgroup, and is available on the
groups webpage, http://scjm.nj.org/.
+ soc.culture.jewish.holocaust. This newsgroup focuses upon
the events leading up to the Holocaust, the events of the
Holocaust itself (such as Kristallnacht and the concentration
and death camps), and closely-related events and consequences
following the Holocaust (such as the search for and
imprisonment/execution of Nazi criminals who fled).
Discussion about the historical and social contexts of these
events, such as antisemitism within and without Nazi Germany
and the response of the outside world is also welcome. Other
topics that are encouraged include religious and
philosophical reactions and responses to the Holocaust (i.e.
how was faith strengthened or weakened by the Shoah),
discussions by Holocaust concentration camp liberators, and
book reviews of texts that focus on the Holocaust. The
following posts are unacceptable in SCJH: (1) discussion of
Holocaust denial (euphemistically "revisionism"), or ways to
counteract such denial [Such discussion belongs in
alt.revisionism]; (2) ad hominem attacks, flames, or foul
language; (3) commercial messages unless they are of high
informational value to the SCJH community; (4) copyrighted
material without permission of the copyright holder.
Cross-posted messages will be considered, but not
For more information: www.holocausthistory.org. The
charter is regularly posted in the newsgroup.
+ soc.culture.jewish.parenting. This group provides a forum
for discussing issues specific to rearing children within a
Jewish context. Topics for discussion range from very
specific requests for advice and information to broader
questions about Jewish education and practice. In the context
of soc.culture.jewish.parenting, the phrase "within a Jewish
context" is intended to indicate either an environment in
which the child's primary belief system is Judaism (without
regard to the belief systems of the child's caretakers), or
the Jewish aspects of a multifaith child's environment. The
group also uses a broad definition of Judaism is used,
ranging from Humanistic Judaism to more traditional forms,
but excluding combined faith systems such as "Messianic
Judaism" (sic). Unacceptable posts include (1) questions or
statements attacking, showing a lack of respect for, or
questioning the fundamental Jewish validity of an
individual's outlook, affiliation, or practices; (2) posts
that criticize a parent for any circumcision decision made
for their son; (3) medical arguments for or against
circumcision; (4) questions unrelated to Jewish traditions
and practices in the context of raising a child (with one
exception: introductions of participants); (5) submissions
that attack an individual as opposed to an individual's
position; (6) commercial announcements (regional
announcements and commercial product reviews are permitted on
a limited basis); (7) questions regarding general practices
of Judaism not pertaining to raising children (redirected to
soc.culture.jewish or other appropriate groups); (8) extended
discussions about halacha (religious law) when they no longer
deal with parenting-related issues; (9) questions pertaining
to general parenting practices (redirected to misc.kids or
other appropriate groups); (10) questions and discussions
regarding how to raise children in an intercultural
environment that do not focus on Jewish aspects of the
child's upbringing; and (11) questions about non-Jewish
Other notes: This group is mirrored with the SCJ-PARENTING
mailing list, managed through the listproc as shamash.org. To
subscribe, send a message of the form "subscribe
scj-parenting yourfirstname yourlastname" to
For more information: The FAQ for SCJP is regularly posted;
it is also available through the SCJFAQ autoretriever. Send
the command "send scjp-faq" to email@example.com.
+ rec.food.cuisine.jewish. Rec.food.cuisine.jewish is for
the discussion of various aspects of Jewish food. These
include: sharing of recipes from Jewish ethnic streams
(Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Yemenite, etc.) and communities
around the world; adaptation of classic Jewish recipes to
current lifestyle demands, such as the problems often faced
by vegans and vegetarians during Passover; adaptation of new
recipes to the requirements of keeping a kosher kitchen;
Sabbath, holiday and holy day cooking and cuisine; recipes
and menus for life-cycle celebrations (births, Bar/Bat
Mitzva, weddings); sourcing suppliers, delicatessens and
restaurants (locations, specialties, reviews and recipes);
Jewish cooking history, traditions, cookbooks and related
reference materials. Discussions may also include tips on
setting up a kosher kitchen, kosher-food preparation,
recipes, ingredient substitutions in non-kosher recipes,
techniques, existence of rabbinic approval or labeling of
specific food products, keeping kosher when traveling, kosher
restaurants, caterers and hotels. Interpretation of the
religious laws is beyond the scope of RFCJ. Recipes posted to
the newsgroup are expected to respect the basic framework of
the Jewish dietary laws: no recipes calling for pork or pork
products, shellfish, catfish or crustaceans, and no recipes
mixing meat or poultry with dairy products. The group expects
that sensitivity will be exhibited both by those who observe
the Jewish dietary laws and those who do not; inflammatory
postings about one's degree of observance or the
philosophical merits of "kashruth" are strictly outside this
group's framework. The group is a lightly moderated group;
unacceptable postings include antisemitic posts; other
inflammatory diatribes; vulgarity; commercial advertisements
that do not relate to Jewish food in any way; posts that
attempt to coerce anyone to alter their spiritual practices;
get-rich-quick schemes and similar spam; messages that have
been known to perpetuate such urban myths as the
Neiman-Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe; cross-posts to
other groups; and posts from anonymous addresses.
For more information: RFCJ Archives at
http://www.cyber-kitchen.com/rfcj/ and regular moderation
guideline posts to the newsgroup.
+ rec.humor.jewish. RHJ is for anyone who wants to share
and discuss humor, primarily humor as it pertains to Jews,
their culture, Israel, and the Jewish religion. Non-Jewish
humor will also be accepted. The whole idea is to make people
laugh! Unacceptable postings are in the following areas: (1)
antisemitic posts; (2) revisionist posts (holocaust deniers);
(3) posts from individuals/groups that have openly advocated
harm against the Jewish people; (4) website announcements
unrelated to Judaism, with some exceptions; (5) excessively
crossposted articles; (6) trolls, spam, off-topic or
offensive posts; (7) personal messages; (8) off-topic
threads; (9) posts that offer or promote conversion to
another religion; (10) large binaries and formats
incompatible with the moderation software; (11) posts with
explicit sexual content; (12) exact duplicates of posts
recently submitted; (13) posts not in English; (14)
advertisements and/or announcements and/or endorsements for
profit or non-profit endeavours; (15) copyrighted works.
Posters are expected to maintain a basic tone of civility,
not make derogatory remarks about religious practices or the
lack of them, and refrain from making derogatory comments
about other religious, racial, or ethnic groups.
For more information:
http://members.tripod.com/~rechumorjewish. The charter
and an RHJ FAQ are regularly posted in that newsgroup.
+ soc.geneology.jewish. The JewishGen(r) Discussion Group is
a computer-based forum devoted to Jewish genealogy. Users can
request help with genealogical problems, post information
about new sources for research, and network with other Jewish
genealogists globally. The only acceptable content are
messages that are related to research in Jewish genealogy
such as: offering or requesting information on resources;
inquiries about geographical locations or families;
information on research techniques; brief reports about
research trips; and concise summaries of meetings and
Additional notes: This newsgroup is a mirror of the JewishGen
mailing list. To subscribe to the JewishGen mailing list on
Internet, you can use the web subscription form at
http://www.jewishgen.org/listserv/jg.htm or by sending an
e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org containing
the message body (NOT the subject field): "SUBSCRIBE
JewishGen FirstName LastName".
For more information: See
+ alt.religion.judaism.orthodox. This newsgroup is for
discussions concerning Orthodox Judaism and the surrounding
education (Halakha, Talmut Torah etc.), including discussions
regarding the various Orthodox recognised movements within
Judaism and educational discussion. Educational discussion
includes discussion of the Parashat Hashavua; Weekly Haftora
discussions; Tehillim examination; Different topics in
Halakha; Holidays. Unacceptable topices include: (1) Middle
East politics, especially international issues concerning
Israel; (2) Material that is available from a listserv; (3)
"witnessing" or preaching; (4) discussions of so-called
"Messianic Judaism[sic]," and the Christian missionary
organization calling itself "Jews for Jesus,"; (5)
revisionist teachings (i.e., those teachings that attempt to
deny that the holocaust ever happened); (6) personal attacks,
Lashon Hara, and Motzei Shem Ra.
For more information: http://stump.algebra.com/~arjo.
Subject: Question 1.5: Are there other newsgroups about which Jews should be
The following newsgroups are not considered "Jewish" newsgroups.
However, they are more appropriate forums or venues for discussions
that often take place on SCJ and its family of newsgroups.
* Unmoderated Newsgroups.
+ alt.revisionism. This unmoderated newsgroup is for
discussions related to holocaust deniers and their theories.
If you want to claim it never happened, do it in
alt.revisionism. If you want to battle those who claim it
never happened, do it in alt.revisionism.
+ alt.messianic. This unmoderated newsgroup is for
discussions related to what is called "Messianic Judaism", or
similar groups such as Jews for Jesus.
+ misc.kids and its family of newsgroups. These are the
appropriate places for parenting discussions unrelated to
soc.culture.israel. This unmoderated newsgroup is for
discussions related to the culture of the state of Israel.
+ soc.history. This unmoderated newsgroup also has a fair
bit of revisionist discussions.
+ talk.politics.mideast. This unmoderated newsgroup is for
the discussion of Israeli politics, and the politics of other
countries in the Middle East.
* Moderated Newsgroups.
+ misc.kids.moderated. This moderated newsgroup is a
low-traffic parallel to misc.kids, and is also for parenting
discussions unrelated to Judaism.
Subject: Question 1.6: I notice that some of these newsgroups are moderated.
Isn't moderation censorship?
It depends on your definition of censorship. The Merriam-Webster
dictionary (at www.m-w.com) defines censorship as follows:
Main Entry: cenˇsorˇship
Date: circa 1591
1 a : the institution, system, or practice of censoring b : the
actions or practices of censors; especially : censorial control
2 : the office, power, or term of a Roman censor
3 : exclusion from consciousness by the psychic censor
"Censor" is defined as:
Main Entry: 2censor
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): cenˇsored; cenˇsorˇing /'sen(t)-s&-ri[ng],
: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered
Hence, under this broad definition, moderation can be viewed as a form
of censorship: objectionable material is not permitted in the
particular venue. However, there are some arguments against calling
* Censorship usually implies removable of objectionable material by
the government. When done by a private enterprise, such as the
editor of a magizine, it is viewed more as editorial control.
* Although the particular moderated group may be "censored", USENET
as a whole is not censored, as for each moderated group there is a
suitable unmoderated forum to which the material can be posted.
These are listed below:
+ mod: soc.culture.jewish.moderated
+ mod: soc.culture.jewish.parenting
unmod: soc.culture.jewish or misc.kids
+ mod: soc.culture.jewish.holocaust
unmod: soc.culture.jewish, alt.revisionism, soc.history
+ mod: rec.food.cuisine.jewish
unmod: other rec.food newsgroups, soc.culture.jewish
+ mod: rec.humor.jewish
+ mod: soc.geneology.jewish
unmod: soc.roots, soc.culture.jewish
+ mod: alt.religion.judaism.orthodox
Do people prefer a moderated newsgroup? Some do and some don't. It is
only recently that moderated spinoffs from soc.culture.jewish have
developed. This is due to the increased traffic on Usenet, and the
changing nature of the Usenet audience from the early academic focus.
Many on S.C.J feel that part of its appeal and taam
(flavor/tang/spice) comes from the freewheeling unmoderated approach
which brings together posters from all parts of the spectrum. However,
many have tired from the intrusion into the group by others with
specific agendas to push that are decidedly non- or anti-Jewish.
Subject: Question 1.7: How do I submit postings to a newsgroup?
For all newsgroups, both moderated and unmoderated, your news reader
software should provide an interface to "post" an article to a group.
This is the primary way of submitting postings. If the newsgroup is
unmoderated, the article is submitted immediately; note that it will
take up to a week to propagate through the network. If the newsgroup
is moderated, the article will be Emailed to the moderation address on
record for the group. Once the moderator approves the article (usually
within 24 hours you will have an answer), the article is injected at
the moderation site. Again, it can take a week to propagate through
the entire network.
If you do not have a newsreader, you can visit
http://groups.google.com to access a web-based newsreader.
For moderated groups, there is an additional submittal mechanism:
mailing the article directly to the moderation submittal address.
These addresses are as follows:
* soc.culture.jewish.moderated. Posts can be sent to
* soc.culture.jewish.holocaust. Posts can be sent to
* soc.culture.jewish.parenting. Posts can be sent to
* rec.food.cuisine.jewish. Posts can be sent to
* rec.humor.jewish. Posts can be sent to
* soc.geneology.jewish. Posts can be sent to
* alt.religion.judaism.orthodox. Posts can be sent to
Subject: Question 1.8: Some of these newsgroups have quite a bit of traffic?
How do you cope with it?
There are two ways to cope with it. Some escape to moderated groups,
and either never or only periodically check in with their unmoderated
cousins. Others continue to "fight the good fight" in all forums.
However, the comments below apply to filtering of both moderated and
The approach to take depends on your particular newsreader and setup
for news. Some provide kill or filtering mechanisms, and some do not.
Those that do not (if this information is wrong, please inform the FAQ
maintainer at email@example.com) include Free Agent, the
Netscape newsreader, and the web-based Deja and MailandNews
readers. Most Unix-based readers provide filtering mechanisms, as does
the Agent reader. [Both Agent and Free Agent are available at TUCOWS,
For most of the Unix readers, you need to use a "kill file." It's an
algorithm which scans articles and eliminates those meeting criteria
you specify. If you read news with "rn" or one of its offspring, you
create a file News/soc/culture/jewish/KILL consisting of lines such
/talk.politics/h:j # skip all articles cross-posted to talk.politics.*
/J. Random Luser/h:j # skip all articles written by J. Random Luser
/egitimate/j # skip all articles with "egitimate" in Subject
If you use rn, trn, or any of its varients, you can find a useful
explanation of how to make a kill file in the Killfile FAQ. This is
available on rtfm.mit.edu or ftp.uu.net. The URL is:
This can be retrieved by sending Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
with the following line in the body of the message:
Other newsreaders implement this feature differently. For example, the
"gnus" package from within Gnu Emacs would have a killfile like:
(gnus-kill "Xref" "talk\\.politics")
(gnus-kill "Author" "joe_user@site\\.com")
(gnus-kill "Subject" "\\blegitimate\\b")
If you use Gnus, you can find out more information on the killfile
facility by typing M-x info within gnus.
If you use the newsreader nn, James Kahn wrote that you can just type
K (that is, a capital K), and nn will then prompt you for various
things, such as whether to kill by name or by subject, etc.
If you use a different newsreading program, you may be out of luck. In
that case, your best bet is to ask someone at your local site how to
create killfiles, or read the manual about your newsreading program.
You might consider writing a perl script to preprocess your news for
Subject: Question 1.9: What topics are appropriate for S.C.J?
Now, our discussion turns specifically to appropriate content for the
unmoderated newsgroup soc.culture.jewish, although these comments in
general can provide good advice for other Jewish newsgroups.
Soc.culture.jewish is for discussions concerning Judaism and the
surrounding culture (Yiddishkeit, Hebrew, Jewish motherhood, etc.).
This includes discussions regarding the various recognized movements
within Judaism, debates over halacha, Torah interpretations, etc.
"Divrey Torah" - long or short sermons relating to Judaism and Torah,
are especially welcome.
Survey questions are also appropriate, such as "How does your
community organize its free loan societies and scholarships for poor
Jews who want a Jewish education?"
Discussions about aliyah and Zionism are appropriate, but only if they
remain in a Jewish context. If you want to talk about the more
political or secular aspects of these subjects, it is more appropriate
to use soc.culture.israel.
Factual discussions of the holocaust (shoah) are allowed in S.C.J;
however, those wishing to discuss that issue might want to explore
instead the newsgroup soc.culture.jewish.holocaust. S.C.J.H is a
moderated newsgroup that serves as a storagehouse for all kinds of
information from various sources on the Holocaust in Europe that
occurred between 1942-1945 (along with the events leading up to it
that happened in the early 30's). The newsgroup includes Holocaust
materials from both personal testimonies of survivors and their
families and "hard" facts from historians and observers. It is
moderated to prevent any anti-Semitic or race-baiting comments from
Neo-Nazis or self-proclaimed "academic" Holocaust deniers or
revisionists, and is not be a forum for discussing whether or not the
Shoah happened; instead, S.C.J.H is a place for intelligent and
factual discussion of the Shoah. For those Usenet readers who wish to
debate the existence of the Holocaust, they are encouraged to read the
groups alt.revisionists and soc.history.
Subject: Question 1.10: What topics are not appropriate for S.C.J?
Middle East politics, especially international issues concerning
Israel, belong in talk.politics.mideast (T.P.M), not S.C.J. You
certainly should not crosspost between S.C.J and T.P.M. Discussions of
internal Israeli politics belong in soc.culture.israel (S.C.I).
Again, they should not be crossposted to S.C.J. Pick whichever one is
Discussions of Israeli Culture are inappropriate for S.C.J; rather,
they belong in S.C.I. Crossposting between S.C.I and S.C.J is
appropriate only for articles dealing with Jewish, as opposed to
secular Israeli, issues. If the group il.talk exists, it is also
appropriate for discussions of Israeli culture, but note that its
distribution is limited to Israel and sites receiving the il
Material that is available from a listserv is inappropriate to post to
S.C.J (that is, the entire newsgroup shouldn't receive the list).
However, a single weekly message listing the lists available is
reasonable. One sample from a new list is allowed.
Readers of S.C.J are committed to their religion; it is inappropriate
to "witness" or preach. Discussions of so-called "Messianic
Judaism[sic]," and the Christian missionary organization calling
itself "Jews for Jesus," and similar topics belong in alt.messianic
or the appropriate talk.religion.* group; don't crosspost them to
Revisionist teachings (i.e., those teachings that attempt to deny that
the holocaust ever happened) are inappropriate for S.C.J. They belong
in alt.revisionism. For more information on how to cope with those
holding revisionist beliefs, the interested reader is referred to
[Lip93] (Lipstadt, Deborah. Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault
on Truth and Memory.) in the Antisemitism portion of the reading
Lastly, try to avoid personal attacks. Don't write "Lashon Hara",
derogatory information about people or groups. (If slanderous and
false, it's called "Motzei Shem Ra") It is also forbidden to embarrass
others in public. (Rare exceptions exist, so read a book such as R'
Pliskin's Guard your Tongue for details.)
As Josh Backon reminded us:
The Bible states (Leviticus 19:17): "You shall surely rebuke your
neighbor and not bear sin because of him". The Talmud comments that
you may reprove your neighbor as long as you do not insult him but
if you embarrass him by making him blush or turn pale from shame or
fury then you have incurred guilt because of him (Sifra, Kedoshim
4:8; Talmud Arachin 16b). The Talmud (Shevuot 36a) mentions a
general prohibition against insulting a fellow man. Pirke Avot
(3:11) states that he who causes embarrassment to a fellow man has
no share in the world-to-come. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 58b)
compared the slanderer to a shedder of blood, and the Rambam
(Hilchot Chovel Umazzik 3:7) characterized all slanderers as wicked
and stupid. The later scholars instituted disciplinary floggings
for cases of slander (Choshen Mishpat 420:41).
Eliot Shimoff expressed it this way:
Lots of people read what we post; there are many lurkers who read
and don't post. Keep them in mind when you write. If you are
offended by some aspect of the Reform movement, it does little good
to post a vituperative attack on that G-dless crew of evil people;
your audience is far more likely to be offended than to either
learn or think. Similarly, it does little good to write a missive
pointing out how backward, narrow-minded and medieval those
Orthodox Jews are; you are offending, but not teaching or
informing. If your goal is to increase the influence of Reform
Judaism, discuss its strong points rather than attacking Orthodoxy;
the greatest enemies of Reform are those who advocate it by
denigrating (usually inaccurately) Orthodoxy.
Similarly, if your goal is to spread the Orthodox understanding of
Torah, don't try to do so by attacking non-Orthodox movements;
instead, try to explain the Orthodox position, and to show its
In addition to the lurkers, there is also the Lurker; we should all
try to ensure that whatever we write should not only be accurate,
but should also be kiddush haShem, a sanctification of G-d's name.
We should always write in a form that will get readers to say, at
least, "I disagree with this person, but he/she is a fundamentally
decent human being who is trying, to the best of his/her ability,
to be a good person (although there are some non-Jewish posters), a
Subject: Question 1.11: When should I post to talk.politics.mideast?
Talk.politics.mideast was created specifically for discussions of
the politics of the interaction of middle eastern countries. The
Arab-Israeli conflict, the Turkish-Armenian conflict, and similar
battles are appropriate topics for the list, at least until separate
groups are created for those subtopics. A post about the PLO or
terrorism probably belongs in T.P.M.
Internal Arab politics generally belong on soc.culture.arabic.
Internal Israeli politics should be discussed in
Subject: Question 1.12: Is it appropriate to discuss Israel in
Only if it is in the context of Jewish religion or Jewish culture.
General discussions about Israel, and discussions of Israeli politics
belong in soc.culture.israel. Discussions about the religious basis
for Zionism and religious legislation in Israel are OK for S.C.J.
Interaction with other countries is really a matter for
Note that there is a lot of information available about Israel, in
particular, the subjects of Aliyah and Zionism, from Virtual
Jerusalem, located at http://www.virtualjerusalem.com/.
Subject: Question 1.13: How should I respond to inappropriate articles?
Somebody posted an inappropriate article to S.C.J or T.P.M.
Respond once where the person directed followups, or where the article
was posted. Set the Followup-To: header line to the appropriate group,
and start your article with a note that you are re-setting followups
to the appropriate group, and will not continue discussion in the
Subject: Question 1.14: But I don't get T.P.M? Now what?
You don't get T.P.M? First, whomever owns your newsserver has made a
strategic decision about the costs of getting S.C.J and T.P.M. You
have no right to overrule that decision. You can discuss it with your
site management, but please, leave S.C.J out of it. T.P.M was created
a spinoff from S.C.J, just to get rid of the endless Mideast
However, you can still get to T.P.M if you have access to the web.
Simply go to one of the websites that provide public news access, such
as Deja (www.deja.com) or Mailandnews (www.mailandnews.com).
Note that internal Israeli politics, or discussions about the IDF, are
not considered "Mideast politics".
Subject: Question 1.15: A. Random Jew posted X to a.b.c; I disagree. What
should I do?
Although the poster may be Jewish, that is not a valid reason to
include S.C.J in your list of followup newsgroups. If you are
disputing what the poster said, it is always best to (after pausing to
reflect) respond via private Email. If you feel the answer has wide
public interest, you should followup the response in the groups to
which the article was originally posted.
Subject: Question 1.16: Can non-Jews post to S.C.J?
All Usenet readers have equal right to post to S.C.J.. However, as
with all newsgroups, you should note that the collective readership
has a general consensus on what types of posting are acceptable. In
the case of S.C.J., this consensus reflects the fact that most of the
readers are Jewish. Also, don't post general questions which can be
answered in this FAQ or in a library. If your motivation is simply to
get an answer to a question, you can send e-mail to a few regular
posters, or drop a note to email@example.com.
If you choose to ask your question of the S.C.J readership, you may be
placed under suspicion of being a missionary, especially if you
"innocently" ask something like "Someone please explain to me why Jews
stubbornly refuse to accept my faith, when it's written right in your
We've seen it all a thousand times before, and unsolicited
declarations of belief in <your religion> in S.C.J convey the message
"<your religion> supports harassing Jews." You're welcome to observe,
participate, and learn about Judaism. Proselytizing is inappropriate.
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ?
There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ:
* WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an
online, hyperlinked version, go visit http://www.scjfaq.org/.
This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet
is generated from the web version. Note that the www.scjfaq.org
version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to
access the master, visit http://master.scjfaq.org/.
* Email. Scjfaq.org also provides an autoretriever that allows one
to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the
autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to
firstname.lastname@example.org with the request in the body of the
message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through
the FAQ autoretriever
(http://www.mljewish.org/bin/autoresp.cgi). For the FAQ, the
request has the form:
send faq partname
For the reading list, the request has the form:
send rl partname
"Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the
general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to
partnames for the FAQ:
+ 01-FAQ-intro: Section 1: Network and Newsgroup
+ 02-Who-We-Are: Section 2: Who We Are
+ 03-Torah-Halacha: Sections 3, 4: Torah; Halachic
+ 04-Observance: Sections 5, 6, 7, 8:
Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and
Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage
+ 05-Worship: Sections 9, 10, 11: Jewish
Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?";
Miscellaneous Practice Questions
+ 06-Jewish-Thought: Section 12: Jewish Thought
+ 07-Jews-As-Nation: Section 13: Jews as a Nation
+ 08-Israel: Section 14: Jews and Israel
+ 09-Antisemitism: Sections 15, 16, 17: Churban
Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews;
+ 10-Reform: Section 18: Reform/Progressive Judaism
+ 11-Miscellaneous: Sections 19, 20: Miscellaneous;
References and Getting Connected
+ 12-Kids: Section 21: Jewish Childrearing Related
+ mail-order: Mail Order Judaica
The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for
the Reading Lists:
+ general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources,
starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish
readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General
Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah
and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary,
Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew,
Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism.
+ traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle,
Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional
Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The
Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of
+ mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes
Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality,
and the Jewish notion of the Messiah.
+ reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism
+ conservative: Conservative Judaism
+ reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism
+ humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic
+ chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on
historical chassidism, as well as specific information on
Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other
+ zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of
Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in
+ antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on
Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression,
Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups),
Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other
+ intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So
You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional
Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An
+ childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections
on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks,
Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for
Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children,
Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children,
Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories.
Alternatively, you may send a message to
email@example.com with the following line in the body
of the message:
Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory
and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading
list, one would say:
* Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists
are archived on rtfm.mit.edu and are available for anonymous
FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL
Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the
pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL:
ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists
are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII
Subject: Who Wrote the FAQ?
The original version of the Frequently Asked Questions was developed
by a committee consisting of Mike Allen, Jerry Altzman, Rabbi Charles
Arian, Jacob Baltuch (Past Chair), Joseph Berry, Warren Burstein,
Stewart Clamen, Daniel Faigin, Avi Feldblum, Rabbi Yaakov Feldman,
Itzhak "Jeff" Finger, Gedaliah Friedenberg, Yechezkal Gutfreund, Art
Kamlet, Joe Kansun, CAPT Kaye David, Alan Lustiger, Hillel Markowitz,
Len Moskowitz, Colin Naturman, Aliza Panitz, Eliot Shimoff, Mark
Steinberger, Steven Weintraub, Matthew Wiener, and headed by Robert
Levene. The organization and structuring of the lists for posting
purposes was done by Daniel Faigin, who is currently maintaining
the lists. Other contributors include Aaron Biterman, A. Engler
Anderson, Ken Arromdee, Seymour Axelrod, Jonathan Baker, Josh Backon,
Micha Berger, Steven M. Bergson, Eli Birnbaum, Shoshana L. Boublil,
Kevin Brook, J. Burton, Harvey Cohen, Todd J.Dicker, Michael Dinowitz,
Rabbi Jim Egolf, Sean Engelson, Mike Fessler, Menachem Glickman,
Amitai Halevi, Walter Hellman, Per Hollander, Miriam Jerris, Robert D.
Kaiser, Yosef Kazen, Rabbi Jay Lapidus, Mier Lehrer, Heather Luntz,
David Maddison, Arnaldo Mandel, Ilana Manspeizer, Seth Ness, Chris
Newport, Daniel Nomy, Jennifer Paquette, Andrew Poe, Alan Pfeffer,
Jason Pyeron, Adam Reed, Seth Rosenthall, JudithSeid@aol.com, David
Sheen, Rabbi John Sherwood, Michael Sidlofsky, Michael Slifkin, Frank
Smith, Michael Snider, Rabbi Arnold Steibel, Andy Tannenbaum,
firstname.lastname@example.org, Meredith Warshaw, Bill Wadlinger, Arel Weisberg,
Dorothy Werner, and Art Werschulz, and the
soc.culture.jewish.parenting board. Some material has been derived
from other sources on the Internet, such as
http://www.jewishwebsite.com/, http://www.jewfaq.org/, and
http://www.menorah.org/. Comments and corrections are welcome;
please address them to email@example.com.
A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and
understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the
computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000
remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you
think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o
Subject: Copyright Notice
The soc.culture.jewish FAQ and reading lists are not to be reproduced
for commercial use unless the party reproducing the FAQ agrees to the
1. Use of latest version. They will contact the FAQ maintainer
(firstname.lastname@example.org) to obtain the latest version for their
2. Tell us where it is. They will provide the FAQ maintainer
(email@example.com) with information on what collection the
copy of the FAQ is in, and how that collection may be obtained.
3. No modifications. They will agree, in writing, that the FAQ will
be included in the collection without modification, and that
acknowledgements of contributors to the FAQ remain in the FAQ.
4. Don't make money off of it. They will agree, in writing, that the
collection including the FAQ will be distributed on either a
non-profit basis, or have some percentage of profit donated to
To support this, this FAQ is Compilation Copyright (c) 1993 through 2002
by Daniel P. Faigin (the FAQ maintainer) on behalf of
Please mail additions or corrections to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
End of S.C.J FAQ Part 1 (FAQ Intro and S.C.J Intro) Digest