Religion

Beth Israel Temple
Madison, WI

Sarah | Zoe | MacKenzie | Erika | Anna | Juan Pablo | Martin
Marcus | Lowell | Alice | Tim | Kyle

The Beth Israel Center is about five blocks away from our school. When we got there we looked up and saw the words Beth Israel Jewish Center. Pretty normal. But right above them there was a Star of David. A Star of David is a six pointed star DRAWING OF STAR IN TEXT, a sign of Judaism. Above the doorway was a stone plaque with big Hebrew letters. After stopping for a moment to look, we went to the side door where Amy greeted us and led us down a hall to a small bathroom. This was no ordinary bathroom. In it there was a ritual bath, called a Mikvah. A Mikvah is to clean yourself in a spiritual way on special occasions, such as marriage or converting to Judaism. The water is "living water", part rain collected from the roof. You dunk yourself in three times, getting all your hair wet. You say a blessing. A bride might have a mom or sister say the blessing for her.

This temple is not only for services and prayers, it also has school
for children and adults. The children have an after school program,
because they just couldn't get enough kids to participate in a regular hours school. We went through a classroom much like a classroom at Randall. There were white boards, charts, and a clock. But the charts weren't in English, they were in Hebrew. In Hebrew, you read from right to left. Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet. The clock had numbers in Hebrew as well.

After seeing the classrooms, we met Rabbi Kenneth Katz. He lead us upstairs to a HUGE kitchen, with two sides: dairy and meat. A lot of Jews will not eat any dairy product with meat. It's not just no cheese on a hamburger, it's no steak with ice cream for desert! This is called Kosher, which means fit and proper. Most foods now have a mark on food packaging showing that the product is okay for Jews and others who keep a Kosher diet. The mark is called a Hecsher. Jews do not eat pork or shellfish. They kill their meat in a fast, low tech way. They kill the animal with a knife in one stroke, killing it immediately so it doesn't have to suffer quite as long.

The rabbi told us that about one out of every 4000 persons is Jewish. Something surprising was that the largest group of Jews in the world deny that they are even Jewish. There are three parts to being Jewish.

After exploring the kitchen we went into the temple. It was beautiful,
with red seats and carpet and a velvet drape. Services are public, so anyone can attend. We took out the prayer book to page 340. Some of us were confused, because the pages number from right to left, too! We saw Hebrew on one side and English on the other.
In the Jewish religion, anyone can speak to God anytime about anything and in any language, although Hebrew is highly preferred.
Rabbi Katz showed us 12 or so beautiful Torahs, different colors
decorated with bells and silver breastplates. These were in memory of the temple that once stood in Jerusalem. The Torah is made of five books, and the pages are parchment, or animal skin.
On our way out we met Annabelle ArganTI, and she gave us tootsie rolls. What a treat! --Sarah

In Beth Israel, not only do people attend synagogue, but they take Hebrew classes and have fun. Both kids and adults are welcome. Kids come after school to learn about their Jewish heritage. An old Jewish tradition is a Mikva (SP?a ritual bath) to spiritually cleanse yourself. You must completely submerge your body and dunk yourself three times.

The kitchen is separated into two parts: a dairy and a meat side. That is because it is a Kosher kitchen. Kosher (which means fit or proper) has three basic rules:
1. There are animals you don't eat, pork and shellfish.
2. You have to kill the animals you can eat a certain way, with a sharp blade and in one stroke, to cause the least pain. You must hit a major artery and the windpipe. If that takes more than one stroke, it's not kosher meat.
3. You can't eat milk and meat together. That is because in order to get meat, you have to kill, and to get milk, you cooperate (WITH THE COW, RIGHT?). THE RABBI SAID, RIGHT? That if you realize this, you are less likely to be cruel.

Being Jewish is an ethnicity---you learn your ways from your parents. It is a religion. And it is a nationality, since 1948 Israel has been a Jewish country. --Zoe

Beth Israel is a Jewish temple. It is not only a place of worship, but a place of learning and community. They teach Hebrew to the young and old and hold community dinners for anyone who wants to come.

In the Jewish culture, on special occasions such as getting married or converting to Judaism, you must take a holy bath. This is not a bath because you're dirty. It is called a Mitsvah(CHECK SP.) In the Mitsvah you dip your whole body in three times, then say a blessing. The water for the bath is part rain water, because historically the Jewish people would take a Mitsvah in a stream or river, wherever water is moving.

Another Jewish tradition is about being Kosher. When we walked into the kitchen one side was for dairy and the other for meat. To eat kosher you can never mix meat and dairy together. You can't eat certain animals, such as pork and shellfish. Animals that you are allowed to eat have to be killed in one blow so they don't suffer.
MacKenzie

Ever check your box of Cheerios carefully? Well, if you did you would see this sign: (HANDRAWN SYMBOL). This means the cereal is Kosher. Kosher can be a big part of Jewish tradition. It consists of three basic ideas. 1 is they don't eat certain animals, like pork AND? The second main idea is that animals have to be killed a certain way. The knife must have no chips or scratches because that would cause the animal to have more pain than
needed. And they must kill the animal in one single stroke of the blade. The third idea is you can't eat milk and meat together. For example, you couldn't have steak with butter. -Erika

Keeping Kosher is a good habit, but inconvenient. There are three rules: one, there are certain animals you don't eat. The two biggest non-Kosher animals America eats are pigs and shellfish. Two: You can only eat things that have fins and scales from the ocean. The only land animals you can eat must have cloven hooves and chew their cud. These animals also have to be Kosherly(sic!) butchered. This means in a non-cruel low-tech way. The butcher has to have a very special knife. First he examines it to make sure there are no nicks, because that would make the animal suffer even more. Then a blessing is said. The butcher then kills the animal. He must sever the main artery and the windpipe in one blow or the animal is not Kosher. Three: Meat and Dairy must be completely separated. The have different sinks, ovens, dishes, etc. The idea is dairy or milk is gotten cooperatively from the animal, and meat is killing. So these should not be put together. It would be like saying killing is good. -- Anna

They have classes. They don't teach Math or normal things like that, they teach Hebrew. Hebrew is the language that Jewish people speak. When they read Hebrew, they read left to right. In the classroom, everything is in Hebrew, like the alphabet and the numbers on the clocks. --Juan Pablo

We were first shown the Mikvah or cleansing bath that consists partly of rain water collected from the roof. People dip three times into a tub of water saying prayers and blessings completely naked.
Next, we were shown the rooms downstairs in the synagogue for teaching children the ways of Judaism and the Hebrew alphabet. We learned that in traditional Hebrew there are no vowels. Next, Rabbi Kenneth Katz showed us the kitchen. It was basically two
kitchens. The reason? Jews believe that milk and meat should never be put together, because if you are milking a cow and killing a cow those two things just don't go together, so consequently they have separate stoves, separate refrigerators, and separate counters and sinks.

If you eat meat you have to eat Kosher. There are some basic ground rules to Kosher eating: never eat pigs or shellfish, never eat milk and meat together, and all animals have to be killed without technology. They have to be cloven hoofed and they have to chew their cud and they have to be slaughtered as painlessly as possible with one stroke of a knife. -- Martin

When I first went into the room where they have services, I didn't see anything special. It looked just like the church that I go to. But there was a red curtain. Someone asked what was behind the curtain. So the rabbi pulled the curtain up. It amazed everyone! There were about 20 scrolls, all with a metal cover over them. Marcus

Amy led us down a long, long hallway to a small bathroom. It looked exactly like a regular bathroom, except that there was a hot tub like thing she told us is called a Mikvah in Hebrew. It is a special bath that originally was moving water, like a river or a stream. You dip yourself three times completely under water. The water they use is a combination of rain water and sink water. Amy took us into a classroomwhere they taught Hebrew. In Hebrew you
read from right to left. Here are all the Hebrew letters: HAS DRAWING OF ALPHABET CHARACTERS When we walked into the temple, it looked like a church, with red carpet and wooden benches. But when you walked in farther you could see memoriums on the wall written in Hebrew, menorahs with lightbulbs, books of prayers written in Hebrew, and a skylight with the Star of David upon it. We sat down and looked around this magnificent room. Then Rabbi Katz chanted a prayer for us. If it is a weekday, the prayer will be chanted fast, but if it is a weekend it will be slower. Rabbi Katz showed us his yarmulke or kiepa. It is a small round hat that the Romans made the Jews wear when they took over. They gave each type of people a certain type of clothing to tell them apart. The yarmulke was a disability, but has now become a custom. - Lowell

Kosher is a Hebrew word that was adopted into the English language. It means fit or proper. In order for meat to be Kosher, it has to be killed a certain way. It can't be pork or shellfish. When they kill the animal they inspect a special knife to be sure there are no nicks of breaks in the blade. When they kill the animal they have to cut the main artery and the wind pipe at the same time. They do this so that the animal dies as quickly as possible with as little suffering as possible. To keep Kosher, you can't have meat and milk together. For example, you can't have roast beef with butter. Not many people do this anymore, mostly because there aren't many Jews. There is about one Jew for every 400 people. (4000?) - Alice

I learned that you can deduct a Jewish year by adding 3.760 years to the common year if it's before Rosh Hashonna or 3761 if it's after. It is currently the Jewish year 5762 (OR COMMON ERA?) - Tim

Hebrew has three roots: ch, sh,r. - Kyle

Anyone can lead a prayer. It used to be only rabbis could do it, and
then only men, but now men and women can do it as long as they know how. - Kyle

Our Tour by Location | Our Tour by Theme | How We Did It
Link back to the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures

Submit an Error Report

This page last updated on October 2, 2002