Although Judaism has fewer adherents worldwide than some.other major religions. Its influence is deeply felt in Western culture. Today. there are an estimated 18 million Jews residing in about 134 countries worldwide; however. the majority reside in the United States or Israel (J.Wright. 1997). Central to contemporary Jewish belief is monotheism. the idea of a single god. called Yahweh, the God of Abraham. Isaac. and Jacob. The Hebrew tradition emerged out of the relationship of Abraham and Sarah. a husband and wife. with Yahweh.According to Jewish tradition. the God of the Jews made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah-His chosen people-that He would protect and provide for them if they swore Him love and obedience. When God appeared to Abraham in about the eighteenth century /I.C.t!.. He encouraged Abraham to emigrate to the area near the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea (what is now Israel). leaving behind the ancient fertile crescent of the Middle East (present-day Iraq). The descendants of Abraham and Sarah migrated toEgypt. where they became slaves of the Egyptians. In a vision. God's chosen leader. Moses. was instructed to liberate His chosen people from the bondage and slavery imposed upon them by the.pharaoh. After experiencing a series of ten plagues. the pharaoh decided to free the slaves.The tenth and final plague had involved killing all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt-human beings and lower animals. u well-except the firstborn children of the Hebrews. who had put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses so that they would be passed over. This practice inspired the Jewish holiday Passover. which commemorates God's deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt during the time of Moses (Matthews, 2004). It is believed that the first Passover took place in Egypt in about 1300-1200 B.C.E. (Matthews. 2004). Wandering in the desert after their release. the Hebrews established a covenant with God. Who promised that if they would serve Him exclusively.He would give the Hebrews a promised land and make them a great nation. Known as the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue), the covenant between God and human beings' was given to Moses on top of Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments and discussions of moral, ceremonial. and cultural laws~ cont~ in four books of the Torah. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. and Deuteronomy;' The Torah, also known as the Pentateuch, is the sacred book of contemporary Judaism. The Jewish people believe that they have a unique relationship with God, affirmed on the one han<fby His covenant and on the other by His law. Judaism has three key components: God (the deity), Torah' (God's teachings), and Israel (the community or holynation). Although God guides human destiny, people are responsible for making their own ethical choices in keeping with His law; when they fail to act according to the L'Iw.they have committed a sin. Also fundamental to Judaism is the belief that one day the Messiah will come to Earth, ushering in an age of peace and justice for all. Today, Jews worship in synagogues in congregalions led by a rabbi-a teacher or ordained interpreter and leader of Judaism. The Sabbath is observed from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, based on the story of Creation in Genesis, especially the belief that God rested on the seventh day after He had created the world. Worship services consist of readings from scripture, prayer. and singing. Jews celebrate a set of holidays distinct frJm U.S. dominant cultural tellgious celebrations. The most important holidays in the Jewish calendar are Rosh Hashana (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), and Pesach (Passover). . Throughout their history, Jews have been the object of pre-judice-and discrimination. The Holocaust,which took place in Nazi Germany (and several other nations that the Germans occupied) between 1933 and 1945. remains one of the saddest eras in history. fter the rise of Hitler in Germany in 1933 and the Nazi invasion of Poland, Jews were singled out with special registrations, passports. and clothing. Many of their families were separated by force, and some family members lVeresent to slave labor camps while others were sent to "resettlement." Eventually. nl~;')'Jews were imprisoned in death camps, where six million lost their lives. Anti-Semitic has been a continuing problem in the United States since the late nineteenth century. Like other forms of prejudice and discrimination, anti- Antisemitism has extracted a heavy toll on multiple generations of Jewish Americans. In the 1980sand 19905,for example, there was an increase in inter ethnic violence between African Americans and Jews in large urban centers. These confrontations are often triggered by a situation such as when a Hasidic Jew driving a motor vehicle ran over and killed an African Americanyouth. and members of the black community believed that the'vehicle's driver did not receive the legal penalty he deserved for his actions. However. problems between Jews and members of other racial-ethnic and religious groups can be traced back to the earliest encounters between immigrants arriving in this country from nations throughout the world. Today. Judaism has three main branches-Orthodox. Reform. and Conservative. Orthodox Judaism follows the traditional practices and teachings, including eating only kosher foods prepared in a designated way. observing the traditional Sabbath. segregating women and men in religious services, and wearing traditional clothing. ' Reform Judaism, which began in Germany in the nineteenth century. is based on the belief that the Torah is binding only in its moral teachings and that adherents should no longer be required to follow all of the Talmud, the compilation of Jewish law setting forth the strict rabbinic teachings 011 practices such as food preparation, rituals, and dress. In some Reform congregations, gender-segregated seating is no longer required, In the United States, services are conducted almost entirely' in English, a Sunday Sabbath is observed, and less emphasis is placed on traditional Jewish holidays (Albanese, 2007). Conservative Judaism emerged between 1880 and 1914 with the arrival of many Jewish immigrants in the United States from countries such as Russia, Poland, Rumania, and Austria. Seeking freedom and an escape from persecution, these new arrivals settled in major cities such rs New York and Chicago, where they primarily became factory workers, artisans, and small shopkeepers. Conservative Judaism, which became a middle ground between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. teaches that the Torah and Talmud must be followed and that Zionism-the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish homeland in Israel-is crucial to the future of Iudaism, In Conservative synagogues, worship services are typically performed in Hebrew. Men are expected to wear head coverings, and women have roles of leadership in the congregation; some may become ordained rabbis (Matthews, 2004). Despite centuries of religious hatred and discrimination. Judaism persists as one of the world's most influential religions.