The Bermuda Jewish Community Center
When I started in this role of religious correspondent, I did so with the intention of diversifying the stories shared in this section. I wanted this space to accurately reflect our readership and the wider community.
Collectively, we have done an amazing job sharing stories of faith on these pages over the past two years. So many people in our community have had the courage to share their personal journeys while others have taken the courage to organize faith-based events and share their faith with the community.
I learned so much through my interactions and my research from week to week. The most profound was the education I received about religions and practices that I knew very little about. It’s been an ongoing course in world religion, and just when I think I’ve learned it all, I’m interviewing someone who introduces me to a whole new way of thinking and believing.
Taking the time to listen and learn the beliefs of my neighbors, the people I share this island with, has been an incredible lesson in respect and love. A lesson I don’t know I would have ever learned if I hadn’t stumbled into this role.
I thought it would be meaningful to share some of the things I learned in a more formal way. So I decided to set aside a space each month to share the story of various religions and faith-based organizations represented in Bermuda.
Statistics show that 83% of the world’s population identifies with one of the twelve classical religions: Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shintoism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.
As our small, isolated island evolves more and more into a melting pot, diversity becomes part of the fabric of our community. Embracing and celebrating this diversity, including religious diversity, is part of loving our neighbor. This is love in action.
I hope you will join me on this journey with an open mind and an open heart. And I hope what we learn will transform your mind and your heart in some of the ways this role has transformed mine.
The first religion to feature in this ongoing series is Judaism. I chose Judaism to begin with because it is the oldest recorded monotheistic religion in human history, despite spirituality having existed since the beginning of time. This is a brief overview.
Followers of Judaism believe in one God – sometimes called Yahweh, Adonai or Elohim – who revealed himself to the ancient prophets. These revelations are recorded in the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books form the basis of the Jewish faith and have been used by Jews throughout the centuries as a model for living a godly life.
The Torah comprises a total of 613 commandments, including the ten commandments which are most known and observed by other religions.
The history of the Jewish faith is also found in the Torah. According to the holy book, God first revealed himself to a man named Abraham, who became the founder of the Jewish faith.
Jews believe that God made a special covenant with Abraham and that his descendants were a chosen people who would become a great nation. Abraham’s son and grandson, Jacob and Isaac, also became central figures in Jewish history, followed by the prophet Moses more than 1,000 years later.
Observant Jews recognize Shabbot – or Sabbath – as a day of rest and prayer. It is observed from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. This observance can take many forms, including communal worship in a synagogue, reading the Torah, sharing meals with loved ones, and taking time off from work and physical labor.
It is important to mention that Judaism is more than a religious belief. Whether Jews are a racial, religious, ethnic or cultural group has been debated. In many ways, Judaism is an amalgamation of all of the above. There are people of Jewish ancestry and ethnicity who do not practice the religion and there are others without Jewish lineage who subscribe to its beliefs. This is one of the characteristics that make Judaism complex and beautiful.
Throughout history, Jews have been persecuted for their beliefs and ethnicity. It is an important part of Jewish history that dates back to ancient biblical times and continues through the Middle Ages and into modern history.
The best known of the atrocities against the Jewish people is the Holocaust, which took place between 1933 and 1945. This horrific event in human history was a systemic attack on European Jews by the German Nazi regime, led by Adolf Hitler, which resulted in the murder of millions of Jews in concentration camps in parts of German-occupied Europe.
Despite this cruel attempt to extinguish the Jewish nation, today there are more than 14 million people who identify as Jews in the world. Unfortunately, Bermuda’s census reports did not accurately capture religion and ethnicity statistics, so we do not have data on the number of adults who identify as Jewish. But their presence is certainly there and felt.
Bermuda’s Jewish community, while smaller than the island’s other religions, has a diverse membership, including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform members. The Bermuda Jewish Community Center, located on St John’s Road in Pembroke, is a hub for those who believe in and observe Judaism.
You will notice that the Jews of Bermuda observe Hannukah, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, among many other religious and cultural celebrations throughout the year. Their entire community is volunteer-based, with all education programs, celebrations, and administration run by members of its community.
Globally, Judaism has played an important role in the development of Western culture and monotheistic religion. It is considered one of the major religions of the world and its continued existence and strong membership testify to its importance and value.
I look forward to connecting more with members of the Jewish community and sharing their stories of faith, steeped in rich history and sacred tradition.
For more information or to get involved with Bermuda’s Jewish community, visit www.jewishbermuda.com