What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah -the rest is commentary. -Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 31A
The word "Jewish" denotes a culture, a religion, and also a set of ethnicities which cross numerous races, times, and geographical areas; therefore, being a Jew can mean adhering to certain customs for either a social or spiritual reasons, or it can mean only that a person is of a certain parentage.
The traditional Jewish religion, Judaism, likewise is cross-cultural in that those who have no ethnic ties to the religion may yet respectfully practice it. The faith system of Judaism states that various prominent Jews in history entered contractual relationships with Almighty God on behalf of the Jewish people; the agreements tend toward God asking the Jews to do something natural and wholesome. In return God bestows an abundance of sublime favor onto the Jewish people.
Jewish Books and Authority
The authority of Judaism is vested in writings and traditions and not in any governing body. The Hebrew Bible consists of these three books: the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses; the Nevi'im, or the Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or the Writings. The Torah has prime influence over these, but this collection of texts has been preserved continuously for many thousands of years.
Judaism is a religion with a closed canon but retains exceptional respect for other books. The Talmud is a set of commentaries completed around 400 CE by rabbis (Jewish teachers) who have interpreted the Torah. Scholars of Jewish mysticism recorded their observations into the Kabbalah; the Zohar (Book of Splendor) is a contained text which expounds ten created Sephiroth (enumerations) by means of which God created the universe. The Haggadah is a detailed retelling of the Exodus from Egypt and is widely embedded into Hebrew tradition.
Judaism was founded around 2000 BCE in the region which is now termed the Middle East through a man named Abraham, who was a member of a nomadic tribe called the Hebrews, who later were called the Israelites.
There is a dynasty of God-fearing men chronicled in the Torah. The history goes as such: A man named Noah built a boat upon command by God. God flooded the earth, sparing only Noah and his family. One of Noah's sons, Shem, was the ancestor of Abraham. God spoke to Abraham, saying "1 will make you a great nation." Abraham's successor Jacob founded the Jewish nation of Israel.
Abraham's descendents figure prominently in Jewish history, but also in fulfillment of that Jewish prophesy both Jesus of Nazareth, founder of Christianity, and Muhammad, who established Islam, claim lineage back to Abraham. Discussion of the significance of this prophesy is often emotionally reactive to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
Jewish people share a history as a nation in exile and attach great value to their State of Israel, restored in 1947. While many Jews are secular, practically all take pride from at least some aspects of their culture's history and efficiency.
Jews put emphasis successful living. Although many Jews believe in an afterlife, most authorities say that preparing for it is either futile or simply best done by living a meaningful human existence.