Abstract - Art is described as abstract when it has its origins in nature but then exaggerates, distorts, or simplifies those forms. Strict abstraction may be completely non-representational.
Abstract Expressionist - Abstract Expressionism was a form of abstract art that developed primarily in New York during the 1940s and '50s. Abstract Expressionists were interested in the power of line, shape, and color to express ideas and emotions. Artists such as Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko were pioneers of Abstract Expressionism.
Aliyah - Hebrew for "going up." Used to describe both literal and spiritual ascent, including going up to the bimah to read from the Torah, to recite special blessings before and after the reading of the Torah, or "going up" to live in the Land of Israel.
Arabesque - A decorative pattern of interweaving plant motifs often used in Islamic art.
Ark - An ark is a protective box or chest. The term is used to refer to a cabinet in the synagogue in which the Torah scrolls are kept
Ashkenazi - One of the three great traditions in Judaism that originally developed in Germany and northern France and later spread to eastern Europe. The other two traditions are the Mizrahi, practiced by Jews from the Middle East; and the Sephardi, originating with the Jews of medieval Spain.
Besamim - Fragrant spices smelled during the havdalah service, which marks the end of the Sabbath.
Bimah - A raised platform in a synagogue from which the Torah scroll is read.
Challah - Usually braided and customarily egg-based, challah is a type of bread traditionally eaten on the Sabbath and during festivals.
Dreidl - A four-sided top traditionally used on Hanukkah to play a game of chance. In the Diaspora, it is decorated with the Hebrew initials for the phrase "A great miracle happened there"; in Israel, with the initials for "A great miracle happened here."
Etrog - A yellow citrus fruit, also known as a "citron," that is used on the holiday of Sukkot along with the lulav (a bundle of palm, willow, and myrtle branches). During Sukkot, blessings are recited over these four species. The etrog is usually stored in a container to protect its tip or pistil, which, if not intact, renders the fruit unusable for the holiday.
Finial - A finial is an ornament. The term is often used to refer to ornaments that grace the staves of the Torah scroll. Ashkenazi examples of Torah finials are often tower-shaped and echo local architecture and church vessels. In middle-eastern communities, finials are generally fruit-shaped, embodying the Hebrew terms for finials, rimmonim (pomegranates), and tapuhim (apples).
Genre painting - The depiction of subjects and scenes from everyday life. Genre painting became especially popular in the Netherlands during the 17th century.
Hard-edged painting - A type of abstract painting that became popular in the 1960s, and which features sharply delineated areas of paint. Artists who work in this style include Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland.
Haroset - A mixture of nuts, fruits, and wine that is eaten at the Passover seder to symbolize the mortar used by Jewish slaves in Egypt.
Havdalah - Hebrew for "separation." The Saturday evening service that marks the transition from the Sabbath to a weekday. The ceremony begins with the Kiddush (blessing over wine). Next, aromatic spices are inhaled. Finally, a multiple-wick or braided candle is lit to mark the end of the Sabbath.
Judenstern - German for "Jewish star." A hanging lamp with a star-shaped basin for kindling Sabbath and festival lights. Non-Jews ceased using this type of lamp by the 16th century, but its form remained traditional among Jews well into the 19th century.
Kiddush cup - A wine cup over which a special blessing of sanctification (the Kiddush) is recited on the Sabbath and holidays.
Lulav - A palm branch bound together with sprigs of myrtle and willow that is used (along with the citron, or etrog) on the holiday of Sukkot.
Matzah - An unleavened bread eaten during the holiday of Passover to recall the Exodus from Egypt.
Megillah - Hebrew for "scroll." The term is often used to refer to the biblical Book of Esther or a scroll containing the Hebrew text of the book. Unlike a Torah scroll, which is rolled on two staves, the Esther scroll is rolled onto one stave.
Menorah - Hebrew for "lamp." This work traditionally refers to the seven-branched candelabrum that was lit in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Mitzvah - Hebrew for "commandment." A mitzvah is any of the 613 commandments that Jews are instructed to observe. The word is often used more broadly to refer to any good deed.
Mizrah - Hebrew for "east." The word is also used to designate a plaque for the eastern wall denoting the direction of prayer for those living west of Israel.
Modernist - Relating to a variety of artistic styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that were marked by a deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression.
Mosaic - A picture or design made by fitting together pieces of colored glass, stone, or tile.
Negative space - Empty space, or the areas in a work of art that surround the forms and images.
Omer - A measure of barley that was offered at the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of Passover, beginning the period of seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. Today, the term is also used to refer to the seven-week period.
Orthodox - Conforming to established doctrine or traditional practice, especially in religion.
Pilgrimage festivals - The three agricultural holidays--Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot--during which Jews of ancient times would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Pop art - An art movement of the 1950s and '60s that drew inspiration and used images from popular culture, such as comic books, Hollywood movies, product packaging, and advertisements. Leading practitioners of Pop art include Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol.
Positive space - The areas of a work of art that are filled with forms or images.
Seder - Hebrew for "order." The seder is a home service and meal held on the first night of Passover (and often on the second night, as well, outside of Israel) that commemorates the ancient Jewish Exodus from Egypt.
Shamash - The servitor or "helper" candle used to light the other flames on a Hanukkah lamp.
Shanah Tova - Hebrew for "Have a good year." The traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).
Star of David - Also known as the Shield of David ("Magen David" in Hebrew), the Star of David is a six-pointed star that serves as an emblem of Jewish people and is featured in the Israeli flag.
Tik - Hebrew for "case." A hard metal, wood, or leather container for housing the Torah scroll, frequently used among Jewish communities of the Middle East and some North African communities.
Tikkun Leil Shavuot - An all-night study session held in some communities on the first night of the holiday of Shavuot.
Tikkun olam - Hebrew for "repairing the world." The expression tikkun olam is generally used to refer to the ongoing work of improving one's world or community through acts of charity, kindness, and civic involvement.
Tithing - Literally "one-tenth," tithing is the act of giving a percentage of one's possessions to a religious institution.
Torah - Hebrew for "teaching." This word usually refers to the first five books of the Bible or to a handwritten scroll containing the Hebrew text of those books. All aspects of traditional Jewish life are based on the Torah and ongoing rabbinic interpretations.
Tzedakah - Hebrew for "righteousness." This word is used to refer to charity or alms.
Tzedakah box - A container used to collect funds for charity.
Artlex Art Dictionary
Tate Collection Glossary
Glossary of Jewish Terminology
Objects of the Spirit: Ritual and the Art of Tobi Kahn;
A Temple Treasury: The Judaica Collection of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York