1. Mezuzahs

As you step into a Jewish home, you will be greeted by a mezuzah, a parchment roll affixed to the right doorpost, around shoulder height. The mezuzah may be cased in wood, plastic, or even ceramic, but the main thing is the parchment itself, upon which an expert scribe has written the text of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). Fun fact: You need a mezuzah on all doors, except those leading to small closets, the lavatory, and similar rooms.

Read: 16 Mezuzah Facts Every Jew Should Know

2. Two-Handled Washing Cup

Known as a kvort in Yiddish or a natla in Aramaic and Hebrew, this cup is used for ritual hand washing after awakening or before eating bread. The two handles allow the washer to keep his or her washed hand from touching (and becoming sullied by) the unwashed hand.

You can find this cup beside the kitchen sink, near the washroom, or even in the bedroom (where it often sits in a bowl, over which the hands are washed).

Read: Why Wash Differently In the Morning and Before Eating?

3. Pushke (Tzedakah Box)

The act of giving to those in need, known as tzedakah, is central to Judaism. Many homes have special boxes (known in Yiddish as pushkes) with a slit on top, into which coins and bills are regularly placed and periodically emptied and given to various worthy causes (especially for the poor in Israel).

A tzedakah box can take the form of a tin can but may also be a highly-decorated work of art. It is ideal to affix a tzedakah box to your kitchen wall, so that caring for others is done prior to eating and so that that giving is literally built into your home.

Read: 15 Facts About Tzedakah Every Jew Should Know

4. Ketubah

The ketubah is the Aramaic contract that lists (mostly) the husband’s obligations to his wife, which he promises to provide in exchange for her hand in marriage. The ketubah can be a highly decorated piece of art hung on a wall or a humble piece of paper stashed away in a drawer. The main thing is that it remains present, since the sages decreed that if this document (which protects the wife from neglect and abuse) is missing, the couple may not live together.

Read: Why Is the Ketubah in Aramaic?

5. Tallit (Prayer Shawl)

Torah mandates that men wear fringes (known as tzitzit) on their four-cornered garments. Since four-cornered garments are no longer in fashion:

  1. (Married) men wear a tallit (“prayer shawl”) during morning prayers to ensure that this mitzvah is prominently fulfilled once a day.
  2. A small, fringed, poncho-like garment (tallit katan) is worn (under the shirt) so that the mitzvah is fulfilled all day long.

A large tallit is typically made of white wool, with (blackor blue) stripes, and has fringes knotted into each of the four corners.

Read: Why Must a Tallit Have Four Corners

6. Tefillin (Prayer Boxes)

The Torah mandates that Jewish men (from the age of 13) wear tefillinleather boxes containing parchment inscribed with four scriptural selections—on the head and on the arm every day besides for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

The tefillin are painted black and fixed in place with black leather straps.

Tefillin are typically stored together with the tallit, in a pouch which is often made of velvet or leather.

Read: 14 Facts About Tefillin Every Jew Should Know

7. Sefarim (Holy Books)

It’s not for nothing that Jews are known as “the people of the book.” Studying Torah is a mitzvah, and it is accomplished with Torah books—lots of them. Some homes may have a bare-bones library of a Chumash (Five Books of Moses), Siddur (prayer book), Machzor (High Holiday prayer book) and perhaps a Tanya, and others have extensive libraries that lend a sacred air to the entire home.

Read: Editor's List of 20 Jewish Books to Purchase and Use

8. Shabbat Candlesticks

Late in the afternoon before the onset of Shabbat and major Jewish holidays, candles are lit (primarily by women and girls) to honor the sacred day. Married women light two (or more) and single girls light just one. The candles are placed in the dining area, where their glow enhances the Shabbat and holiday meals. While a couple of tea lights can do in a pinch, many women opt for decorative candlesticks or candelabras.

Read: 15 Shabbat Candle Facts Every Jewish Woman (and Man) Should Know

9. Kiddush Cup

Shabbat and holiday meals begin with Kiddush, a blessing said while holding a cup of wine or grape juice. Many people have a special cup, known in Yiddish as a becher, for this purpose. A kiddush cup may be made of silver, glass, ceramic or many other materials. Some are stemmed, while others are shaped like a simple drinking glass. They may be decorated with grapes or other Jewish motifs.

Read: What Is Kiddush?

10. Challah Board, Knife and Cover

Challah cover: Aliza Blizinsky, Judaica Creations
Challah cover: Aliza Blizinsky, Judaica Creations

After Kiddush is recited (see Kiddush Cup) and everyone has had a sip, hands are washed (see Washing Cup) and bread is broken. The two Shabbat loaves (known as challah) are often kept on a decorative cutting board and covered by a special cloth (known in Yiddish as a challah dekel), which may be velvet, silk, or (increasingly-popular) faux leather.

While there are no specific religious requirements for these items, many people use boards, knives and covers that are decorated with verses about Shabbat or simply the words lichvod Shabbat, “in honor of Shabbat.”

Read: Why Is the Challah Covered on Shabbat?

11. Ka’arah (Seder Plate)

The one Jewish holiday when challah is not eaten is, of course, Passover, when bread is forbidden and matzah (cracker-like flatbread) is eaten instead. Many people have special round trays and covers which fit the shape of their hand-rolled matzahs. This is often known as a ka’arah (“tray”).

A ka’arah set may be a simple plate and some handkerchiefs, a silver tray with a three-pocketed (velvet) pouch, or an ornate cabinet-like centerpiece.

On Passover eve, these trays have an additional purpose as, in addition to three matzahs, the ka’arah also holds the six ceremonial foods around which the ritual-rich evening feast revolves.

Watch: How to Prepare the Seder Plate

12. Shofar (Ram’s Horn)

The primary mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is listening to the blasts of the shofar, an instrument fashioned from the horn of a kosher animal, most often a ram. While the shofar blowing is baked into the Rosh Hashanah morning synagogue service (and it is ideal to hear the blasts in a synagogue from an expert who has studied the intricate tradition of shofar blowing), trained shofar blowers may have their own horns, which they blow for the homebound and others who cannot make it to the synagogue.

Read: 17 Shofar Facts Every Jew Should Know

13. Etrog Case and Lulav Holder

On the holiday of Sukkot, it is a mitzvah to shake the Four Species: a lulav (date palm frond), hadassim (myrtles), aravot (willows) and an etrog (citron). These items typically come in a simple plastic sleeve and a cardboard box (for the etrog). Some choose to use protective cases to ensure that these precious items do not get damaged on their way to and from the synagogue. Traditional etrog cases are often made with olive wood from Israel or silver, although many other (more practical) varieties exist as well.

Take: The Lulav and Etrog Quiz

14. Menorah (Hanukkia)

The beloved holiday of Chanukah (Hanukkah) is celebrated by lighting an additional flame each night, until we kindle eight lights on the eighth and final night of the holiday.

This is typically done with an nine-branched candelabra, which includes a spot for theshammash(“helper”) candle. Known as a menorah (or hanukkiah), this is among the most popular Judaica items, and can be made from a simple sheet of tin, ceramic, or precious metals.

Read: 16 Menorah Facts Every Jew Should Know

15. Dreidel (Spinning Top)

On Chanukah, it is traditional to play with a dreidel, a spinning top emblazoned with the Hebrew letters, nun, gimmel, hey and shin.

Dreidels can range from simple tops of plastic and wood to ornate collector’s items which you’d probably never want to spin, even if they could.

Read: How to Play Dreidel

16. Megillah

Megillah is Hebrew for “scroll,” and it refers to the Book of Esther, handwritten on parchment, which is read on Purim evening and again the following day. Since reading the Megillah requires quite a bit of practice, most people do not purchase their own scrolls and instead follow along in a paper booklet while listening carefully to the reader. However, many people do make it a point to read along in from a kosher parchment megillah scroll of their own.

Read: Who Wrote the Megillah?

17. Havdalah Candle & Spices

When Shabbat ends, we say the Havdalah (“separation”) prayer, which expresses how Shabbat is unique and separate from the weekdays. In addition to a wine cup, which is held during the ceremony, prayers are said over sweet-smelling spices (known as besamim) and a fire.

Traditional silver besamim boxes are often shaped like steeples topped with a flag, but any container is perfectly fine. The Havdalah candle must have more than one wick, and braided multi-wick candles can be purchased in Judaica stores and kosher grocery stores.

Listen: Why Is the Havdalah Candle Braided?

18. Kippah (Yarmulke)

As a constant reminder of G‑d’s presence, Jewish men typically cover their heads at all times. Most people use a small cap, called a kippah in Hebrew or a yarmulke in Yiddish. It is common to give out personalized kippahs as mementos at weddings or bar mitzvahs, and people tend to collect them as keepsakes.

Read: What Does Yarmulke Mean?

19. Bentchers (Grace-After-Meals Booklets)

A short blessing is said before food is eaten, and a longer blessing is said afterward. In the dining area of a Jewish home, it is common to find booklets or cards with grace after meals and other select prayers and hymns. These are known as bentchers in Yiddish and birkonim in Modern Hebrew. Like the kippahs, more often than not, these booklets are mementos from lifecycle celebrations.

Print: A Basic Bentcher (PDF)