Movements of Judaism

The different sects or denominations of Judaism are generally referred to as movements. The differences between Jewish movements today are not so much a matter of theology, but more a matter of how literally they take the scriptures, how much they think biblical requirements can be changed, and whether those requirements are mandatory. I’ve been told that the differences between Jewish movements are not as great as the differences between Christian denominations, but I’m not sure if that’s true: I once heard a Protestant minister trying to explain to Jews the difference between Protestant denominations, and the first distinction he thought of was the country of origin of the adherents.

In general, when I speak of “movements” in this site, I am referring to movements in the United States in the 20th century, but in fact there have been organized differences of opinion for more than 2000 years.

Movements in Ancient Times

Perhaps the oldest records we have of a formal difference of religious opinion among Jews dates back to the time of the Maccabean revolt, which is the basis for the story of Chanukkah. At that time, the land of Israel was under the relatively benevolent control of Greece, and was deeply influenced by Greek culture. Hellenizing Jews were opposed by a religious traditionalist group known as the Chasideans (no direct relation to the modern movement known as Chasidism). As the Seleucid Greeks began to oppress the Jews, war broke out and the Jewish peopleunited in their opposition to the Greeks.

The war continued for 25 years, and the Jewish people remained united in purpose. But after the war ended, the Jewish people became divided into three groups: the Essenes, the Sadducees (Tzedukim in Hebrew) and the Pharisees.

The Essenes were an ascetic and mystical group devoted to strict discipline. They lived in isolation from the world. The Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to be the product of an Essene sect. Some scholars believe that early Christianity was influenced by the mystical and hermetical teachings of the Essenes.

The Sadducees evolved out of the Hellenistic elements of Judaism. The movement was made up of the priests and the aristocrats of Jewish society. They were religiously conservative but socially liberal. The Sadducees believed in a strict, narrow and unchanging interpretation of the written Torah, and they did not believe in oral Torah. The Temple and its sacrificial serviceswere at the center of their worship. Socially, they adopted the ways of the neighboring Greek culture.

The Pharisees believed that G-d gave the Jews both a written Torah and an oral Torah, both of which were equally binding and both of which were open to interpretation by the rabbis, people with sufficient education to make such decisions. The Pharisees were devoted to study of the Torahand education for all.

After Judea was conquered by Rome and tensions with Rome began to mount, a fourth group appeared: the Zealots. The Zealots were basically a nationalistic movement, not a religious one. They favored war against Rome, and believed that death was preferable to being under Roman control. They would commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner. The most famous example of the Zealots was the defenders of Masada, who held the mountain fortress against the Roman Tenth Legion for months and ultimately committed suicide rather than surrender.

The Pharisaic school of thought is the only one that survived the destruction of the Temple. The Zealots were killed off during the war with Rome. The Sadducees could not survive without the Temple, which was the center of their religion. The Essenes, who were never very numerous, were apparently killed off by the Romans (they were easily recognizable in their isolated communities). Some think that the Essenes may have been absorbed into Christianity, which as I said shares some of their mystical teachings.

For many centuries after the destruction of the Temple, there was no large-scale, organized difference of opinion within Judaism. Judaism was Judaism, and it was basically the same as what we now know as Orthodox Judaism. There were some differences in practices and customs between the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe and the Sephardic Jews of Spain and the Middle East, but these differences were not significant. See Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews.

Karaites and Rabbinical Judaism

During the 9th century C.E., a number of sects arose that denied the existence of oral Torah. These sects came to be known as Karaites (literally, People of the Scripture), and they were distinguished from the Rabbanites or Rabbinical Judaism.

The Karaites believed in strict interpretation of the literal text of the scripture, without rabbinical interpretation. They believed that rabbinical law was not part of an oral tradition that had been handed down from G-d, nor was it inspired by G-d, but was an original work of the sages. As such, rabbinical teachings are subject to the flaws of any document written by mere mortals.

The difference between Rabbanites and Karaites that is most commonly noted is in regard to Shabbat: the Karaites noted that the Bible specifically prohibits lighting a flame on Shabbat, so they kept their houses dark on Shabbat. The Rabbanites, on the other hand, relied upon rabbinical interpretation that allowed us to leave burning a flame that was ignited before Shabbat. Karaites also prohibited sexual intercourse on Shabbat, while Rabbanites considered Shabbat to be the best time for sexual intercourse. The Karaites also follow a slightly different calendar than the Rabbanites.

According to the Karaites, this movement at one time attracted as much as 40% of the Jewish people. Today, Karaites are a very small minority, and most Rabbinical Jews do not even know that they exist. For more information about the Karaites, see The Karaite Korner.

Chasidim and Mitnagdim

In the 1700s, the first of the modern movements developed in Eastern Europe. This movement, known as Chasidism, was founded by Israel ben Eliezer, more commonly known as the Baal Shem Tov or the Besht. Before Chasidism, Judaism emphasized education as the way to get closer to G-d. Chasidism emphasized other, more personal experiences and mysticismas alternative routes to G-d.

Chasidism was considered a radical movement at the time it was founded. There was strong opposition from those who held to the pre-existing view of Judaism. Those who opposed Chasidism became known as mitnagdim (opponents), and disputes between the Chasidim and the mitnagdim were often brutal. Today, the Chasidim and the mitnagdim are relatively unified in their opposition to the liberal modern movements. Orthodoxy and even the liberal movements of Judaism today have been strongly influenced by Chasidic teachings.

Chasidic sects are organized around a spiritual leader called a Rebbe or a tzaddik, a person who is considered to be more enlightened than other Jews. A Chasid consults his Rebbe about all major life decisions.

Chasidism continues to be a vital movement throughout the world. The Lubavitcher Chasidim are very vocal with a high media presence (see their website, Chabad.org), but there are many other active Chasidic sects today. For a simple, plain English introduction to Chasidism written by a modern Breslover Chasid, check out this FAQ on Hasidic Culture and Customs.

Movements in the United States Today

Approximately 5 million of the world’s 13 million Jews live in the United States. There are basically three major movements in the U.S. today: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. Some people also include a fourth movement, the Reconstructionist movement, although that movement is substantially smaller than the other three. Orthodox and sometimes Conservative are described as “traditional” movements. Reform, Reconstructionist, and sometimes Conservative are described as “liberal” or “modern” movements.

Orthodoxy is actually made up of several different groups. It includes the modern Orthodox, who have largely integrated into modern society while maintaining observance of halakhah (Jewish Law), the Chasidim, who live separately and dress distinctively (commonly, but erroneously, referred to in the media as the “ultra-Orthodox”), and the Yeshivish Orthodox, who are neither Chasidic nor modern. The Orthodox movements are all very similar in belief, and the differences are difficult for anyone who is not Orthodox to understand. They all believe that G-d gave Moses the whole Torah at Mount Sinai. The “whole Torah” includes both the Written Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the Oral Torah, an oral tradition interpreting and explaining the Written Torah. They believe that the Torah is true, that it has come down to us intact and unchanged. They believe that the Torah contains 613 mitzvot binding upon Jews but not upon non-Jews. This web site is written primarily from the modern Orthodox point of view. The 2000 National Jewish Population Survey(NJPS) performed by the Council of Jewish Federations found that 10% of American Jews identify themselves as Orthodox, including 22% of those who belong to a synagogue.

Reform Judaism does not believe that the Torah was written by G-d. The movement accepts the critical theory of Biblical authorship: that the Bible was written by separate sources and redacted together. Reform Jews do not believe in observance of commandments as such, but they retain much of the values and ethics of Judaism, along with some of the practices and the culture. The original, basic tenets of American Reform Judaism were set down in the Pittsburgh Platform. Many non-observant, nominal, and/or agnostic Jews will identify themselves as Reform when pressed to specify simply because Reform is the most liberal movement, but that is not really a fair reflection on the movement as a whole. There are plenty of Reform Jews who are religious in a Reform way. The NJPS found that 35% of American Jews identify themselves as Reform, including 39% of those who belong to a synagogue. There are approximately 900 Reform synagogues in the United States and Canada.  For more information about Reform Judaism, see The Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Conservative Judaism grew out of the tension between Orthodoxy and Reform. It was formally organized as the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in by Dr. Solomon Schechter in 1913, although its roots in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America stretch back into the 1880s. Conservative Judaism maintains that the truths found in Jewish scriptures and other Jewish writings come from G-d, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human component. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halakhah, but believes that the Law should change and adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism’s values. In my experience, there is a great deal of variation among Conservative synagogues. Some are indistinguishable from Reform, except that they use more Hebrew; others are practically Orthodox, except that men and women sit together. Some are very traditional in substance, but not in form; others are traditional in form but not in substance. This flexibility is deeply rooted in Conservative Judaism, and can be found within their own Statement of Principles, Emet ve-Emunah. The NJPS found that 26% of American Jews identify themselves as Conservative, including 33% of those who belong to a synagogue. There are approximately 750 Conservative synagoguesin the world today.

Reconstructionist Judaism is theoretically an outgrowth of Conservative, but it doesn’t fit neatly into the traditional/liberal, observant/non-observant continuum that most people use to classify movements of Judaism. Reconstructionists believe that Judaism is an “evolving religious civilization.” They do not believe in a personified deity that is active in history, and they do not believe that G-d chose the Jewish people. From this, you might assume that Reconstructionism is to the left of Reform; yet Reconstructionism lays a much greater stress on Jewish observance than Reform Judaism. Reconstructionists observe the halakhah if they choose to, not because it is a binding Law from G-d, but because it is a valuable cultural remnant. Reconstructionism is a very small movement but seems to get a disproportionate amount of attention, probably because there are a disproportionate number of Reconstructionists serving as rabbis to Jewish college student organizations and Jewish Community Centers. Everyone I know seems to have had a Reconstructionist rabbi at college or in a community center, yet according to the NJPS, only about 2% of the Jews in America identify themselves as Reconstructionist. Reconstructionist numbers are, in fact, so small that the NJPS advises caution in interpreting the statistics. There are less than 100 Reconstructionist synagogues world-wide. See the Jewish Reconstructionist Federationhome page.

Though most Jews do not have any theological objections to praying in the synagoguesof other movements, liberal services are not “religious” enough or “Jewish” enough for traditional Jews, and traditional services are too long, too conservative, and often basically incomprehensible to liberal Jews (because traditional services are primarily, if not exclusively, in Hebrew). Some Orthodox will not attend liberal services because of the mixed seating arrangements and because the liberal prayer book cuts many required prayers.

I have been to services in Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox synagogues, and I have found that while there are substantial differences in length, language, and choice of reading materials, the overall structure is surprisingly similar. See Jewish Liturgyfor more information about prayer services.

Movements in Israel Today

Approximately 5 million Jews live in Israel. Orthodoxy is the only movement that is formally and legally recognized in Israel. Until very recently, only Orthodox Jews could serve on religious councils. The Orthodox rabbinate in Israel controls matters of personal status, such as marriage, conversion and divorce.

The other American movements have some degree of presence in Israel, but for the most part, Israelis do not formally identify themselves with a movement. Most Israelis describe themselves more generally in terms of their degree of observance, rather than in terms of membership in an organized movement.

More than half of all Israelis describe themselves as hiloni (secular). About 15-20 percent describe themselves as haredi (ultra-Orthodox) or dati (Orthodox). The rest describe themselves as masorti (traditionally observant, but not as dogmatic as the Orthodox). It is important to remember, however, that the masorti and hiloni of Israel tend to be more observant than their counterparts in America. For example, the hiloni of Israel often observe some traditional practices in a limited way, such as lighting Shabbat candles, limiting their activities on Shabbat, or keeping kosher to some extent, all of which are rare among American Reform Jews, and unheard of among American Jews who describe themselves as secular. It has been said that most Israelis don’t belong to a synagogue, but the synagogue they don’t belong to is Orthodox

About urielperez

His leadership and television interviews have gone trough out the world Uriel has done close to 500 interviews in Israel Jerusalem, and many more to come our main goal is to educate the world about Israel and its right to protect herself from any form of terrorism .Israel is facing many challenges and dangers, and has been for a very long time. There is, an unprecedented propaganda campaign initiated by the Arab League to demonize, to discredit and delegitimize the Jewish people and its state, in its own land!. In order to achieve their goals, the Arabs have for more than 30 years resorted to a deliberate misinformation campaign.This propaganda campaign by the Arab League - both in their own countries and for the last three decades exported to Europe and North America - has caused to Israel what would seem irreparable damage and indeed, it was the main culprit in the reawakening of dormant European anti-Semitism Israel has suffered many terror attacks from terrorist .Israel should not bow down to any pressure imposed by the USA the EU. the Quartet nor the UN The current Obama administration continues to work behind the scenes by using John Kerry and others to fulfill their hidden agenda as I call it. The Obama administration is trying to force Israel to give up more land for false peace as we have seen in the past .Judea and Samaria and possibly the Jordan Valley are at the negotiating table and if the so called Palestinians obtain Judea and Samaria and possibly the Jordan Valley, Givat Haroe'eh in the Samaria community of Eli, Ramat Gilad and Giv'at Assaf (also in Samaria), and Mitzpeh Lachish, near Nehogot, outside Hevron. they can easily rain down rockets towards any city within Israel and Israel will be left without defensible borders . We say no land for false peace as we have seen in the past. Barrack Hussein Obama has a hidden agenda against Israel. Israel will face many difficult days ahead See Psalms 83' as we have seen what happened with Gush Katif were almost 9,000 Jews were forced out of their own Jewish land due to US pressure , now Bet El Almuna and Migron and Judea and Samaria face the same consequence .More than 17,000 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel over 11,000, just to Sderot by Islamist extremist who want the total destruction of my people Israel. Hamas terrorist who are supported by Iran and now Hamas has joined hands with Fatah.Iran Lebanon Hezbollah Syria want the total destruction of Israel and now Al Qaeda and ISIS who are operating in Syria Egypt and the Sinai Desert will do anything in their power to destroy my people Israel and all Jews. The Moslem/ Arabs in that area started calling themselves “Palestinians” nearly 40 years ago. “Palestinian” refers to people who live in Palestine: Arabs (“Arabic speaking peoples”), Bedouins, Druze, Christians, and Jews. No people or nation ever ruled as a sovereign national entity on this land there is no Palestinian language or culture in past history. Palestine, as a country does not presently exist. No Arab nation has their historical roots on the land and no one have cl...aim to this territory other than the Jews. The Jewish rule of this land extended over a period of over 2000 years. Israel became a nation in the land in 1312 BC. God gave them the land in a covenant (Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20) and they lived there See Quote from Quran', Death to the enemies of Allah Those that make war against Allah and His apostle and spread disorder in the land shall be slain or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in this world and sternly punished in the hereafter: except those that repent before you reduce them. For you must know that Allah is forgiving and merciful.Al-Maidah The Table 5:33-34 This is what radical Islam say's about us Jews' "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim). Judea and Samaria also faces many challenges in the days to come as Abbu Massen will try to pressure the entire world and US President Barrack Hussein Obama the EU and the Quartet into giving more land for false peace we saw what happened after the Oslo Accords were signed more terror against Israel . Abbu Massen the PA. leader approached the United Nations this past November 2012 and has ask them to declare them a recognized nation within Israel known borders. The time has come to tell the entire world the real truth about the enemies of Israel .We speak on the Quran with a Power Point with videos. We have spoken on CNN TV and radio stations on the current issues of Israel, Uriel has a heart for his people Israel and will continue to inform the entire world the real truth as many News Media trough out the world are anti-Semitic and won't tell you the real truth. Born in the USA lives in Israel Jerusalem knows karate and Boxing played semi pro baseball married to Efrat and we have two children a girl and a son all three of them are born in Jerusalem . I discovered in 2004 that were possible Converso Marrano Jews from Spain who's ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the time of the Inquisition in 1492 .Our family names Centeno and Perez are registered in El Libro Verde De Aragon in Spain were the catholic Inquisitors maintained all the names of all Jewish families who were forced to convert to Catholicism during that horrible time period in Spain.A former police officer who knows Karate boxing played semi pro Baseball studied at Temple University political science. Since 2004 we have been Flying back and forth from the USA speaking to the nations on the current issues of the the state of Israel see Psalms 83' as the nations gather against Israel.Have spoken on CNN AL Jazeera Al Arabiya Dubai TV Holland TV German TV also American Family Radio which links up with 700 radio stations .Our goal is to educate the entire world that Israel has the right to self determination and the right to defend itself from terrorism For Bookings call USA-1321-593-0960 Israel 972526357088 Support our work Via Paypal to judah92@gmail.com Visit our Youtube News Channel directly from Israel Jerusalem http://youtu.be/6IdveOM-Njg https://twitter.com/Jerusalem2004 https://www.youtube.com/user/MrUriel2004 http://youtu.be/jleJ9zKQqUU https://www.facebook.com/pages/News-videos-from-Israel/482484308485691 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breaking-News-from-Israel-Jerusalem/238100002867219 https://urielperezcenteno.wordpress.com/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/ForthesakeofJerusalem/ י חָשַׂף יְהוָה אֶת-זְרוֹעַ קָדְשׁוֹ, לְעֵינֵי כָּל-הַגּוֹיִם; וְרָאוּ, כָּל-אַפְסֵי-אָרֶץ, אֵת, יְשׁוּעַת אֱלֹהֵינוּ. {ס} The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
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