Term Paper: Orthodox Judaism Considers Itself

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[. . .] On the other hand, few Jews are acquainted with the word 'shul'. (Judaism 101.)

The formalistic style of the place too is distinctly Jewish in that a mechitzah (division) separates men and women during prayer service. Men, too, lead and officiate. The rabbi is always male. These differences distinguish it from branches of liberal Judaism. The symbol -- the Jewish star -- remain symbolic of all branches, as too all retain the tallit, yarmulkah, synagaogue architecture such as the bimah (platform from which weekly Torah reading is read) as well as aron (that houses Torah scrolls) and prayer book with modifications depending on group.

Contrasts: Conservative

Conservative Judaism believes in certain aspects of the Torah. They maintain that the ideas in the Torah come from God but that they were transmitted by humans and therefore indicate human influence too. Conservative Jews accept Jewish law (Halakha) as binding but believe that this law should adapt to human needs and times. Conservative Judaism was formalized by Dr. Solomon Schechter in 1913 although tis roots stretch to the 1880s. Its extreme right is closest to Modern Orthodoxy whilst its extreme left veers towards reform. Its mission is to 'conserve' Judaism. The key tenets of Conservative Judaism are the following: a) K'lal Yisrael (the whole of the Jewish community); b) a Jewry based on the North American experience; c) a Jewry related to modern living; d) a Jewry devoted to Torah, with education a major priority; and e) a Jewry normatively halachic. The movement has about 800 congregations worldwide, representing some 1.5 million members (.( Katz, L. "Judaism Branches of Judaism." About.com http://judaism.about.com/od/denominationsofjudaism/p/branches.htm.)

Contrasts: Reform

Reform Judaism developed in the Germany of the 18th century with the initiation of the Enlightenment and radicalized further on American soil. Its key spokesman here was Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. Its mission was to 'reform' Judaism and make it more palatable for time and country. So for example, Reform Judaism accepts homosexuality, in some regions even conducts marriage ceremonies for gays, has women rabbis officiating, and only until comparatively recently accepted the State of Israel as legitimate.

Reform Judaism believes that the Torah / Bible was compiled by men rather than being Divine in origin and therefore can voluntarily be changed according to desire and need. Whilst Reform rejects Halacha, it does accept much of the ethics and spirit of Judaism as well as some of the rituals and culture. Reform, otherwise called Progressive Judaism today, gives autonomy to the individual in accepting and practicing whatever he wishes to do. According to it, Judaism is an evolving religion. In this way, Reform is the antithesis of Orthodox Judaism in that it believes in that not only is the Law not Divine but that people can choose to practice and believe whatsoever they wish. It also accepts legitimacy of all Jews as equally religious regardless of orientation. .( Katz, L. "Judaism Branches of Judaism." About.com http://judaism.about.com/od/denominationsofjudaism/p/branches.htm

Contrasts: Reconstructionism

Reconstructionist is the extreme left of Judaism; it may even be the antithesis. It disbelieves in God and in uniqueness of the Jewish people as race and accepts Judaism as traditional form and as "evolving religious civilization." Its only possible link to Orthodox Judaism is that it accepts Halacha - although as valuable cultural artifact.

The movement was launched by Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan of America of the 1920s. The movement is closely affiliated with Humanistic Judaism and many in fact, see little difference between the two.

Humanistic Judaism founded in 1963 in Michigan by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine rejects God, accepts humanistic values, seeks to make Judaism more secular than religious and bases the religion solely on Jewish culture and identity with basis on American-inspired humanistic values. It could not be more different than Orthodox Judaism.( Katz, L. "Judaism Branches of Judaism." About.com http://judaism.about.com/od/denominationsofjudaism/p/branches.htm)


Orthodox Judaism is the strictest branch of Judaism believing that both oral and written Torah emanated from God and universally and generationally apply despite changes in human society. Its movement itself is featured in many different approach each manifesting a certain distance (or, on extreme left, attachment) to secularism. The commonality is adherence to Halacha.

Orthodox Judaism can be distinguished in its faith from Conservative Judaism that believes that Torah was also fashioned by God, from Reform Judaism that believes that Torah was fashioned by man and therefore voluntary and easily amended, from Reconstructions and Humanist Judaism that disbelieve in theism altogether.

Armstrong, K "The battle for God: fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Emerson, M.O., & Hartman, D. (2006). "The rise of religious fundamentalism," Annual Rev. Social., 32, 127-144.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Premium Service, 2004. "Orthodox Judaism.."

Gurock, J "Orthodox Jews in America" Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c2009

Judaism 101. "Synagogues, Shuls and Temples"


Katz, L. "Judaism Branches of Judaism." About.com http://judaism.about.com/od/denominationsofjudaism/p/branches.htm

"Orthodox Union"


Vorst, M "What shall I do with this people?: Jews and the fractious politics of Judaism" New York, NY: The Free Press, c2002

Rushefsky, Carolyn "Shaare Zion: The Synagogue That Nearly Wasn't Built." Community Magazine. Volume XI No. 8. May 2012. [END OF PREVIEW]

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