Judaism/Movements of Judaism

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Jewish religious movements[edit]

Jewish religious movements (Hebrew: התנועות הדתיות היהודית‎) (Yiddish: ייִדיש רעליגיעז מווומאַנץ), sometimes called "denominations" or "branches", include different groups which have developed among Jews from ancient times and especially in the modern era among Ashkenazi Jews living in anglophone countries. Despite the efforts of several of these movements to expand their membership in Israel and achieve official recognition by the Israeli government, non-Orthodox movements have remained largely a feature of Judaism in the diaspora. Historically, the division of Jews in many Western countries into denominations, which in the United States in particular took the form of three large groups known as Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, can be traced to Jewish reaction to the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and its aftermath, and to a certain extent the philosophies of these movements were shaped in reaction to one another. Several smaller movements have emerged in the years since. In more recent years, all of these movements have been shaped by the challenge of assimilation. Common values. The movements share common values such as monotheism, charity, and klal Yisrael (a sense of being part of, and responsible for, the universal Jewish community). These Jewish values are the basis for cooperation and interplay among the various movements. Sacred texts. The movements share a recognition that the Torah and other Jewish spiritual writings such as Tanakh and Talmud are central to Jewish experience. However they differ in their approach to such texts.

The movements differ in their views on various religious issues. These issues include the level of observance, the methodology for interpreting and understanding Jewish Law, biblical authorship, textual criticism, and the nature or role of the messiah (or messianic age). Across these movements, there are marked differences in liturgy, especially in the language in which services are conducted, with the more traditional movements emphasizing Hebrew. The sharpest theological division occurs between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews who adhere to other denominations, such that the non-Orthodox movements are sometimes referred to collectively as the "liberal denominations" or "progressive streams."

Terminology[edit]

Some Jews reject the term denomination as a label for different groups and ideologies within Judaism, arguing that the notion of denomination has a specifically Christian resonance that does not translate easily into the Jewish context. However, in recent years the American Jewish Year Book has adopted "denomination," as have many scholars and theologians.[1] Other commonly used terms are movements, branches, trends, streams, or even flavors of Judaism. This article uses the terms interchangeably, without purporting to affirm the validity of one term over another.

The Jewish denominations themselves reject characterization as sects. Sects are traditionally defined as religious subgroups that have broken off from the main body, and this separation usually becomes irreparable over time. Within Judaism, individuals and families often switch affiliation, and individuals are free to marry one another, although the major denominations disagree on who is a Jew. It is not unusual for clergy and Jewish educators trained in one of the liberal denominations to serve in another, and left with no choice, many small Jewish communities combine elements of several movements to achieve a viable level of membership.

Relationships between Jewish religious movements are varied; they are sometimes marked by interdenominational cooperation outside of the realm of halakha (Jewish Law), and sometimes not. Some of the movements sometimes cooperate by uniting with one another in community federations and in campus organizations such as the Hillel Foundation. Jewish religious denominations are distinct from, but often linked to, Jewish ethnic divisions and Jewish political movements.

Modern movements or denominations[edit]

Perhaps the greatest divisions since the time of the division between the Sadducees and Pharisees two millennia ago are the divisions within the Ashkenazic community that have arisen in the past two centuries, ever since the Enlightenment and the Renaissance influenced Jews from northern and eastern Europe.

The first evidence of this great dogmatic schism was the development of the Reform Judaism movement, which rejected "ethnic Judaism" and preferred to regard Judaism as a religion rather than an ethnicity or a culture. Over time three large movements emerged:

  • Orthodox Judaism. Orthodox Jews generally see themselves as practicing normative Judaism, rather than belonging to a particular movement. Within Orthodox Judaism there is a spectrum of communities and practices, including Modern Orthodox Judaism, Haredi Judaism, and a variety of movements that have their origins in Hasidic Judaism.
  • Conservative Judaism or Masorti Judaism. Originated in Germany in the 19th century, but became institutionalized in the United States. After the division between Reform and Orthodox Judaism, the Conservative movement tried to provide Jews seeking liberalization of Orthodox theology and practice with a more traditional and halakhically based alternative to Reform Judaism. It has spread to Ashkenazi communities in Anglophone countries and Israel.
  • Reform Judaism or Progressive Judaism. Originally formed in Germany as a reaction to traditional Judaism, stresses integration with society and a personal interpretation of the Torah.
Additionally, a number of smaller groups have emerged:
  • Reconstructionist Judaism. A small, liberal Jewish movement, found primarily in the United States. It began as a liberal movement within Conservative Judaism and formally separated in the 1980s.
  • Jewish Renewal. Founded in the counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and 1970s, Jewish Renewal tends to embrace the ecstatic worship style and mysticism of hasidism, while rejecting the halakhic rigor of Orthodox Judaism. Jewish Renewal congregations tend to be inclusive on the subject of who is a Jew. The Jewish Renewal movement lacks the formal institutional structure of the other liberal movements.
  • Classical Reform Judaism. A Jewish movement which regards Judaism as a religious faith with a universal message for all people. It sees Judaism primarily as a religion, rather than an ethnic, cultural or nationalist identity.
  • Humanistic Judaism. A pluralistic movement that emphasizes Jewish culture and history as the sources of Jewish identity. Founded by Rabbi Sherwin Wine, it is centered in North America but has spread to Europe, the Far East, Latin America, and Israel.
  • Neolog Judaism, a small movement found primarily in Hungarian-speaking countries, which is similar to the more traditional branch of American Conservative Judaism.
  • Jewish Science. Formed in the early 20th century by Rabbi Alfred G. Moses and Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein. Jewish Science was founded as a counterweight Jewish movement to Christian Science. Jewish Science sees God as a force or energy penetrating the reality of the Universe and emphasis is placed upon the role of affirmative prayer in personal healing and spiritual growth. The Society of Jewish Science in New York is the institutional arm of the movement regularly publishing The Interpreter, the movement's primary literary publication.