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partyrock's avatar

What are the different types of Judaism?

Asked by partyrock (3870points) May 7th, 2013

I’m doing a school project and I’m a little bit confused on the different denominations of Judaism. So far I’ve written that there are 4 main denominations of Judaism including Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform. I’ve also written down that Hassidic Jews are a part of the Orthodox. Can anyone give me more insight into the different denominations- what makes them different or similar? It’s a little confusing….

Wouldn’t reconstructionist and reform be the same thing?

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18 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I suck at religion, but I’ll give it a shot. Orthodox are the conservative members of the faith, black clothing, beards, very stern on their views, and nothing interrupts their Sabbath. Reform is a little more liberal. That’s all I got. Sorry.

gasman's avatar

I only know of orthodox, conservative, & reform in the U.S. as of about 50 years ago. Relative to orthodox, conservative Judaism is a little more relaxed. Services are in a mixture of Hebrew and English while men & women sit together (forbidden in orthodox).

The reform denomination is even more liberal, with most of the services in English, no requirement to wear prayer shawls or head covers, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

I had to look up reconstructionist, and I am Jewish. I never heard of it before. Seems to be a fairly new movement, I don’t know much about it.

The others I can elaborate on, I have them listed from the most liberal to the strictist. As a side note, I recommend you don’t use the word conservative to describe Orthodox Jews as @Adirondackwannabe did (not being critical @Adirondackwannabe :)) because there actually are Conservative Jews and it can be confusing. Better to use the word observant rather than conservative.

Reformed: Jewish people who are not religious at all, but basically identify as Jews ethnically or culturally when asked what type of Jew they are will answer Reformed. You have probably noticed a lot of them here on fluther. We are Jewish, some of us Atheists. Reformed Jews usually do not follow the Kosher rules at all. Some Reformed Jews do nothing religiously, but many at least celebrate the holidays. They celebrate the holidays to different degrees. Like, in my family we used to do Passover Seder, but we did not eat unlevened bread for all the days of Passover. Some reformed Jews do go to temple every week, do all the major holidays, send their children to Hebrew school, and have their children go through barmitzvahs and batmitzvahs.

Conservative: Generally conservatives keep a Jewish home, meaning their kitchen is Kosher. Some celebrate the sabbath, some don’t. Some eat anything they want when outside of their home, some eat everything except pork and shelfish. They kind of pick and choose what feels right. Some think it sounds very hypocritical, but keeping a Jewish home in my opinion makes sense, because for me personally, the home and family is where I am most Jewish. Not that I am conservative, I’m reformed, I am only saying I can understand the reasoning.

Orthodox: Many Orthodox also refer to themselves as observant. They observe all the holidays (many reformed Jews don’t even know all the holidays, I had never heard of Purim untill I was in my 20’s) they observe the sabbath very strictly. They keep Kosher all the time. I knew a few Orthodox Jews who would cheat when out, but they would only eat fish and otherwise vegetarian. No chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or shelfish, etc., when outside their own home, unless they were in another kosher home or kosher restaurant. The Orthodox have a very tight community. They must live within walking distance of the synagogue, because they cannot drive on the Sabbath. They dress very modestly, women usually wear very long skirts, shirts are up to their neck, clothing should not be too tight. The married women wear wigs or hats, because their hair should not be seen by others, it is ok in front of their husbands and children and other women. There are different sects among the Orthodox, Chassidic, modern Orthodox, etc. Orthodox men always have their heads covered when outside of their home with a yarmulke or hat.

Rarebear's avatar

It’s “reform”. Not “reformed”. And I disagree that Reform Jews are “not religious at all”. I know many religious Reform Jews. I even know Reform Jews who keep Kosher.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie It’s perfectly fine. I was taking a shot in the dark to get things started. I don’t mind being corrected at all, especially when I can learn something new. You always go easy on me.:)

majorrich's avatar

I had a friend tell me he was a ’‘Messianic’ Jew. Is that legit?

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear I agree. I should have written some are not religious at all. I did write how some observe some holidays and some didn’t, some go to temple some don’t. I am glad you caught that I didn’t say it clearly at the top. As for reform vs. reformed I never knew that was wrong.

In all groups I think their is variation. Impossible to say all the people behave and live the same whether they are Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox. Just like any group of people.

gailcalled's avatar

I was a member of a Reconstructionist Synagogue for five years, until I decided that my days of going to shul were finally over. Reconstructionism is loosely based on the ideas espoused by Mordecai Richter.

There was a strong sense of gender equality; men and women were equal partners in all parts of the life of the community. The guys baked Challah for Friday night services; women wore the prayer shawls and held the Torah. We had a female Rabbi for several years (her husband brought the new baby and let the congregants dandle him during services) and a young gay rabbi who had been a former student of mine at a Quaker school in Phila.

When the rabbi gave his or her homily, we in the congregation were encouraged to interrupt and challenge his/her ideas. It didn’t take much for a cheerful rumpus to occur.

I loved that community but found the long drive during the winter onerous and some of the theological strictures too tough to accept. It was a lot more fun, however, than was the Reform suburban Temple outside of NYC I was a member of growing up. The idea of even a mild donnybrook during the Rabbi’s sermon there would have been unthinkable.

darrenpete's avatar

Orthodox Judaism
Conservative Judaism
Reform Judaism
Reconstructionist Judaism
Humanistic Judaism

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answerjill's avatar

I’m going to jump in here to suggest that the original poster look up some books about Judaism in the library. I don’t want to appear snarky, but I can already see that mixed in among the helpful advice here is a good deal of misinformation and editorializing.

answerjill's avatar

I apologize if my comment above seems harsh. I realize now that the OP may very well be using Fluther to supplement – not replace – other more acceptable forms of academic research.

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JLeslie's avatar

@answerjill It wasn’t harsh. I hope no one would use fluther as reference material.

LostInParadise's avatar

Historically, Reform Judaism, which is from the 19th century, precedes Conservative Judaism. The Conservative movement was meant to try to bridge the gap between the Reform and Orthodox movements. The Reconstructionist movement is very recent and, from the little I know of it, is pretty far outside the mainstream, since it does not accept the Torah (first five books of the Bible) as the divine word of God. I don’t know how extensive Hassidism is. I know in parts of New York there are some small towns where they form communities. Hasidism is a branch of orthodox Judaism, but it is mystical in nature and includes the Kabbalah among its sacred books. Hasidism dates from the 17th century, but Jewish mysticism has deep historical roots and should be included in your report. That is the extent of what I know. For more information you will have to keep digging.

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Pachy's avatar

Growing up, I knew only Orthodox, Conservative and Reform—Orthodox being the most strict, Conservative less so, and Reform much less so (at least in Texas). I was raised in Texas Reform despite—or probably because—both my parents had been raised Orthodox, Mother in Texas (where I suspect Conservative was what passed as Orthodox) and Dad in New York.

I suspect Pop wasn’t five miles outside the New York limits before he started wolfing down everything trayf he could get his hands on.

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