Four different kinds of Judaism:




Four different kinds of Judaism:

1. Reform Judaism

2. Conservative Judaism

3. Reconstructionist Judaism

4. Orthodox Judaism

The difference between the Jews



Greenstein, Howard R. Judaism Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983.

Epstein, Isidore. Judaism A Historical Presentation Mitcham: Penguin, 1959.

Unterman, Alan. Jews Their Religious Beliefs and Practices London: Routledge, 1981.


This article follows mainly on Greenstein's books; page number without mentioning the author is referred to Greenstein. Greenstein describes the US movements only. For example, Reform Movement is launched by Moses Mendelssohn in Germany, but Isaac Wise is the founder in US. [see Epstein p.296] Epstein's book gives a detailed history on its development, but less portrayal of the US's situation. History of the Jews in US and Canada is depicted in Limberg's book and it provides a statistic of Jews' population in the world [p.33.] Anti-Semitism is described in p.179f, and Jewish-X'n relationship is discussed.

"All modern movements in Judaism stem directly or indirectly from the Enlightenment (i.e. Haskalah explained in Greenstein p.xii) - the movement which characterized the general atmosphere of the eighteenth century and represents the efforts of Western mankind to apply the rule of reason to all phases of human life.

In the domain of religion the autonomy of reason involved the rejection of all dogma, authority, and tradition, every individual being declared to be sole judge of his belief;" quoted from Isidore Epstein p.287.

Moses Mendelssohn penetrated it into Judaism. He accepted 3 articles: 1. the existence of God; 2. Providence; ;and 3 the Immortality of the Soul. [Epstein p.287]

He translated Hebrew Bible into German. [Unterman p.215]

His supporters called themselves Maskilim and published a periodical, Hameasef (the Collector). They used Hebrew, and disdained (reject in contempt) the Judaeo-German vernacular (Yiddish). [Epstein p.287]

Four different kinds of Judaism:

1. Reform Judaism


a) "Classical" Reform: 1810 - 1881 in Europe. (started from Germany)


i) to find a place in Jewish & other worlds.

ii) adapt Halakah to new requirements.

under the influence of New world (US), the individualism, rationalism, universalism, and optimism.

Reform Movement in Germany is halted by the Breslau Conference in 1846, which broke down on the question of the transference of the Saturday observance to Sunday. After that, the center of Reform movement shifts to US. Jewish immigration from Germany, beginning in

1830, reached its climax in 1848-50, because of the failure of 1848 Revolution. Under the leadership of Isaac Wise, and David Einhorn and other Rabbis, the movement is established in US. [Epstein pp.295-6]

b) "Radical" Reform: 1881 (Pittsburgh Platform) - ends in early 1930s in Nazi Europe


i) one world--> rejection of Hebrew.[p.113]

ii) commit to evolution in Jewish law, not revolution. i.e. theoretical commitment, not living realities.

result: Halakah, mitzvah gone; abandons peoplehood. Sunday worship; confirmation.

c) Change of Radical Reform: 1937 Columbus Platform


i) support Hebrew service [p.115]

ii) Zionism

iii) renew commitment to the teachings of the past

iv) return to Palestine.

All was ratified by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, except iv). [p.114]

principles: [p.116]

i) Freedom to examine the reasons of existing practice.

moral law > ritual law: supported by prophets. eg Jer 7:22-23.

ii) Modify public worship to enrich communal prayer.

iii) Mission of social justice inherent in our biblical legacy. Isa 42:6-7.

Originator: David Friedlander (1756-1834) : [Epstein p.291] Medelssohn's disciples.

He aims for assimilation of Judaism with the outside world. In 1799, He petitioned for conditional conversion to the Lutheran authorities in Berlin--- that the Jews can be excused from believing in the divinity of Jesus and from practising the distinctive rites of Christianity. [Epstein p.291]

Israel Jacobson (1768-1828): Establish the first Jewish Reform Temple in 1810.

German sermons, prayers, chorals. [Epstein p.292] "He saw himself as improving on pre-emancipation Judaism and not as creating a new religious movement." [Unterman p.215]

They started the re-assessment of some Jewish doctrine, incompatible to German Jews. For example, the hope for a return to Zion, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and reinstitution of sacrifices. [Unterman pp.215-6]

Samuel Holdheim (1806-60) and Abraham Geiger (1830-74) caused Reform to a more radical phase. They "asserted unequivocally that Judaism was wholly religious and had nothing national about it, and accordingly proceeded to advocate the abolition of all laws and ceremonies which tended to make the Jews distinct from their neighbours." [Epstein p.293]

Founder: Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise [p.117]

1873 Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC).

1875 Hebrew Union College (Seminary for Reform Rabbis)

1950 merged with JIR---> HUC-JIR

David Einhorn (1809-99) [Epstein p.296]

The denial of the authority of the Bible and Talmud by Reform Judaism made for individualism. Many Synods are held to hold together the Reform Rabbis, but most of the synods resulted in hopeless division. The most important one is held in Frankfurt (1845), in which most delegates advocated to keep Hebrew, only for the older generation. "This readiness to surrender Hebrew led to the secession of Zechariah Frankel (1801-75), who founded the 'positive-historical' school of Judaism, which divorced belief and practice, and combines full freedom of inquiry relating to Israel's creed and Israel's past, with an observance of Jewish law and national traditions as the product of the collective experience of the Jewish people." [quoted in Epstein p.294]

2. Conservative Judaism

Founder: Isaac Leeser (chazzan "minister") of the prominent Sephardic synagogue, Mikveh Israel. (1830)

3. Reconstructionist Judaism

Founder: Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-

Platform: The Society for the Advancement of Judaism [p.130]

Viewpoint: Religion is a social phenomena. Judaism as a civilization, the character &

components of which are determined by the Jewish people. [p.131]

Ritual practices should be classified more as minhagim ("customs" or "folkways")

than mitzvoth ("divine commandments"). not divine revelation!

They favor congregation patterns of organization as kehillah ("community").

4. Orthodox Judaism

Spokesman: Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik [Gr p.145]

Seminary : 1896 the Yeshiva (School for Talmudic studies)

1943 Yeshiva College (a full university)

Congregation: the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (UOJC)

Rabbi Association: 1902 Union of Orthodox Rabbis of US & Canada

1930 Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)

other smaller ones: Rabbinical Alliance of America (austere ideology)

Central Rabbinical Congress (Hassidic rabbis)


Theoretically, the standard is Shulkan Aruch (1657) [Gr p.144]

--- the traditional code of Jewish laws.

The Covenant in its entirety is the product of divine revelation.

Supreme standard for maintaining the Covenant is Halakah.


Halakah Versus democratic society, pluralistic, free choice.


One special strand of this : Hasidism.

Founder: Israel ben Eleizer

Goal : inner commitment & joyful awareness of God.

Life : Leaders become absolute rulers. believers separated from US culture & serious observance of the laws. [pp.146-150]

The difference between the Jews

Ashkenazi (Ashkenazim) Sefardi /or Sephardi (Sefardim), Spanish

1. 14 -15th Century move East to Poland. 1. They lived in North Africa. (Islamic European Jewry under X'n culture. countries.) [Unterman p.214]

2. Speak Yiddish (German: Judisch) 2. They speak Ledino (a dialect of Spain)

3. 80% of population in State Israel. or Arabic.

4. Synagogue like western church. 3. 20% of population in State Israel.

4. Bimah(pulpit) in the middle, and congregation sit on both sides.

"The divisions between Ashkenazim and Sefardim are essentially a matter of historical and geographical accident, the product of centuries of isolation and separate development." The Orthodox/Progressive split started in the state of Israel. [Unterman p.214] According to Fr. Duncan, the split also raised from the discrimination of the Sefardim by Ashkenazim. Besides, the political control is also a burning issue. By the influx of immigration of Sefardi, its political power is rising; in order to suppress it, the Ashkenazi Jews wants the Russian Jews (with similar stand) to come to Israel.

Since the founders of the state of Israel are non-religious Jew, "the dominant non-Judaic culture is that of a secularized, post-industrialized, Western world." [Unterman p.214]