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Branches of Judaism


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Denominations of Judaism: Jewish movements, often referred to as denominations, branches or sects of Judaism, differ from each other in some beliefs and thus in the way they observe Judaism. Differences between Jewish movements, in contrast to differences between Christian denominations, derive from interpreting Jewish scriptures in more progressive/liberal or more traditional/conservative ways rather then from theological differences.
1. Orthodox Judaism:
Orthodox Jews believe that God gave Moses the whole Torah (Written and Oral) at Mount Sinai. Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah contains 613 mitzvot (commandments) that are binding upon Jews. Modern Orthodox Jews strictly observe halakhah (Jewish Law), but still integrate into modern society. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, which includes Chasidic Jews, strictly observe Jewish laws and do not integrate into modern society by dressing distinctively and living separately.
2. Conservative Judaism:
Conservative Judaism maintains that the ideas in the Torah come from God, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human compontent. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halakhah (Jewish Law), but believes that the Law should adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism's values.
3. Reform Judaism:
Reform Judaism believes that the Torah was written by different human sources, rather than by God, and then later combined. While Reform Judaism does not accept the binding nature of halakhah (Jewish Law), the movement does retain much of the values and ethics of Judaism as well as some of the practices and culture.
4. Reconstructionist Judaism:
Reconstructionists believe that Judaism is an "evolving religious civilization." In one way it is more liberal than Reform Judaism - the movement does not believe in a personified deity that is active in history and does not believe that God chose the Jewish people. In another way Reconstructionist Judaism is less liberal than Reform Judaism - Reconstructionists may observe Jewish Law, not because it is a binding Law from God, but because it is a valuable cultural remnant.
5. Humanistic Judaism:
Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1963 in Detroit, Michigan by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. Humanistic Jews believe in creating a meaningful Jewish lifestyle free from supernatural authority, in achieving dignity and self-esteem, and in reviving the secular roots of Judaism. Humanistic Judaism embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with adherence to humanistic values.
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