American Judaism: Orthodox to Reform and Everything between Essay

American Judaism: Orthodox to Reform and Everything between Essay

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American Judaism:

Orthodox to Reform and Everything Between

American Jews today identify themselves as Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist. These four movements in modern American Judaism are different in many aspects, but one must remember that even though there are differences in the different beliefs of the Jewish movements, that all Jews share a common bond of a history and a destiny. They are one people. These four movements are not considered denominations, but are differing philosophies. Many Jewish religious observances and practices cannot be easily put into a single particular movement because within each movement there is a wide diversity in custom, practice, and observance. These movements range from traditional to liberal and those in between.

Orthodox Judaism considers itself the authentic bearer of the religious Jewish tradition and believes highly in the preservation of tradition. It is also the oldest form of Judaism. In the United States it is estimated that today approximately 21% of Jews identify themselves as Orthodox (United Jewish Communities, 2003). The essential principle of Orthodox Judaism is Torah min Hashamayim, which mens that the Torah and all its commentaries and interpretations are divinely revealed (Einstein& Kukoff, 1989, p. 151). According to Orthodox Judaism because all the laws and traditions of Judaism are of direct and divine origin, they must be followed by all Jews.

This strict observance of laws and traditions is the main foundation that Orthodox Judaism is based on and contains many rules that dictate the life of an Orthodox Jew. The most basic of these rules is the insistence of living a mitzvah centered life. Mitzvah means the 613 commandments that Jew...

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...nity inside of Judaism itself. But, different views and movements are found in all religions and Judaism is no different. It is the very existence of different ideologies that the different movements in Judaism expresses that allows for the continued vitality and life of American Judaism.


De Lange, Nicholas. (2000). An Introduction to Judaism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Einstein, Stephen. & Kukoff, Lydia. (1989). Every Person's Guide to Judaism. New York: UAHC Press.

Hertzberg, Arthur. (1973). The Jews of the United States. New York: Quadrangle/ The New York Times Book Co.

Rich, Tracey R. (2003). Movements of Judaism. Retrieved October 8, 2003, from: http: //www.

United Jewish Communities. (2003). National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01. Retrieved October 8, 2033, from: http

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