Sectarianism in American Judaism

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  1. Sephardic Jews
    • 1650-1880
    • emigrated from Spain, Portugal
    • 250,000 by 1880
    • educated, literate, prosperous
    • wanted to establish home and leave anti-Semitism in the past (Europe) - attempted to "blend in"
    • established Reform Judaism in US
  2. Reform Judaism (35%)
    • Siddur in English
    • Torah divinely inspired, product of human culture and history
    • Messiah a metaphor
    • Law 'keeping' optional
    • synagogues that look like churches
    • Americans 1st, Jews 2nd
  3. Isaac Meyer Wise
    • founded Reform Judaism, along with other Sephardic leaders
    • 1819-1890
  4. Ashkenazi Jews
    • extremely poor and mostly illiterate
    • more orthodox than Sephardic Jews
    • 2 million emigrate from central/eastern Europe (1880-1920)
    • founded Orthodoxy in reaction to assimilation of Reform Judaism
    • very strict observance of the Law
    • traditional dress, ritual practice, gender norms
  5. Orthodox Judaism (10%)
    • Torah divinely REVEALED
    • Law kept strictly; keep rabbinic kosher
    • traditional gender roles, arranged marriages
    • separation of genders
    • Siddur/services in Hebrew
  6. Modern Orthodox
    • can worship with non-orthodox
    • attend integrated universities
    • arranged marriages less common
    • gender roles more relaxed
    • women welcome at synagogue services (visible/equal separate seating)
  7. Right-Wing Orthodox
    • distinct traditional dress
    • men and women cover heads
    • less likely to interact with non-Jewish world
    • domestic sphere women's sacred space
    • synagogue attendance optional/strictly segregated
  8. Ultra-Orthodox/Hasidic
    • closed community
    • extreme adherence of the Law
    • very strict gender roles and separation
    • outreach to other Jews
    • traditional dress
    • Rebbe Meachem Mendel Schneersohn (recognized by many as the messiah)
  9. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn
    • recognized by most Hasidic Ultra-Orthodox Jews as the messiah
    • May 5, 1831 – March 17, 1866
    • Chabad Lubavitch
    • A famous saying, "Think good and it will be good"
  10. Conservative Judaism (18%)
    • Torah divinely inspired (not revealed; it can be critiqued), written in historical context
    • change is possible, sometimes necessary, but not as fast as Reform
    • Siddur in Hebrew, men kippot, Bible more authoritative
    • American-style of worship, mixed seating, moderate changes to the Law are OK
    • women admitted in minyan
    • considered 'middle path' - compromise between Orthodox and Reform
  11. Solomon Schechter
    founded conservative sect and Jewish Theological Seminary 1884
  12. Reconstructionist (5%)
    • Torah not supernaturally revealed or inspired, but a product of ancestors
    • Jews are not a 'chosen people' - but the same as all other people
    • there is no messiah but us
    • religion: people trying to reach God (highest ideals and aspirations)
    • belief in God is optional - space to explore tradition, heritage, spirituality
    • rituals, tradition, Bible created by people, not God (still sacred as a history of Jews seeking God)
    • Celebrate and preservation of Jewish heritage, tradition, culture, history, philosophy
    • creativity in worship, even other religious practices
  13. Mordecai Kaplan
    • founded reconstructionist sect 1922
    • 100 congregations by 2000 - fastest growing sect
  14. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on GOD?
    • conservative: God is creator, spirit, personhood, masculine, all good, interested in human affairs
    • liberal: God exists, limited, cannot control evil, cannot rule over human free will
  15. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on TORAH/DIVINE REVELATION?
    • conservative:Torah revealed in its complete/final form to Moses, authored by God, perfect and historically accurate
    • liberal: Torah product of multiple human authors over a long period of history, can be imperfect, should be read in historical context, sacred record of people seeking/interacting with God
  16. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on HALACHAH (Law)?
    • conservative: God gave the Law and is to be followed; changes may be necessary but usually additions not subtractions
    • liberal: Law is a record of people seeking God and can be helpful to reveal God; a product of Jewish history and can be questioned; essential moral laws, the rest are optional
  17. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on THE JEWS AS CHOSEN?
    • conservative: Jews are different and set apart, which means responsibilities and obligations; a priestly people for humanity
    • liberal: Israel chose God and that is why Jews have had a unique and special history; others can choose God, too; Jews are not completely unique
  18. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on LITURGY & PRAYER?
    • conservative: vital and sacred; unchangeable; much of it comes straight from God; pray 3x a day; remove distractions (kavanah)
    • liberal: can be changed - it is about meeting needs not replicating tradition; can be as traditional (or not) as needed
  19. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on the MESSIAH?
    • conservative: a real person, descended from King David who will restore Israel and usher in an era of peace with no poverty or disease
    • liberal: a metaphor; we are our own messiah (salvation); humanity needs to change and save the world, not wait for a messiah
  20. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on EVIL?
    • conservative: God made it evil - everything happens for a reason; it is necessary for free will; evil may not really be evil, but it may be for good (in the end)
    • liberal: God is not all powerful; free will requires limits on God; God cannot end evil - that is our job
  21. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on WHO IS A JEW?
    • conservative: your mother has to be Jewish; only Jewish marriage is legit (no mixed marriages, not recognized)
    • liberal: if you have one parent who is a Jew, or if you convert, you are considered a Jew.
  22. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on WOMEN?
    • conservative: women do not count in a minyan; cannot be ordained; sit separately in synagogue (participation optional); women's spirituality takes place in the home (they are priests of the home - table is their altar)
    • liberal: mixed seating in synagogue; women count in a minyan and are ordained; rituals created to bring women fully into covenant; female God language incorporated; God shares both genders
  23. What is the most conservative and most liberal views on HOMOSEXUALITY?
    • conservative: a sin and abomination; God does not make people gay (it is a choice or mental illness); same-sex folks should practice celibacy if they cannot overcome inclinations and be happily married
    • liberal: same-sex rabbis ordained; homosexuality a gift from God; distinct identity that allows you to know God and humanity in a distinct and meaningful way
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Sectarianism in American Judaism
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American Judaism - sectarianism quiz
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