Groups that claim to be Jewish

There are many different denominations of Judaism, from Orthodox, to Conservative, to Reform, and a wide variety of smaller groups within each larger category. There are wide differences in belief and practice between the left-wing of Reform, and the right-wing of Orthodoxy.

Chava Studios Shavuot watercolor

That being said, there are major themes which tie these Jewish groups together, so they are recognizably related to historical, rabbinic Judaism. Some of these ideas are

  • the belief in one God, who is a unity
  • the belief that God inspired the authors of the Tanakh (Bible)
  • the belief that the Tanakh must be understood within a particular cultural context – what historians call an oral tradition. This oral tradition eventually was canonized in the Mishnah, and classic rabbinic Midrash collections. It was then expounded upon in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds.

But in recent centuries many new groups have appeared, some growing out of the Jewish community, and some coming entirely from non-Jews, who are decidedly non-Jewish in every way, yet who attempt to take the mantle of Judaism for themselves.

The mainstream Jewish community – Reform to Conservative to Orthodox – agrees that the following groups are not Judaism. Despite our differences, our monotheism, Tanakh and oral law holds our communities together:

* Humanist Judaism / Society for Humanistic Judaism (recognized as atheism)

* Jews for Jesus / Messianic Jews / “Completed Jews” (recognized as Christian)

* Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (recognized as Christian)

* Black Hebrew Israelites (recognized as Christian)

* Sabbateanism / followers of Sabbatai Zevi – a dangerous cult that split off from Judaism.

* Frankism / followers of Jacob Frank – a dangerous cult that split off from Judaism.

* Kohenet Hebrew Priestess movement (neo-pagan goddess worship, whose prayers literally mention pagan gods.)

* Messianic followers of any deceased Rebbe. Some Hasidim believe that a deceased rabbi is still alive, is the messiah; they use language which describe the rabbi as being God’s voice incarnated in a human body, and/or in charge of the Universe.

Shaking My Head

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4 thoughts on “Groups that claim to be Jewish

  1. Marty Goldberg

    You forgot to mention secular Jews. Those who are born Jewish, but do not pray and may follow some traditions, but are otherwise non-religious. That includes many of us, who know we’re Jews, but don’t practice it much.

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    1. kaiserscience Post author

      Hi! “You forgot to mention secular Jews. Those who are born Jewish, but do not pray and may follow some traditions, but are otherwise non-religious. ..”

      Oh, I didn’t forget about secular Jews, It’s just that there is no “Secular Jewish” denomination of Judaism with their own synagogues, rabbis, etc. Secular Jews don’t invent new religions, and then claim that this replacement religion is real Judaism.

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  2. martyaviv

    Although, you could ask a Humanistic Jew what it means to be Jewish and they could give you a list of four elements that define Judaism and makes them Jewish. It really depends on the perspective.

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