Denominations

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Abraham Isaac Kook was known for his profound love for all Jews, even those far removed from Torah and mitzvot. When questioned why he loved Jews distant from the ideals of Torah, he would respond, “Better I should err on the side of baseless love, than I should err on the side of baseless hatred.”

The Judaism family tree

Created by Robert Kaiser

Created by Robert Kaiser

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Modern day Jewish denominations

Orthodox Judaism

“The term Orthodoxy is applied to Jewish traditionalist movements that have consciously resisted the influences of modernization that arose in response to the European Emancipation and Enlightenment movements. It is not usually employed to designate Jewish traditionalism prior to the modern era, nor does the phenomenon appear in communities that were unaffected by the Reform movement; e.g., in North Africa, or in Eastern Europe before the mid-nineteenth-century.” – Prof. Eliezer Segal

On this topic see the classic essay Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy.

Orthodox Judaism is characterized by:

  • What historians refer to as a fundamentalist teaching of Jewish principles of faith:  the Torah was literally revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and transmitted down to this day, without any (other than the most minor) textual errors.
  • The belief that the rest of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) was also revealed by God to the later prophets..
  • God has made a covenant with the Israelites and their descendents, to have Hebrew as their language, and the laws of the Torah as their covenant.
  • belief that the Torah must be understood within a particular cultural context – what historians call an oral tradition. Further, it is believed that God literally transmitted much additional detail about how to interpret the laws, which also is a basis of the oral law.
  • This oral law later became written down in the Mishnah, and the early classic rabbinic Midrash collections.  It was then expounded upon and analyzed in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, and later rabbinic works.
  • Reading the Torah through the lens of the oral law is one of the primary ways to distinguishes Judaism from other faiths.
  • A rejection of most historical scholarship/critical text study for most Jewish religious texts.
  • Scrupulous adherence to the latest codes of Halakhah (Jewish law), especially in the form of the medieval Shulkhan Arukh.
  • The centrality of yeshivas as schools of Talmudic study and learning. Following the teachings of rabbis as authoritative.
  • Acceptance of a literal reading of Maimonides’ 13 Principles Jewish principles of faith ; other principles of Jewish faith are generally held to be heresy (which can be problematic when it turns out that their reading of his 13 Principles goes against Maimonides’ own explanation of them in his Guide for the Perplexed)
  • A skeptical attitude toward modern culture, including the classical western tradition, and Enlightenment values.
  • Significant differences in gender roles.

Orthodox Judaism is composed of many different groups with intersecting beliefs, practices and theologies. They maintain significant social and halakhic (legal) differences due to their varying attitudes concerning (a) the role of women in Judaism, (b) relations with non-Orthodox Jews, (c) attitudes toward modern culture, (d) how to relate to the modern State of Israel, and (e) the value of non-Jewish culture and knowledge.

Modern Orthodox Judaism has a positive attitude toward modern culture, including studying the classical western tradition, and accepting Enlightenment values. Haredi Judaism, including Hasidic and Yeshivish, has a negative attitude towards most modern culture. Haredi Judaism  generally forbids studying the classical western tradition, and does not accept Enlightenment values.

Modern Orthodox Judaism

A philosophy that one can not only be an Orthodox Jew and interact with the surrounding gentile, modern world, but that if guided by Jewish values, this interaction desirable and intellectually profitable. Two of the founders of Modern Orthodoxy were rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) and Azriel Hildesheimer (1820-1899). Rabbi Hirsch developed the motto of Modern Orthodoxy that is still used today, ”Torah im Derekh Eretz”, – “Torah with the way of the (surrounding) world”. This means that one should accept as positive, the integration of traditional Judaism with secular education: At that time Hirsch’s definition of secular education included not only the basic academic topics and the sciences, but also German literature, philosophy and culture, and the classical Greek historical, scientific and philosophical literature. {adapted from the Wikipedia article}

Orthodox Jewish groups – The Soc.Culture.Jewish FAQ

The major varieties of Orthodox Judaism are noted here: We learn about each group’s origin, politics and philosophy:  Eli Segal on Orthodox groups

Conservative Judaism

Conservative/Masorti Judaism views itself as traditional, rabbinic Judaism – a form of rabbinical Judaism which recognizes that throughout Jewish history there was been a fairly wide array of acceptable views on theology and law. Unlike Orthodoxy, Conservative Judaism encourages it’s adherents to study the development of law, belief and culture with critical scholar methods – just like many of Judaism’s own great rabbis (e.g. Abraham ibn Ezra, Maimonides, etc.) Conservative Judaism – like early modern Orthodoxy – has a positive attitude towards many aspects of modern culture, including the literary, philosophical and musical canon of western civilization, from Socrates and Aristotle to Shakespeare, Beethoven and Bach. It simultaneously teaches a literate and proud Jew is at least as literate in the canon of Jewish civilization, including the Mishnah, Talmud and Midrash, and Jewish music, art and modern philosophy.

Mordecai Waxman describes the Conservative position in this way: “Reform has asserted the right of interpretation but it rejected the authority of legal tradition. Orthodoxy has clung fast to the principle of authority, but has in our own and recent generations rejected the right to any but minor interpretations. The Conservative view is that both are necessary for a living Judaism. Accordingly, Conservative Judaism holds itself bound by the Jewish legal tradition, but asserts the right of its rabbinical body, acting as a whole, to interpret and to apply Jewish law.”

Conservative Judaism is characterized by:

  • A non-fundamentalist teaching of Jewish principles of faith:  how Torah and Tanakh was revealed by God is a subject of philosophical discussion.
  • God has made a covenant with the Israelites and their descendents, to have Hebrew as their language, and the laws of the Torah as their covenant.
  • belief that the Torah must be understood within a particular cultural context – what historians call an oral tradition.
  • This oral law later became written down in the Mishnah, and the early classic rabbinic Midrash collections.  It was then expounded upon and analyzed in the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, and later rabbinic works.
  • Reading the Torah through the lens of the oral law is one of the primary ways to distinguishes Judaism from other faiths.
  • Acceptance of historical scholarship/critical text study for Jewish religious texts.
  • A commitment to following traditional Jewish laws and customs, but no particular code of law is considered the final word for all communities.
  • Judaism has principles of belief, yet no one statement of faith principles was ever accepted as binding by Klal Yisrael. A variety of views are considered acceptable.
  • A positive attitude toward modern culture, including the classical western tradition, and Enlightenment values.
  • Embracing modern culture in customs. Gender equality in religious study, ritual, and observance.

Conservative/Masorti Jews view the laws and customs from the various law codes as the basis for normative Jewish law. However, it also takes note that “however great the literary value of a code may be, it does not invest it with infallibility, nor does it exempt it from the student or the Rabbi who makes use of it from the duty of examining each paragraph on its own merits, and subjecting it to the same rules of interpretation that were always applied to Tradition”. – Solomon Schechter.

Conservative Judaism: Our Ancestors to Our Descendants – The history, development, theology and practices of the Conservative Jewish movement.

Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism

“Reform Judaism’s manifestations vary from place to place, and have undergone constant change in the course of time. They all share the assertion of the legitimacy of change in Judaism, and the denial of eternal validity to any given formulation of Jewish belief or codification of Jewish law. Apart from that, there is little unanimity among Reform Jews either in matters of belief or in practical observance. Conservative and radical positions coexist and enjoy mutual respect.” [“Reform Judaism”, Encyclopaedia Judaica]

Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut writes “there is no such thing as a Jewish theological principle, policy, or doctrine.” This is because Reform Judaism affirms “the fundamental principle of Liberalism: that the individual will approach this body of mitzvot and minhagim in the spirit of freedom and choice. Traditionally Israel started with harut, the commandment engraved upon the Tablets, which then became freedom. The Reform Jew starts with herut, the freedom to decide what will be harut – engraved upon the personal Tablets of his life.”
– Bernard Martin, Ed., Contemporary Reform Jewish Thought, Quadrangle Books 1968

Reform is characterized by:

  • A non-fundamentalist teaching of Jewish principles of faith:  how Torah and Tanakh was revealed by God is a subject of philosophical discussion.
  • Ancient Israelites believe that God made a covenant with the Israelites and their descendents.
  • belief that the Torah must be understood within a particular cultural context – what historians call an oral tradition.
  • The Mishnah, Midrash and Talmuds are generally studied significantly less than in other denominations; they are not considered normative or authoritative.
  • Nonetheless, reading the Torah through the lens of the oral law is one of the primary ways to distinguishes Judaism from other faiths.
  • Acceptance of historical scholarship/critical text study for Jewish religious texts.
  • Jewish law is no longer normative.
  • Complete autonomy of the individual as to deciding which observances to follow – if any.
  • Complete autonomy of the individual as to deciding what Jewish principles of faith to maintain, if any – other than monotheism (which is mandated.)
  • A positive attitude toward modern culture, including the classical western tradition, and Enlightenment values.
  • Embracing modern culture in customs. Gender equality in religious study, ritual, and observance.

Classic German Reform (also in England and the USA)

Between 1810 and 1820, {Reform} congregations in Seesen, Hamburg and Berlin instituted fundamental changes in traditional Jewish practices and beliefs, such as mixed seating, single ­day observance of festivals, and the use of a cantor/choir. Many leaders of the Reform movement took a rejectionist view of Jewish practice and discarded traditions and rituals. For example:

Circumcision was not practiced, and was decried as barbaric.
The Hebrew language was removed from the liturgy – and replaced with German.
The hope for a restoration of the Jews in Israel was officially renounced, and it was officially stated that Germany was to be the new Zion.
The ceremony in which a child celebrated becoming Bar Mitzvah was replaced with a “confirmation” ceremony.
The laws of Kashrut and family purity were officially declared “repugnant” to modern thinking people, and were not observed.
Shabbat was observed on Sunday. Traditional restrictions on Shabbat behavior were not followed.

The_Origins_of_Reform_Judaism

Most Reform Jewish congregations in the United States and England followed, to one extent or another, classic German Reform, until the 1970s.  There was a general sense of hostility to following classical rabbinic literature (e.g. Mishnah, Talmud), and all codes of Jewish law & responsa were held to be unhelpful or superstitious.

Since the 1970s there has been a growing return-to-tradition wing within Reform, showing more tolerance & respect for classical rabbinic literature, and an increasing number of official publications from Reform Judaism approvingly teach that Jews should become educated in these works, and should feel free to experiment with observance of Shabbat, Kashrut, tefillin, and other traditional Jewish practices.
History of Reform Judaism
History of Reform Judaism (alternate link)

Reform Judaism today may refer to:

  • Classic German Reform, the historical predecessor of Reform Judaism today that originated in 19th Century Germany (and was the most common version of Reform in England and the USA until the 1970s)
  • A positive attitude toward modern culture, including studying the classical western tradition, and accepting Enlightenment values.
  • A large denomination of Judaism in America
  • Any Jewish movement affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism, including the British Movement for Reform, the Union for Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, etc.

Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut writes “there is no such thing as a Jewish theological principle, policy, or doctrine.” This is because Reform Judaism affirms “the fundamental principle of Liberalism: that the individual will approach this body of mitzvot and minhagim in the spirit of freedom and choice. Traditionally Israel started with harut, the commandment engraved upon the Tablets, which then became freedom. The Reform Jew starts with herut, the freedom to decide what will be harut – engraved upon the personal Tablets of his life.” [Bernard Martin, Ed., Contemporary Reform Jewish Thought, Quadrangle Books 1968.]

Similarly, Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) President Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin wrote a pamphlet about Reform Judaism, entitled “What We Believe…What We Do…”. It states that “if anyone were to attempt to answer these two questions authoritatively for all Reform Jews, that person’s answers would have to be false. Why? Because one of the guiding principles of Reform Judaism is the autonomy of the individual. A Reform Jew has the right to decide whether to subscribe to this particular belief or to that particular practice.”

Reconstructionism

was developed by Rabbis Mordecai Menahem Kaplan (1881–1983) and Ira Eisenstein during the 1930s/40s, and formally became a separate denomination with the foundation of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary in 1968. “Kaplan argues that with the breakdown of certain traditional beliefs, Jewish identity had become attenuated. Jews remain loyal to their faith despite hardship and suffering because they believe that adherence to Judaism assures them of salvation in the next world. But in Kaplan’s view, this is no longer credible. Consequently, Judaism must transform itself from a civilization orientated toward the life hereafter into one which can help Jews to attain salvation in this world. Belief in the possibility of this salvation is crucial to Kaplan’s thought. It means the progressive improvement of the human personality and the establishment of a free, just, and cooperative social order. Kaplan maintains that there are adequate resources in the world and capacities in man to achieve such salvation. He defines God as the ‘power that makes for salvation.’ ” [“Reconstructionism”, Encyclopaedia Judaica]

As in Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism holds that personal autonomy has precedence over Jewish law and theology. It does not ask that its adherents hold to any particular beliefs, nor does it ask that halakha be accepted as normative. In practice, Rabbi Kaplan’s books, especially “The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion” and “Judaism as a Civilization” are defacto statements of principles. In 1986, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) and the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations (FRC) passed the official “Platform on Reconstructionism” (2 pages). It is not a mandatory statement of principles, but rather a consensus of current beliefs. [FRC Newsletter, Sept. 1986, pages D, E.]

Reconstructionism is characterized by

  • The idea of God was redefined by Kaplan as the sum of psychological needs for “human fulfillment or salvation, both individual and collective, which is compatible with the cultural climate of contemporary life.”
  • Rejection of religious views of revelation: “Revelation consists in disengaging from the traditional context those elements in it which answer permanent postulates of human nature, and in integrating them into our own ideology…the rest may be relegated to archaeology.” – The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion”
  • The idea of chosenness is officially condemned “morally untenable”, and it is stated that such belief “implies the superiority of the elect community and the rejection of others”. In other words, all other denominations of Judaism are racist.
  • The Mishnah, Midrash and Talmuds are studied significantly less than in other denominations; they are not normative or authoritative.
  • Nonetheless, reading the Torah through the lens of the oral law is one of the primary ways to distinguishes Judaism from other faiths.
  • Acceptance of historical scholarship/critical text study for Jewish religious texts.
  • Jewish law is no longer normative. Each Recon community is democratic, where the laity can make decisions, not just rabbis.
  • Rabbis can marry Christians; laypeople can intermarry, and even if their children are in Christian religion schools, they also can go to Recon Hebrew schools. Non-Jews may ascend to the bimah for an aliyah and say brachot (blessings.) No dividing line between Jews and gentiles, in a style similar to Unitarian-Universalism.
  • Complete autonomy of the individual as to deciding which observances to follow – if any.
  • Complete autonomy of the individual as to deciding what Jewish principles of faith to maintain, if any.
  • A positive attitude toward modern culture, including the classical western tradition, and Enlightenment values.
  • Embracing modern culture in customs. Gender equality in religious study, ritual, and observance.

Other Jewish denominations take exception to the Reconstructionist definition of Jewish concepts of chosenness, as they feel that their description legitimizes anti-Semitism. From the Platform on Reconstructionism we read:

Reconstructionism does not accept the traditional concept of the Jews as “the chosen people. Chosenness however reinterpreted is conceptually inconsistent with a naturalistic conception of God, and is morally untenable as IT IMPLIES THE SUPERIORITY OF THE ELECT COMMUNITY AND REJECTION OF OTHERS.

Ancient Jewish groups

The Pharisees (/ˈfærəˌsiːz/) were a political party, social movement in ancient Israel during the time of the Second Temple. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the basis for Rabbinic Judaism. The term ‘Judaism’ today refers to Rabbinic Judaism.

The Jewish historian Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE) records that Pharisees received the backing of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees…Whereas the Sadducees were aristocratic and monarchists, the Pharisees were eclectic, popular, and more democratic. ..Pharisees extended Judaism beyond the Temple, applying halakhah to all worldly activities. Rituals were not monopolized by an inherited priesthood but rather could be performed by all Jews individually or collectively; whose leaders were not determined by birth but by scholarly achievement.

The Sadducees (צְדוּקִים Ṣĕdûqîm) were a Jewish group in ancient Israel from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. It was the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. It had political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. Their sect become extinct after the destruction of the Temple but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had roots in Sadducean views. Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the Torah as the sole source of divine authority. Their primary beliefs were:

  • There is no fate
  • God does not commit evil
  • Man has free will; “man has the free choice of good or evil”
  • The soul is not immortal; there is no afterlife, and no resurrection of the dead.
  • There are no rewards or penalties after death

After the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Sadducees appear only in a few references in the Talmud. In the beginnings of Karaism, the followers of Anan ben David were called “Sadducees” and some claimed historical continuity from the latter.

The Essenes (אִסִּיִים) existed from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. This group was much smaller than the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They congregated in communal life dedicated to asceticism, voluntary poverty, and daily immersion in a ritual bath. Some groups practiced celibacy. Many small separate groups of that era shared similar mystic, eschatological, messianic, and ascetic beliefs. These groups are collectively referred to as the “Essenes.”

– The above text on ancient groups has been loosely adapted from the Wikipedia articles on this subject.

11 thoughts on “Denominations

    1. kaiserscience Post author

      David writes “Chart is inaccurate as Conservative is an offshoot of Reform, historically speaking.” – I do understand why you’d say that, but this idea is more of an urban myth than anything else, based on a story about the infamous trefah banquet, in 1883, That’s the event where the leaders of the then early Reform Jewish movement deliberately chosen to alienate any allies among their students or faculty, by deliberately serving shellfish and other treif food at the celebration of the first graduating class of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. It is true that several faculty and students (justly) quit the Reform movement after this deliberate provocation. But Conservative Judaism – known then as positive-historical Judaism – already existed then, and this event had no effect on the makeup of the faculty of students of Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, or Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

      Realistically, the vast majority of rabbis associated with Conservative Judaism – both before and after this minor incident – came from Orthodoxy! In fact up until the 1960s, most rabbinical students entering the Jewish Theological Seminary of America came from Orthodox Jewish homes, and most rabbis teaching here, also came from Orthodox Jewish backgrounds.

      Positive-Historical Judaism, the intellectual forerunner to Conservative Judaism, was developed as a school of thought in the 1840s and 1850s in Germany. Its principal founder was Rabbi Zecharias Frankel, who had broken with the German Reform Judaism in 1845 over its rejection of the primacy of the Hebrew language in Jewish prayer and the rejection of the laws of kashrut. In 1854, Frankel became the head of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau then in Kingdom of Prussia (now in Poland as Wrocław). At the seminary, Frankel taught that Jewish law was not static, but rather has always developed in response to changing conditions. He called his approach towards Judaism “Positive-Historical,” which meant that one should have a positive attitude towards accepting Jewish law and tradition as normative, yet one should be open to developing the law in the same fashion that it has always historically developed. On the one hand, Frankel rejected the innovations of Reform Judaism as insufficiently based in Jewish history and communal practice. On the other hand, by using of modern methods of historical scholarship to develop rabbinic law, Frankel differed with neo-Orthodox Judaism, which was concurrently emerging under Samson Raphael Hirsch.

      In 1886, prominent Orthodox Sephardic Rabbis Sabato Morais and H. Pereira Mendes founded the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York City as a more traditional alternative to Hebrew Union College. The Seminary’s original affiliation, in fact, was with traditional congregations that established the Union of Orthodox Congregations in 1898!

      So this whole idea that “Conservative is an offshoot of Reform” is a deliberately distorted urban myth spread by the more insecure elements of Orthodox Judaism, as an attempt to portray Orthodoxy as the only heir of rabbinic Judaism – and it is precisely this myth that inspired me to create this diagram. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  1. Samuel Taylor

    Karaite Judaism, is the longest Living
    form of judaism.
    most somehow believe, Orthadox Judaism
    From lithuania is the oldest.
    but it Started in 1837 in Villnius, and
    emigrated to the United States.
    Ultra Orthadox Judaism stated as a reaction
    to Orthadox Judaism 7 years later in
    Estonia, and it to Emigrated to the United
    states.
    reform, and conservative judaism, only
    dates back to NYC after the Civil war
    around 1870, and 1874.
    Many Rabbinites claim, that Karaism is
    this or That,they were the ones that claimed
    Karaites were not jewish, and could not get
    Religious tax exemptions, in Europe, Russia,
    and the hapsburg dynasty.
    Karaites gladly paid their taxes, and proved
    their moralities in those countries, and earned
    the respect, and Notice in their Ways.
    A Karaite Tradition, is not a Rabbinite
    tradition, with it’s Oral Law, the Talmuids,
    the mishnas, Zohar, and Kabballa.
    but the written Torah, and tanaka ONLY.
    and has been from the Babylonian captivity onword.

    Like

    Reply
    1. kaiserscience Post author

      Samuel writes ‘Karaite Judaism, is the longest Living form of judaism. most somehow believe,”
      No Samuel, that is absolutely ridiculous. Not a single historian in the world believes such a fairy tale.

      Anan Ben David (c. 715 – 795 or 811?) (Hebrew: ענן בן דוד‎) is widely considered to be a major founder of the Karaite movement. And it wasn’t until a century later that Karaism really became a distinct religion.

      In contrast, rabbinic Judaism is based on the Mishnah, which includes the Jewish oral law from centuries before the common era (200 CE, and even further back.) So rabbinic Judaism is at least 1,000 years older than the modern movement called Karaism.

      I understand that you really like Karaism, but your mythology of it’s origins is non-historical,

      Like

      Reply
  2. Jeffrey Marker

    This is not a bad chart, but it takes the rabbinic understanding as a direct descendant of the Pharisees as the truth, while the reality is more complex. It also ignores that there were other ways of being Jewish after the destruction of the Temple. All a classic example of the victor writing the history.

    As for Conservatism being offshoots of Reform, both Conservative and Orthodoxy were responses to Reform. We all like to think of ourselves as the true heirs of Rabbinic Judaism, especially Haridim. Certainly Yeshivish Judaism is a much more closed off from the world than even the yeshiva world was 130 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. kaiserscience Post author

      Jeff writes “This is not a bad chart, but it takes the rabbinic understanding as a direct descendant of the Pharisees as the truth, while the reality is more complex. It also ignores that there were other ways of being Jewish after the destruction of the Temple. All a classic example of the victor writing the history.”

      I disagree – and here’s why – grab your PC monitor, and rotate it 30 degrees clockwise (really!) Guess what? Everything stays exactly the same, but now the Samaritans are in the center.
      Next grab your PC monitor, and rotate it 30 degrees counter-clockwise (really!) Guess what? Everything stays exactly the same, but now the Karaites are in the center! 🙂

      This diagram that I made is a cladogram; a family tree of groups by shared characteristics, in historical order, with branches shown – as best I can – in a historical fashion (linear axis is time.)

      I’ve never seen a fairer chart 🙂 I used the skills of cladogram construction.

      http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_05

      “All a classic example of the victor writing the history.”” – Nah, I don’t see any errors, I merely centered the chart on rabbinic Judaism, instead of other branches (e.g. Karaism, Christianity, Samaritarianism, Islam, Donmeh, and all the other faiths that split off of rabbinic Judaism.) But you could add more branches, and then center the chart on your own preferred religion.

      Nothing on this chart implies scientific proof that rabbinic Judaism is “true”; I wish that I could have such true and certain evidence, man, but all I have are the tools of history.

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      Reply
  3. Jerry Blaz

    There are academics who specialize in ancient texts, archaeologists,
    linguists, historians, each field which contributes to our knowledge and understanding of Judaism, However, by concentrating on theological aspects of Judaism, most Jews overlook vital aspects of the Jewish civilization. The fact remains that from Josephus in the Roman period until the enlightenment in Europe help create the Wissenschaft movement in Judaism, history was not being written, though Jews certainly have a history. So for close to two millennia, we had many writings reflecting Jewish concerns and the ways Jews were living but not history.

    Today there is a strong historical tradition but it is a recent one. Rabbis are not historians, though today in the U.S. many are historically-oriented, but we are still deficient in the knowledge of Jewish history because it still is in its nascent period. And other academics are examining Judaism and the Jewish people and trying to connect to the multiple languages spoken by Jews, often developing distinct Judeo-languages, the most famous being Yiddish and Ladino, but there are many “Arabics” that were spoken by Jews in various Arabic-speaking diasporas, etc. Texts are being discovered, the most famous, the “Cairo geniza” — which is becoming a subject of its own, and other similar discoveries of texts which tell of Jewish life, often of daily commerce and other correspondence that gives us insights into Jewish life from sources that are extra-rabbinic. So truly as our history is formalized into a body, languages once spoken being discovered and the ancillary literatures that existed along side these Jews’ lives.

    It is in the discovery of this past that the Jewish future will reflect a more complete understanding of our long and fascinating story of the Jewish people.

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  4. Nechemia Kraus

    The chart skips over the schism during the hellenist period.

    During the second temple there were Zealots, Hasideans, Therapeutae, and Hemerobaptists. Also Qumranites, assuming they do not comfortably fit into any of the other sects that we know of.

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    1. kaiserscience Post author

      Yes, it does skip over them.
      This chart rapidly became too complicated 🙂
      I need to make a second chart concentrating more on the modern day denominations, and a second chart concentrating on the ancient ones.
      Need some help in the graphics department 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Groups that claim to be Jewish | merrimack valley havurah

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