JUDAISM – NEED TO KNOWs!
Some terms and concepts you need to know about the religion of Judaism
Contemporary Judaism can be broken down into roughly 3-4 major
– Black hats, big beards, women wearing wigs or head-coverings. This group has made the
least compromises with the modern world. Their lives revolve around strict observance of Jewish laws,
customs, and practices. They follow the
very strictly. Most live in enclaves in urban areas. Their
distinct dress is part of their attempt to remain separate from non-Jewish society.
are part of this
general designation, but have their own distinct take on strict Jewish observance.
(You might think of the
difference between strict Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians) If you go to an ultra-Orthodox synagogue,
prayers are a cacophony—all in Hebrew, with a ‘sermon’ in Yiddish—women may be entirely invisible, being
seated in a gallery or beyond a thick divider. Non-Jews are not exactly welcome or expected there. They are a
small, but visible percentage of the entire Jewish world, maybe 10%. The rabbi, always a man, dominates the
various ultra-orthodox sub-communities.
– This group is also committed to a strict, traditional obedience to Jewish laws and customs.
However, they are more accommodating to the modern world. They may wear regular clothes, but (men) with
yarmulkes (skullcaps), women with modest attire. Senator Joe Lieberman is Modern Orthodox. If you go to a
Modern Orthodox synagogue, prayers are all in Hebrew and men and women will be seated separately from
each other by a thin curtain or barrier. They are a small but significant percentage of the Jewish world, maybe
Rabbis are very important, but women can be serious teachers in this world as well.
This denomination, once the majority in America, holds a traditional, but very modern, form of
Jewish observance. Conservative Jews may observe the Sabbath, but will drive to Synagogue for Sabbath
services (driving a car is not permitted to more strict Jews). Conservative Jews may keep Kosher at home, but
eat at non-strictly Kosher restaurants. Conservative Jews are serious about Jewish religious practices, but
consider secular sources of wisdom very important as well. If you go to a Conservative service, you will see
men and women praying together mostly in Hebrew, even women leading services. Women as well as