Local Jews Struggle with Internal Conflicts Orthodox Declaration Just Latest Example of Profound Differences within Religion

By Chase, John | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 18, 1997 | Go to article overview

Local Jews Struggle with Internal Conflicts Orthodox Declaration Just Latest Example of Profound Differences within Religion


Chase, John, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: John Chase Daily Herald Staff Writer

Judaism facts

Here are some of the differences among the major denominations of Judaism in America:

LITURGY

Orthodox: Entirely in Hebrew.

Conservative: Mostly Hebrew but some English.

Reconstructionist: Some Hebrew, some English.

Reform: More English than most.

SABBATH

Orthodox: Can't do anything that creates a spark, such as starting a car or turning on a light. This is a partial reason for the clustering seen in many towns because Orthodox Jews must walk to services on the Sabbath.

Non-Orthodox: Allowed to travel by car to services.

WOMEN

Orthodox: Separate men and women in two sections of the synagogue to discourage socializing.

Conservative: Give more freedoms to women than Orthodox do.

Reconstructionist: More liberal in views of women, including having a gender-neutral prayer book.

Reform: First to have women as rabbis.

FOOD

Orthodox: Follow strict kosher rules.

Non-Orthodox: More lax on some laws dealing with food preparation and what's allowed to be eaten, but dependent upon particular beliefs.

LAWS

Orthodox: View 613 laws in the Torah as the governing non-negotiable laws of Jewish life.

Non-Orthodox: The 613 laws are looked at more as tradition and are subject to interpretation.

Source: Interviews with Jewish leaders

It was so outrageous it seemed unreal.

But the words put forth by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, the oldest group of Orthodox Jewish leaders in America, were real. And they were strong.

The group claimed that the other movements within Judaism - the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist denominations - "are not Judaism at all" but rather "another religion."

The group went even further, telling all Jews that they are "prohibited to pray in a non-Orthodox temple at any time."

That was a month and a half ago. And although most Jewish leaders, and even many Orthodox rabbis, rejected it as ramblings from a minority faction, it showed something.

It showed, some of those same leaders said, that there's a lack of unity within the religion.

"Judaism is not in a good state right now," Northwestern University philosophy professor Kenneth Seeskin said. "There seems to be too much of an emphasis on the movements within Judaism rather than Judaism itself."

It's a crucial time for the Jewish faith these days, partly because of the differences among the movements - and there are many.

From the Hasidic Jews dressed in black who tend to cluster in parts of Chicago and Skokie because they must walk weekly to synagogue on Sabbath and only eat Kosher foods, to the more liberal Jews spread out all over the suburbs who drive to services when they can make it, the differences are clear.

Some say they are simply variances in lifestyle and not in belief. …

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Local Jews Struggle with Internal Conflicts Orthodox Declaration Just Latest Example of Profound Differences within Religion
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