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Paper #2 Judaism and Christianity Kelly To

Compare and contrast two different branches of Judaism. Pick any two: Orthodox, Reform,
Conservative, Reconstructionist. What beliefs do they have in common? In answering this,
you’ll need to explain some of the core history and traditions of Judaism in general. What do
they disagree about? In answering this, you’ll need to explain the origin of each tradition and
what makes it different.

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With approximately 14 million followers (mostly in the United States, Israel, and
Europe), Judaism is one of the largest and oldest religions in the world. In Judaism, it is
believed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the original leaders of the faith, and that Moses
receives the word of God (referred to as YHWH) and reveals his prophecy to the Israelites. This
is believed to be documented in the Hebrew Bible, which is divided into three sections: the
Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim. The Torah, also called the Pentateuch, consists of the
books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and
collective contains the law of God. The Nevi’im contains narratives of various prophets such as
Moses and their instructions to the Israelites. The Ketuvim contains songs, prayers and other
literature. According to Murray, modern Jewish festivals, customs, and rituals are derived from
the biblical stories of the Hebrew Bible. Judaism and its followers have experienced a long
history of faith, persecution, and reform from Solomon’s rule to the Holocaust during World
War II. However, most sects of Judaism share similar fundamental beliefs, as described in the
text. Like Islam, the Jewish believe in one God and are referred to as monotheists. The Torah in
the Hebrew Bible serves as the sacred text of the Jewish and the Israelites were referred to as
the chosen people of YHWH. Early Jewish literature also proposes the women, formed from
the rib of man, should show modesty. Therefore, early Judaism suggests that women were not
ideal for leadership roles because that would be against the notion that they should show

Paper #2 Judaism and Christianity Kelly To

modesty (Murray, 96). Judaism also practices strict dietary laws, known as “kashrut”. Foods
that are kosher, or proper, differ in not only the type of food but also how it is prepared and
served. According to Judaism, one must only consume animals that are slaughtered in a
humane manner and not have died of natural causes. These animals must also have split
hooves and chew from the cud (Murray, 129). They may only consume seafood that have scales
or fins. Moreover, Jews cannot eat birds of prey such as vultures. Another important dietary
laws that practicing Jews follow is to not consume meat and dairy in the same meal. Over time,
Jewish traditions and ideals were combined with modern beliefs which resulted in several
modern branches of Judaism: Reform, Orthodox, Conservation, Reconstructionist, and
Humanistic. There are several similarities and differences between Reform and Orthodox
Judaism.
Founded in 18th century Germany, Reform Judaism found ideals of the Enlightenment to
reflect those of Judaism. Albert Geiger was the leader of the Reform movement, and he showed
that reorganization of Judaism was inevitable if it was changing with its environment. Reform
Jews do not practice the strict dietary laws or kashrut that traditional Jews follow (Murray,
127). Reform Judaism also encourages interaction between the differing branches of Judaism.
Abandoning the idea that the women are inferior, Reform Jews welcomed women to serve as
rabbis. In 1972, Sally Priesand became the first female Rabbi in America.
To counter the effects of Reform Judaism, the Orthodox Jewish Branch emerged and
held more of the traditional Jewish ideals. Murray states that this movement was led by Samuel
Raphael Hirsch who taught that the Torah is the revealed word of YHWH and should be
important in every aspect of one’s life. Unlike the Reform Jews that embraced interfaith

Paper #2 Judaism and Christianity Kelly To

relations, the Orthodox Jews maintained segregated communities. Moreover, Orthodox Jewish
men pray in separate areas from women who sit in a separate section of the temple. Orthodox
wedding traditions also differ from Reform Jewish weddings in that the glass is broken by the
groom whereas in Reform weddings, both newly-weds step on and break the glass which is
believed to symbolize the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the fragility of life and love
(Murray, 143).
Other striking differences between Reform and Orthodox Judaism concerns offspring,
acceptance of homosexuality and gender roles. If the mother is Jewish by birth or by conversion
in an Orthodox synagogue, the child is considered Jewish. Reform Jews believe that the child is
Jewish if one of the parents is Jewish (Murray, 14500. Orthodox Jews still believe homosexuality
to be an abomination whereas Reform Judaism favors equality, allows same-sex marriage and
will even allow gays and lesbians to become ordained as rabbis. Orthodox branches still do not
treat females equally and do not allow women to become rabbis or read the Torah aloud during
synagogue services. Reform Judaism has taken a more modern stance of gender equality allow
women to perform both tasks (Murray, 145).
While both Reform and Orthodox branches of Judaism reflect more modern approaches
of living and thinking than traditional Jewish beliefs, they share greater differences than
similarities. Reform Judaism does not follow the strict dietary practices that Orthodox or
traditional branches of Judaism practice. Reform Jews also demonstrate greater gender
equality and acceptance of homosexuals as Murray discusses in the text. Orthodox Jews do not
allow women to serve as rabbis nor can they read from the Torah during services. Reform Jews
embraces communication with those of difference branches and faiths unlike the Orthodox

Paper #2 Judaism and Christianity Kelly To

Jewish who form segregated communities. Both branches of Judaism follow the teachings of
the Torah in the Hebrew Bible; however, the Orthodox branch follows it more strictly.

Paper #2 Judaism and Christianity Kelly To

Works Cited

Murray, Michele “Chapter 3: Jewish Traditions” in A Concise Introduction to World Religions, Third
Edition. Willard Oxtoby, et al., Oxford University Press, 2015, p 90-146.

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