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Judaism Today
As with many religions, Judaism divided into different groups throughout time. The three
main groups are:
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism holds on to all of the ancient Jewish traditions and does not believe
that they can be changed in any way. Orthodox Jews strictly follow the Laws of the
Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament. The Hebrew language is used in all religious
services and men and women sit separately in the synagogue. All of the food laws are
still adhered to and only food that is considered kosher (clean) may be eaten. This
makes eating out quite difficult as only kosher restaurants may be used. Men always
wear a hat or a skullcap as a mark of respect to God. The Sabbath is kept as a complete
day of rest with no travel, cooking or work of any kind allowed.
Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism began in America and attempts to hold on to as many Jewish
traditions as possible. However, it recognises that life is very different for Jews today
when compared to the experiences of those in the Hebrew Scriptures. They still follow
the dietary laws and the laws of the Sabbath and other celebrations, but they do allow
some changes. For example, women and men are allowed to sit together in the
synagogue and Hebrew does not have to be used for all of the services. For the first
time in 1960 Conservative Jews could use electricity on the Sabbath and could use their
cars to travel to and from the synagogue.
Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism believes that every generation has the right to choose which traditions
they accept, reject or change. The Sabbath and other festivals are still considered to be
important but men do not have to wear the traditional dress to worship. Hebrew is not
used very often and women play a much greater role in services than in the other
branches of Judaism. It is entirely up to the individual to choose whether they want to
follow the dietary laws or not.
1. Which is the strictest form of Judaism?
2. Name two changes that Conservative Judaism has allowed?
3. What is the attitude towards the use of the Hebrew language in religious services in
each of the branches?
4. Read Deuteronomy 14:3-10 and describe the Jewish food (dietary) laws in your own