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What are the main varieties of Judaism?


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September 15, 2017 1:59PM

First of all, it should be stressed that all Jews have the same Torah.
Jews may be classed according to lifestyle, geography, or outlook.

Lifestyle: there are Jews who are more stringent (Orthodox) or less stringent (Conservative, Reform) in their observance of the Torah's commands.

Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah must be fully observed (Deuteronomy 13:5). They keep the laws of Judaism as codified in the Shulchan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law), which lists the laws of the Torah and Talmud. Torah-study is seen as very important (Deuteronomy 5:1); and the modern world is seen as subservient to the Torah (Talmud, Nedarim 32a), not the other way around.
Other Jewish groups (Conservative, Reform) adapt, curtail or change the Torah-laws in contemporary life, to a greater or lesser degree.

Geography: there are Ashkenazi (Western) Jews and Sephardi/Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews. In Medieval times, the Ashkenazim were in France and Germany, the Sephardim were in pre-expulsion Spain, and the Mizrahi (Edot Hamizrach) were in North Africa, Turkey and Iraq. (There are others too, such as Yemeni and Romaniote (Greek Jews), but the above are the largest groups.)

Outlook: among the religious Jewish communities, there are the Yeshiva (Litvish) community, Hassidim, and Modern Orthodox. (Hassidim are the ones who wear long frock-coats.)

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November 30, 2010 6:07AM

There are many denominations within Judaism, and the major denominations vary by country:

  • In North America there are 4: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist.
  • In the UK there are 4: Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, and Liberal/Progressive.
  • In Ireland there are 2: Orthodox and Progressive.
  • In Israel there is 1: Orthodox (although other denominiations are now starting to gain acceptance1).