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Alternative Judaism or Agnostic Judaism refers to a variety of groups whose members, while identifying as Jews in some fashion, nevertheless do not practice Rabbinical Judaism as most other Jews.


Generally, beliefs of these groups are not compatible with mainstream Judaism. Instead, their beliefs fall outside of the traditional views of the Torah and Jewish law. These movements may be explicitly atheistic, or they may incorporate certain elements foreign to Judaism, such as pagan or other religious traditions. Mainstream Jewish movements often criticize alternative groups as “not being Jewish”, as alternative groups often follow ideas that fall outside two important parameters historically apparent in Jewish theology: the oneness of God and God's non-corporeal nature. [1]


Alternative forms of Judaism are nothing new in Jewish history, and have appeared in the past in such forms as the Sabbateans and Frankists which fell outside the common Orthodox and Non-Orthodox (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist) classification of the four major streams of today's Jewish denominations. These may be combinations of secular Jewish culture and Jewish symbolism with non-Jewish religions and philosophies.

Alternative movements within Judaism

Modern alternative movements that have emerged from within traditional Judaism:

  • Humanistic Judaism, an organized group that takes a non-theistic or agnostic approach to Judaism and which has around 50,000 members worldwide in over 60 congregations. It is cultural and human-centered, rather than spiritual.
  • Jewish Renewal, an organized spiritualist approach to Judaism, incorporating Kabbalah and New Age principles, with around 50 congregations worldwide.
  • Jewish Theosophy

Alternative movements outside Judaism

Movements (some of which are syncretic) with origins outside of traditional Judaism:

  • Judeo-Paganism, loosely-organized groups or individuals who practice pagan or Wiccan beliefs.
  • Jewish Buddhists, another loosely organized group that incorporates elements of Asian spirituality in their faith.
  • A number of non-Jewish movements consider themselves to be "Israelites" due to a purported connection to the Lost Ten Tribes, such as the Anglo-Israelism movement. These groups are not generally made up of Jews, and in some cases deny that the Jewish people are related to the ancient Israelites. See also Supersessionism.
  • The Messianic Judaism movement, Hebrew Christians, Jews for Jesus and other groups that believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, are not considered a part of Judaism by Jews,[2][3][4] Jewish denominations,[5][6][7] and many Christians.[8] Messianic Jews are also not considered Jewish under the State of Israel's Law of Return.[9]

See also


  1. "For most American Jews, it is acceptable to blend some degree of foreign spiritual elements with Judaism. The one exception is Christianity, which is perceived to be incompatible with any form of Jewishness. Jews for Jesus and other Messianic Jewish groups are thus seen as antithetical to Judaism and are completely rejected by the majority of Jews". (Kaplan, Dana Evan. The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism, Cambridge University Press, Aug 15, 2005, p. 9).
    • Kaplan, Dana Evan (August 2005). "Introduction". in Dana Evan Kaplan (ed.). The Cambridge companion to American Judaism. Cambridge Companions to Religion. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 9. LCCN 2004-024336. ISBN 0521822041. "For most American Jews, it is acceptable to blend some degree of foreign spiritual elements with Judaism. The one exception is Christianity, which is perceived to be incompatible with any form of Jewishness....Messianic Jewish groups are thus seen as antithetical to Judaism and are completely rejected by the majority of Jews." 
    • Ariel, Yaakov (2005) [1995]. "Protestant Attitudes to Jews and Judaism During the Last Fifty Years". in Robert S. Wistrich (ed.). Terms of survival: the Jewish world since 1945 (Digital Printing edition ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 343. LCCN 94-22069. ISBN 0415100569. "Evangelical Christians are engaged in aggressive and extensive missionary activity among Jews. Among other results, this has given rise to groups of 'Messianic Jews', of which 'Jews for Jesus' is the most outstanding example. These are actually Jews who have adopted the evangelical Protestant faith and its precepts." 
    • Simmons, Shraga. "Messianic Jews, Buddhist Jews". Ask Rabbi Simmons. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Yet there are limits to pluralism, beyond which a group is schismatic to the point where it is no longer considered Jewish. For example, everyone considers Messianic Judaism and belief in Buddha as outside of the Jewish sphere." 
    • Schoen, Robert (April 2004). "Jews, Jesus, and Christianity". What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press. pp. 11. LCCN 2003-24404. ISBN 082941777X.,M1. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "The Jewish people believe that when the Messiah comes there will be an end to world suffering.…Jews do not believe, therefore, that the Messiah has come, and they do not recognize Jesus as their savior or as the Son of God." 
    • "Messianic Judaism: A Christian Missionary Movement". Messiah Truth Project. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Messianic Judaism is a Christian movement that began in the 1970s combining a mixture of Jewish ritual and Christianity. There are a vast and growing numbers of these groups, and they differ in how much Jewish ritual is mixed with conventional Christian belief. One end of the spectrum is represented by Jews For Jesus, who simply target Jews for conversion to Christianity using imitations of Jewish ritual solely as a ruse for attracting the potential Jewish converts. On the other end are those who don't stress the divinity of Jesus, but present him as the "Messiah." They incorporate distorted Jewish ritual on an ongoing basis." 
    • Ariel, David S. (1995). "The Messiah". What do Jews believe?: The Spiritual Foundations of Judaism. New York, NY: Schocken Books. pp. 212. LCCN 94-3550. ISBN 0805241191. "The Jews of the first centuries of the Common Era believed the Messiah had not yet come, while the followers of Jesus—strongly influenced by contemporary Jewish messianism—asserted that he was the Messiah. The belief that the Messiah has arrived and that he is Jesus is the teaching that most acutely divides Judaism from Christianity." 
    • Nuesner, Jacob (February 2000) [1994]. "Come, Let us Reason Together". A Rabbi Talks With Jesus. Donald H. Akerson (forward) (Revised ed. ed.). Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 3–4. LCCN 2001-339789. ISBN 0773520465.,M1. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "I write this book to shed some light why, while Christians believe in Jesus Christ and the good news of his rule in the kingdom of Heaven, Jews believe in the Torah of Moses and form on earth and in their own flesh God’s kingdom of priests and the holy people. And that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah. Where Jesus diverges from the revelation by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, he is wrong, and Moses is right." 
  2. Schiffman, Lawrence H. (1993). "Meeting the Challenge: Hebrew Christians and the Jewish Community" (PDF). Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Though Hebrew Christianity claims to be a form of Judaism, it is not. It is nothing more than a disguised effort to missionize Jews and convert them to Christianity. It deceptively uses the sacred symbols of Jewish observance…as a cover to convert Jews to Christianity, a belief system antithetical to Judaism.…Hebrew Christianity is not a form of Judaism and its members, even if they are of Jewish birth, cannot be considered members of the Jewish community. Hebrew Christians are in radical conflict with the communal interests and the destiny of the Jewish people. They have crossed an unbreachable chasm by accepting another religion. Despite this separation, they continue to attempt to convert their former coreligionists." 
  3. Balmer, Randall Herbert (November 2004). "Messianic Judaism". Encyclopedia of evangelicalism (Rev. and expanded ed. ed.). Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. pp. pp. 448–449. ISBN 193279204X LCCN 2004-10023.,M1. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Messianic Jewish organizations, such as Jews for Jesus, often refer to their faith as fulfilled Judaism, in that they believe Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies. Although Messianic Judaism claims to be Jewish, and many adherents observe Jewish holidays, most Jews regard Messianic Judaism as deceptive at best, fraudulent at worst. They charge that Messianic Judaism is actually Christianity presenting itself as Judaism. Jewish groups are particularly distressed at the aggressive evangelistic attempts on the part of Messianic Jews.". 
  4. "Why Don't Jews Believe in Jesus?". Ask the Rabbi. Aish HaTorah. February 1, 2001. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  5. Waxman, Jonathan (2006). "Messianic Jews Are Not Jews". United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Hebrew Christian, Jewish Christian, Jew for Jesus, Messianic Jew, Fulfilled Jew. The name may have changed over the course of time, but all of the names reflect the same phenomenon: one who asserts that s/he is straddling the theological fence between Judaism and Christianity, but in truth is firmly on the Christian side.…we must affirm as did the Israeli Supreme Court in the well-known Brother Daniel case that to adopt Christianity is to have crossed the line out of the Jewish community." 
  6. "Missionary Impossible". Hebrew Union College. August 9, 1999. Retrieved 2007-02-14. "Missionary Impossible, an imaginative video and curriculum guide for teachers, educators, and rabbis to teach Jewish youth how to recognize and respond to "Jews-for-Jesus," "Messianic Jews," and other Christian proselytizers, has been produced by six rabbinic students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's Cincinnati School. The students created the video as a tool for teaching why Jewish college and high school youth and Jews in intermarried couples are primary targets of Christian missionaries." 
  7. Berman, Daphna (June 10, 2006). "Aliyah with a cat, a dog and Jesus". Haaretz. Retrieved 2007-02-20. "In rejecting their petition, Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon cited their belief in Jesus. ‘In the last two thousand years of history…the Jewish people have decided that messianic Jews do not belong to the Jewish nation…and have no right to force themselves on it,’ he wrote, concluding that ‘those who believe in Jesus, are, in fact Christians.’ The state's position is backed by all streams of normative Judaism, none of which recognizes messianic Jews as Jews."