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Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a leading Rabbinical authority for Orthodox Jewry of the second half of the twentieth century.

Orthodox Judaism is a formulation of Judaism that adheres to a relatively strict interpretation and application of the laws and ethics canonized in the Talmudic texts ("Oral Torah") and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim.

Orthodox Judaism is characterized by belief that:

  • the Torah and its laws are Divine, were transmitted by God to Moses, are eternal, and are unalterable.
  • there is an oral law in Judaism, which contains the authoritative interpretation of the written Torah's legal sections, and is also Divine by virtue of having been transmitted by God to Moses along with the Oral Law, as embodied in the Talmud, Midrash, and innumerable related texts, all intrinsically and inherently entwined with the written law of the Torah;
  • God has made an exclusive, unbreakable covenant with the Children of Israel to be governed by the Torah;
  • adherence to Halakha, or Jewish law, includes accepting codes, mainly the Shulchan Aruch, as authoritative practical guidance in application of both the written and oral laws, as well as acceptance of halakha-following Rabbis as authoritative interpreters and judges of Jewish law; and
  • Jewish eschatology is sacred. Orthodox beliefs may be seen in their adherence to the thirteen Jewish principles of faith as stated by the Rambam (Maimonides).

Although Orthodox Jews are expected to observe all 613 mitzvot, certain core practices are generally considered essential to being Orthodox:

  • Refraining from murder, idolatry, and certain biblically prohibited sexual practices, such as adultery, homosexuality and incest, at the cost of life if necessary (see self-sacrifice in Jewish law).
  • Observing Shabbat, by refraining from activities that violate the Jewish sabbath, and Jewish holidays.
  • Practicing Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws.
  • Following Taharat Hamishpacha, the laws of family purity, restricting sexual relations for a prescribed period around menstruation and after childbirth; and
  • Circumcision for males.


Orthodoxy is not a single movement or school of thought. There is no single rabbinic body to which all rabbis are expected to belong, or any one organization representing member congregations. In the United States, there are numerous Orthodox congregational organizations, such as Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union, and the National Council of Young Israel; none of which can claim to represent a majority of all Orthodox congregations.

What the exact forms of Judaism were during the times of Moses or during the eras of the Mishnah and Talmud cannot be known today, but Orthodox Jews maintain that contemporary Orthodox Judaism maintains the same basic philosophy and legal framework that existed throughout Jewish history, whereas the other denominations depart from it. Orthodox Judaism, as it exists today, is an outgrowth that claims to extend from the time of Moses, to the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, through the development of oral law and rabbinic literature, until the present time.

In the early 19th century, elements within German Jewry sought to reform Jewish belief and practice in response to The Age of Enlightenment and the Jewish Emancipation. In light of contemporary scholarship, they denied divine authorship of the Torah, declared only those biblical laws concerning ethics to be binding, and stated that the rest of halakha (Jewish law) need no longer be viewed as normative (see Reform Judaism).

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch

At the same time, some German Jews maintained their traditions and adhered to Jewish law while simultaneously engaging with a post-Enlightenment society. This group was represented by the work and thought of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Hirsch held that Judaism demands an application of Torah thought to the entire realm of human experience—including the secular disciplines. This philosophy is termed Torah im Derech Eretz. While insisting on strict adherence to Jewish beliefs and practices, he held that Jews should attempt to engage and influence the modern world, and encouraged those secular studies compatible with Torah thought. This form of Judaism is sometimes termed "neo-Orthodoxy". This pattern of religious and secular involvement has been evident at many times in Jewish history. Scholars believe it was characteristic of the Jews in Babylon during the Amoraic and Geonic periods, and likewise in early medieval Spain, shown by their engagement with both Muslim and Christian society. It appeared as the traditional response to cultural and scientific innovation.

Some scholars believe that Modern Orthodoxy arose from the religious and social realities of Western European Jewry. While most Jews consider Modern Orthodoxy traditional today, some[who?] within the Orthodox community groups to its right consider it of questionable validity. The neo-Orthodox movement holds that Hirsch's views are not accurately followed by Modern Orthodoxy. [See Torah im Derech Eretz and Torah Umadda "Relationship with Torah im Derech Eretz" for a more extensive listing.]

In the 20th century, a segment of the Orthodox population (notably as represented by the World Agudath Israel movement formally established in 1912) disagreed with Modern Orthodoxy and took a stricter approach. For some, the motto "recent is forbidden by Torah" was appealing, but they followed various routes of observance and practice. Such rabbis viewed innovations and modifications within Jewish law and customs with extreme care and caution. Some observers and scholars refer to this form of Judaism as "Haredi Judaism", or "Ultra-Orthodox Judaism". The latter term is controversial, and some consider the label "ultra-Orthodox" pejorative.

Several media entities refrain from using the term “ultra Orthodox”, including the Religion Newswriters Association; JTA, the global Jewish news service; and the Star-Ledger, New Jersey's largest daily newspaper, according the New Jersey Press Association.[1] New Jersey attorney Stephen E. Schwartz, Esq., convinced the Star-Ledger to become the first mainstream newspaper to drop the term.[2] Several local Jewish papers, including Jewish Week in New York and Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia have also dropped use of the term. According to Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer, spiritual leader of Temple Israel Community Center in Cliffside Park and former executive editor of Jewish Week, this leaves “Orthodox” as “an umbrella term that designates a very widely disparate group of people very loosely tied together by some core beliefs.”[3]

The various approaches have proved resilient. Scholars estimate more Jews are studying in yeshivot (Talmudical schools) and Kollelim (post-graduate Talmudical colleges for married students) than at any other time in history. In 1915 Yeshiva College (later Yeshiva University) and its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary was established in New York, New York for training in an Orthodox milieu. A school branch was established in Los Angeles, California. A number of other influential Orthodox seminaries, mostly Haredi, were established throughout the country, most notably in New York, Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois. Beth Medrash Govoha, the Haredi yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey is the largest Talmudic academy in the United States, with a student body of over 5,000 students.

Origin of the term "Orthodox"

While many Orthodox Jews accept the label "Orthodox", others reject and criticise it because it was not a traditional name for Jews who strictly interpreted and followed halakha in ancient times or the Middle Ages. Many Orthodox Jews prefer to call their faith and practice Torah Judaism. The word "orthodox" is derived from the Greek orthos (straight/correct) and doxa meaning (opinion or belief).

The "Orthodox" label seems to arise near the beginning of the 19th century. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in 1854 that: was not "Orthodox" Jews who introduced the word "orthodox" into Jewish discussion. It was the modern "progressive" Jews who first applied the name to "old," "backward" Jews as a derogatory term. This name was... resented by "old" Jews. And rightfully so...

Others note that Rabbi Isaac Leeser was the first to use the term in the United States in his journal, The Occident, whose target audience was the more "traditional" or Orthodox Jew. Yet others explain that the term arose from the growth of the Reformer Movement, which was "unorthodox", thus making the traditionalists, the "orthodox."

Diversity within Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism's central belief is that Torah, including the Written Law, was given directly from God to Moses and applies in all times and places. Haredi Judaism asserts that it may no longer be changed in any fashion. As a result, all Jews are required to live in accordance with the Commandments and Jewish law.

Since there is no one Orthodox body, there is no one canonical statement of principles of faith. Rather, each Orthodox group claims to be a non-exclusive heir to the received tradition of Jewish theology, while still affirming a literal acceptance of Maimonides' thirteen principles.

Given this (relative) philosophic flexibility, variant viewpoints are possible, particularly in areas not explicitly demarcated by the Halakha. The result is a relatively broad range of hashkafot, or world views, within Orthodoxy. The greatest differences within strains of Orthodoxy are over:

  • the degree to which an Orthodox Jew should integrate and/or disengage from secular society;
  • whether Zionism is part of Judaism or opposed to it, and the role of the modern State of Israel in Judaism;
  • their philosophical approach to Torah/Talmud/Aggadah/Halakha;
  • the validity of secular knowledge;
  • whether the talmudic obligation to learn and practice a trade applies in our times;
  • the centrality of yeshivas as the place for personal Torah study;
  • the importance of a central spiritual guide in areas outside of Halakhic decision (Da'as Torah);
  • the importance of maintaining non-Halakhic customs, such as dress, language and music;
  • the role of women in (religious) society; and
  • the nature of the relationship with non-Jews.

Streams of Orthodoxy

The above differences are realised in the various subgroups of Orthodoxy, which maintain significant social differences, and differences in understanding Halakha. These groups, broadly, comprise Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism, with most Hasidic Jewish groups falling into the latter category.

Modern Orthodoxy comprises a fairly broad spectrum of movements, each drawing on several distinct, though related, philosophies, which in some combination provide the basis for all variations of the movement today. In general, Modern Orthodoxy holds that Jewish law is normative and binding, while simultaneously attaching a positive value to interaction with contemporary society. In this view, Orthodox Judaism can “be enriched” by its intersection with modernity; further, “modern society creates opportunities to be productive citizens engaged in the Divine work of transforming the world to benefit humanity”. At the same time, in order to preserve the integrity of halakha, any area of “powerful inconsistency and conflict” between Torah and modern culture must be avoided.[4]

Modern Orthodoxy, additionally, assigns a central role to the "People of Israel".[5] Modern Orthodoxy, in general, places a high national, as well as religious, significance on the State of Israel, and Modern Orthodox institutions and individuals are, typically, Zionist in orientation. It also practices involvement with non-orthodox Jews that extends beyond "outreach (Kiruv)" to continued institutional relations and cooperation; see further under Torah Umadda.

A Haredi Jew

Haredi Judaism advocates segregation from non-Jewish culture, although not from non-Jewish society entirely. It is characterised by its focus on community-wide Torah study.

Haredi Orthodoxy's differences with Modern Orthodoxy usually lie in interpretation of the nature of traditional halakhic concepts and in acceptable application of these concepts. Thus, engaging in the commercial world is a legitimate means to achieving a livelihood, but individuals should participate in modern society as little as possible.

The same outlook is applied with regard to obtaining degrees necessary to enter one's intended profession: where tolerated in the Haredi society, attending secular institutions of higher education is viewed as a necessary but inferior activity. Academic interest is instead to be directed toward the religious education found in the yeshiva. Both boys and girls attend school and may proceed to higher Torah study, starting anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18. A significant proportion of students, especially boys, remain in yeshiva until marriage (which is often arranged through facilitated dating. See shiduch), and many study in a kollel (Torah study institute for married men) for many years after marriage. Most Orthodox men, even those not in Kollel, will study Torah daily.

Hasidic Judaism originated in Eastern Europe (what is now Belarus and Ukraine) in the 18th century. Founded by Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), it originated in an age of persecution of the Jewish people, when a schism existed between scholarly and common European Jews. In addition to bridging this class gap, Hasidic teachings sought to reintroduce joy in the performance of the commandments and in prayer. This joy had been suppressed in by the intense intellectual study of the Talmud. The Ba'al Shem Tov sought to combine rigorous scholarship with more emotional mitzvah observance.

In practice

The Babylonian Talmud

For guidance in practical application of Jewish law, the majority of Orthodox Jews appeal to the Shulchan Aruch ("Code of Jewish Law" composed in the 16th century by Rabbi Joseph Caro) together with its surrounding commentaries. Thus, at a general level, there is a large degree of uniformity amongst all Orthodox Jews. Concerning the details, however, there is often variance: decisions may be based on various of the standardized codes of Jewish Law that have been developed over the centuries, as well as on the various responsa. These codes and responsa may differ from each other as regards detail (and reflecting the above differences, on the weight assigned to various issues). By and large, however, the differences result from the historic dispersal of the Jews and the consequent development of differences among regions in their practices.(see minhag).

  • Mizrahi and Sephardic Orthodox Jews base their practice on the Shulchan Aruch. Two recent works of Halakha, Kaf HaChaim and Ben Ish Chai, are considered authoritative in many Sephardic communities. Thus Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews may choose to follow the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai when it conflicts with the Shulchan Aruch. Some of these practices are derived from the Kabbalistic school of Isaac Luria.
  • Ashkenazic Orthodox Jews have traditionally based most of their practices on the Rema, the gloss on the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Moses Isserles, reflecting differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi custom. In the post-World War II period, the Mishnah Berurah has become authoritative. Ashkenazi Jews may choose to follow the Mishna Brurah instead of a particular detail of Jewish law as presented in the Shulchan Aruch.
  • Chabad Lubavitch Hasidim and many other Hasidic sects generally follow the rulings of Shneur Zalman of Liadi in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav.
  • Traditional Baladi and Dor Daim (Yemenite Jews) base most of their practices on the Mishneh Torah, the compendium by Maimonides of halakha, written several centuries before the Shulchan Aruch. The Talmidei haRambam also keep Jewish law as codified in the Mishneh Torah.
  • A smaller number, such as the Romaniote Jews, traditionally rule according to the Jerusalem Talmud over the Babylonian Talmud.
  • Spanish and Portuguese Jews consider the Shulchan Aruch as authoritative, but differ from other Sephardim by making less allowance for more recent authorities, in particular customs based on the Kabbalah. Some customs are based on Maimonides or the Arba'ah Turim.

(Note that Orthodox Jews demonstrate differing levels of observance as individuals. Thus there are those who would consider themselves "Orthodox" and yet may not be observant of, for example, the laws of family purity.)

Orthodox Judaism emphasizes practicing rules of Kashrut, Shabbat, Family Purity, and Tefilah (Prayer).

Externally, Orthodox Jews can often be identified by their manner of dress and family lifestyle. Orthodox women will traditionally dress modestly by keeping most of their skin covered. Additionally, most married women will cover their hair, usually in the form of hat, bandanna, or wig. Orthodox men traditionally wear a skullcap known as a kipa. Haredi men often grow beards, wear black hats and suits, in a formal attire.


13 Principles of Faith:
  1. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the Creator and Guide of everything that has been created; He alone has made, does make, and will make all things.
  2. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is One, and that there is no unity in any manner like His, and that He alone is our God, who was, and is, and will be.
  3. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, has no body, and that He is free from all the properties of matter, and that there can be no (physical) comparison to Him whatsoever.
  4. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, is the first and the last.
  5. I believe with perfect faith that to the Creator, Blessed be His Name, and to Him alone, it is right to pray, and that it is not right to pray to any being besides Him.
  6. I believe with perfect faith that all the words of the prophets are true.
  7. I believe with perfect faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both those who preceded him and those who followed him.
  8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that is now in our possession is the same that was given to Moses our teacher, peace be upon him.
  9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, and that there will never be any other Torah from the Creator, Blessed be His Name.
  10. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, knows all the deeds of human beings and all their thoughts, as it is written, "Who fashioned the hearts of them all, Who comprehends all their actions" (Psalms 33:15).
  11. I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, Blessed be His Name, rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those that transgress them.
  12. I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.
  13. I believe with perfect faith that there will be a revival of the dead at the time when it shall please the Creator, Blessed be His name, and His mention shall be exalted for ever and ever.

Orthodox Judaism is composed of different groups with intertwining beliefs, practices and theologies, although in their core beliefs, all Orthodox movements share the same principles.

Orthodoxy collectively considers itself the only true heir to the Jewish tradition. The Orthodox Jewish movements generally consider all non-Orthodox Jewish movements to be unacceptable deviations from authentic Judaism; both because of other denominations' doubt concerning the verbal revelation of Written and Oral Torah, and because of their rejection of Halakhic precedent as binding. As such, most Orthodox groups characterise non-Orthodox forms of Judaism as heretical; see the article on Relationships between Jewish religious movements.

Orthodox Judaism affirms monotheism, or the belief in one God. Among the in-depth explanations of that belief are Maimonidean rationalism, Kabbalistic mysticism, and Chassidic Philosophy (Chassidut). A few affirm self-limited omniscience (the theology elucidated by Gersonides in "The Wars of the Lord".)

Orthodox Judaism maintains the historical understanding of Jewish identity. A Jew is someone who was born to a Jewish mother, or who converts to Judaism in accordance with Jewish law and tradition. Orthodoxy thus rejects patrilineal descent as a means of establishing Jewish national identity. Similarly, Orthodoxy strongly condemns intermarriage. Intermarriage is seen as a deliberate rejection of Judaism, and an intermarried person is effectively cut off from most of the Orthodox community. However, some Orthodox Jewish organizations do reach out to intermarried Jews.

Orthodox Judaism holds that the words of the Torah, including both the Written Law (Pentateuch) and those parts of the Oral Law which are halacha leMoshe m'Sinai, were dictated by God to Moses essentially as they exist today. The laws contained in the Written Torah were given along with detailed explanations as how to apply and interpret them, the Oral Law. Although Orthodox Jews believe that many elements of current religious law were decreed or added as "fences" around the law by the rabbis, all Orthodox Jews believe that there is an underlying core of Sinaitic law and that this core of the religious laws Orthodox Jews know today is thus directly derived from Sinai and directly reflects the Divine will. As such, Orthodox Jews believe that one must be extremely careful in changing or adapting Jewish law. Orthodox Judaism holds that, given Jewish law's Divine origin, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions; in this sense, "creativity" and development in Jewish law is limited.

However, there is significant disagreement within Orthodox Judaism, particularly between Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism, about the extent and circumstances under which the proper application of Halakha should be re-examined as a result of changing realities. As a general rule, Haredi Jews believe that when at all possible the law should be maintained as it was understood by their authorities at the haskalah, believing that it had never changed. Modern Orthodox authorities are more willing to assume that under scrupulous examination, identical principles may lead to different applications in the context of modern life. To the Orthodox Jew, halakha is a guide, God's Law, governing the structure of daily life from the moment he or she wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. It includes codes of behaviour applicable to a broad range of circumstances (and many hypothetical ones). There are though a number of meta-principles that guide the halakhic process and in an instance of opposition between a specific halakha and a meta-principle, the meta-principle often wins out. Examples of Halachic Meta-Principles are: Deracheha Darchei Noam-the ways of Torah are pleasant, Kavod Habriyot-basic respect for human beings, Pikuach Nefesh-the sanctity of human life.

Orthodox Judaism holds that on Mount Sinai the Written Law was transmitted along with an Oral Law. The words of the Torah (Pentateuch) were spoken to Moses by God; the laws contained in this Written Torah, the Mitzvot, were given along with detailed explanations in the oral tradition as to how to apply and interpret them. Furthermore, the Oral law includes principles designed to create new rules. The Oral law is held to be transmitted with an extremely high degree of accuracy. Jewish theologians, who choose to emphasize the more evolutionary nature of the Halacha point to a famous story in the Talmud[1], where Moses is magically transported to the House of Study of Rabbi Akiva and is clearly unable to follow the ensuing discussion.

According to Orthodox Judaism, Jewish law today is based on the commandments in the Torah, as viewed through the discussions and debates contained in classical rabbinic literature, especially the Mishnah and the Talmud. Orthodox Judaism thus holds that the halakha represents the "will of God", either directly, or as closely to directly as possible. The laws are from the word of God in the Torah, using a set of rules also revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and have been derived with the utmost accuracy and care, and thus the Oral Law is considered to be no less the word of God. If some of the details of Jewish law may have been lost over the millennia, they were reconstructed in accordance with internally consistent rules; see The 13 rules by which Jewish law was derived.

In this world view, the Mishnaic and Talmudic rabbis are closer to the Divine revelation; by corollary, one must be extremely conservative in changing or adapting Jewish law. Furthermore, Orthodox Judaism holds that, given Jewish law's Divine origin, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions; in this sense, "creativity" and development in Jewish law is held to have been limited. Orthodox Jews will also study the Talmud for its own sake; this is considered to be the greatest mitzvah of all; see Torah study.

Haredi and Modern Orthodox Judaism vary somewhat in their view of the validity of Halakhic reconsideration. It is held virtually as a principle of belief among many Haredi Jews that halakhah never changes. Haredi Judaism thus views higher criticism of the Talmud as inappropriate, and almost certainly heretical. At the same time, many within Modern Orthodox Judaism do not have a problem with historical scholarship in this area. See the entry on historical analysis of the Talmud.

however, Haredi Jews, as a result of their belief that torah never changes, tend to interpret sources older than about 1815 as reflecting current halachic practice. Modern orthodox judaism would allege that this is a gross misinterpretation of our tradition, while heredim assert that modern orthodox rabbis willfully misinterpret these sources in a fashion that is contrary to "accepted halach". An illustrative case would be siman 75 of orech chayim. Heredim claim that it prohibits reading shema opposite any sort of exposed skin, modern orthodox rabbis counter that if so, why did rav karo not simply quote the rambam whos says this explicitly, a heredi rabbi would assert in return that he was coming to prohibit expising any of one's flesh. Frequently both sides see the other, at least tacitly, as having a quasi heretical approach to halacha.

Modern Orthodox Judaism is also somewhat more willing to consider revisiting questions of Jewish law through Talmudic arguments. Although in practice such instances are rare, they do exist. Notable examples include acceptance of rules permitting farming during the Shmita year and permitting the advanced religious education of women.

Orthodox movements, organizations and groups

Beit midrash in Belz yeshiva

  • Agudath Israel of America is the largest and most influential Haredi group in America. Its roots go back to the establishment of the original founding of the Agudath Israel movement in 1912 in Katowitz, Prussia (now Katowice, Poland). The American Agudath Israel was founded in 1939. There is an Agudat Israel (Hasidic) in Israel, and also Degel HaTorah (non-Hasidic "Lithuanian"), as well as an Agudath Israel of Europe. These groups are loosely affiliated through the World Agudath Israel, which from time to time holds a major gathering in Israel called a knessia. Agudah unites many rabbinic leaders from the Hasidic Judaism wing with those of the non-Hasidic "yeshiva" world. It is generally non-nationalistic and ambivalent towards the modern State of Israel.[6]
  • The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, known as the Orthodox Union, or "OU", and the Rabbinical Council of America, "RCA" are organizations that represent Modern Orthodox Judaism, a large segment of Orthodoxy in the United States and Canada. These groups should not be confused with the similarly named Union of Orthodox Rabbis (described below).
  • The National Council of Young Israel, and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis are smaller groups that were founded as Modern Orthodox organizations, are Zionistic, and are in the right wing of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Young Israel strongly supports and allies itself with the settlement movement in Israel. While the lay membership of synagogues affiliated with the NCYI are almost exclusively Modern Orthodox in orientation, the rabbinical leadership of the synagogues ranges from Modern Orthodox to Haredi.
  • The Chief Rabbinate of Israel [2] was founded with the intention of representing all of Judaism within the State of Israel, and has two chief rabbis: One is Ashkenazic (of the East European and Russian Jewish tradition) and one is Sephardic (of the Mediterranean, North African, Central Asian, Middle-Eastern and of Caucasus Jewish tradition.) The rabbinate has never been accepted by most Israeli Haredi groups. Since the 1960s the Chief rabbinate of Israel has moved somewhat closer to the positions of Haredi Judaism.
  • Mizrachi, and political parties such as Mafdal and National Union (Israel) all represent certain sectors within the Religious Zionist movement, both in diaspora and Israel. Gush Emunim, Meimad, Tzohar, Hazit and other movements represent over competing divisions within the sector. They firmly believe in the 'Land Of Israel for the People of Israel according to the principles Torah of Israel.', although Meimad are pragmatic about such programme. Gush Emunim are the settlement wing of National Union (Israel) and support widespread kiruv as well, through such institutions as Machon Meir, Merkaz HaRav and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Another sector includes the Hardal faction, which tends to be unallied to the Government and quite centristic.
  • Chabad Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidic Judaism widely known for its emphasis on outreach and education. The organization has been in existence for 200 years, and especially after the Second World War, it began sending out emissaries (shluchim) who have as a mission the bringing back of disaffected Jews to a level of observance consistent with authentic and proper norms (i.e., Orthodox Judaism). They are major players in what is known as the Baal Teshuva movement. Their mandate is to make nonobservant Jews more Jewishly aware. Certain beliefs regarding the status of their past leader, and several of their outreach tactics and theology make them controversial in other orthodox groups.
  • In Israel it shares a similar agenda with the Sephardic Shas political party, although Shas is more bipartisan when it comes to its own issues and non-nationalistic-based with a huge emphasis on Sephardi Judaism and Mizrahi Judaism. Shas has its own positions and plays a more prominent role in the government of the State, usually having something to say about almost every Jewish issue. It is usually in fierce contention with Agudat Yisrael in Israel.
  • The Agudath HaRabbonim, also known as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, is a small Haredi-leaning organization founded in 1902. It should not be confused with "The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America" (see above) which is a separate organization. While at one time influential within Orthodox Judaism, the Agudath HaRabbonim in the last several decades has progressively moved further to the right; its membership has been dropping and it has been relatively inactive. Some of its members are rabbis from Chabad Lubavitch; some are also members of the RCA (see above). It is currently most famous for its 1997 declaration (citing Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog and Modern Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik) that the Conservative and Reform movements are "not Judaism at all."
  • The Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada (CRC) was established in 1952. It is an anti-Zionist, Haredi organization, consisting mainly of the Satmar Hasidic group, which has about 100,000 adherents (an unknown number of which are rabbis), and like-minded Haredi groups.
  • The left-wing Modern Orthodox advocacy group, Edah, formed from United States Modern Orthodox rabbis. Most of its membership came from synagogues affiliated with the Union of Orthodox Congregations and RCA (above). Their motto was, "The courage to be Modern and Orthodox". Edah ceased operations in 2007 and merged some of its programs into the left-wing Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
  • The Bais Yaakov movement, begun in 1917, introduced the concept of formal Judaic schooling for Orthodox women.

See also


External links