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Relationship between segments of Judaism

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This article discusses the relationship between the various modern day denominations of Judaism, as well as between ancient divisions of Judaism.

Table of contents

Relationship between Jews in ancient Israel

The Talmud states that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because the Jews did not get along with each other

Modern History

Ultra-Orthodox views of Judaism

When dealing with others of their own faith who have different philosophies, Ultra-Orthodox Jews often perceive differences to be generated by heretical intent or a perceived attack on Judaism. Thus Ultra-Orthodox rabbis and rabbinical organizations grant no legitimacy whatsoever to any form of Judaism other than their own. They view Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism as heretical movements whose actions are more damaging to the Jewish people than any physical threat.

Modern Orthodox views of Judaism

When dealing with others of their own faith who have different philosophies, Modern Orthodox Jews try to understand that differences have not been generated by heretical intent, but by an honest attempt to reconcile modernity with the Jewish tradition. Thus, although Modern Orthodox Jews find all non-Orthodox forms of Judaism to be wrong, they are usually not viewed as enemies per se; rather they are perceived to be competitors offering an inferior product, so to speak, and that the masses of these movements need to be enlightened as to the superiority of the Orthodox stance.

Until the 1970s there always had been a significant level of cooperation between Modern Orthodox and the non-Orthodox branches of Judaism; they worked together in the now-defunct Synagogue Council of America. However, the relationship between Modern Orthodoxy and the non-Orthodox movements has worsened over the last few decades. Ultra-Orthodox Judaism has seen a great resurgence in its popularity, and many formerly Modern Orthodox rabbis have been awayed to some degree by their views. Similarly Reform Judaism unilaterally created a new definition of Judaism, effectively severing the united peoplehood that had linked Reform and non-Reform denominations together. For practically all Orthodox Jews (and many Conservative Jews) this was seen as a deliberate move to split the Jewish people into two mutually incompatible groups. The confluence of these two phenomenon helped drive most of Modern Orthodoxy further to the right, and effectively ended all official cooperation between Modern Orthodoxy and all of the non-Orthodox denominations.

Conservative views of other denominations

Conservative Judaism holds that Orthodox Judaism is a valid and legitimate form of normative rabbinic Judaism; its respects the validity of its rabbis. Conservative Judaism holds that both Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have made major breaks with the historic definition of Judaism, both by their rejection of Jewish law and tradition as normative, and by their unilateral acts in creating a separate definition of Jewishness (i.e. the latter movement's acceptance of patrilineal descent as an additional way of defining Jewishness.) Depite the Conservative movement disagreement with the more liberal movements, it does respect the right of Reform and Reconstructionist Jews to interpret Judaism in their own way. Thus the Conservative movement recognizes the right of Jews to form such denominations, and recognizes their clergy as rabbis, but does not automatically respect or accept their decisions as valid.

A prominent Conservative spokesman has written that "Reform has asserted the right of interpretation but it rejected the authority of legal tradition. Orthodoxy has clung fast to the principle of authority, but has in our own and recent generations rejected the right to any but minor interpretations. The Conservative view is that both are necessary for a living Judaism. Accordingly, Conservative Judaism holds itself bound by the Jewish legal tradition, but asserts the right of its rabbinical body, acting as a whole, to interpret and to apply Jewish law." Source: Rabbi Mordecai Waxman[?] "Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism"

Conservative Jews believe that that Orthodoxy had deviated from historical Judaism through an excessive concern with recent codifications of Jewish law. The Conservative movement consciously rejects the Orthodox mythology of Jewish history, which entails near total deference to seemingly infallible rabbis, and instead holds that a more fluid model is both necessary and theologically and historically justifiable. The Conservative movement makes a conscious effort to use historical sources to determine what kind of changes occurred, how and why they occurred, and in what historical context. With this information they believe that can better understand the proper way for rabbis to interpret and apply Jewish law to our conditions today.

 

Reform and Reconstuctionist views

(to be written.)

Ultra-Orthodox views of non-Orthodox Denominations

  • In reaction to the efforts of Reform and Conservative Judaism to be officially recognized by the State of Israel, Israeli ultra-Orthodox rabbis issued the following statement:"As darkness covers the earth, the Reform and Conservative sects that are the destroyers of the religion are trying to dig their nails into the Holy Land and receive recognition so that they may be counted among the streams of Judaism, God forbid. We hereby pronounce da'at Torah (with the authority of the Torah) that it is inconceivable to grant them any recognition whatsoever, and it is forbidden to conduct any negotiations with the destroyers who counterfeit the Torah and bring about assimilation and the destruction of Judaism in the Diaspora." -Source (http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/010201/0101071)

  • Rabbi Ben-Porath, the head of an Orthodox yeshiva Ohr Sameach, said, "sitting with the Reform and Conservative movements is worse than sitting with the PLO, because while the PLO wishes to destroy the state, these movements want to destroy Judaism itself." (Israel, 1989) -Source (http://ajc.org/pre/reform.htm),

  • Rabbi Shloosh of Netanya said, "Reform Jews are worse than Christians and war should be declared against them"

  • Rabbi Shimon Ben Haim, former Director General of the Ministry of Religion said "...if we allow Reform Rabbis to perform marriages then why not Catholic priests?" -Source (http://www.jtsa.edu/org/masorti/msg00088)

  • Rabbi Yisrael Eichler wrote that "Reform Rabbis are further from Judaism than Christians and Moslems and that they should be considered as filthy, lying, shekotzim who are criminals, who brought about the holocaust on the Jewish people".

  • Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said, " Reform Jews should be vomited up...and thrown out of the country. They should be forbidden from settling in Israel...they have no place in Israel since they are a separate people."

  • Orthodox youth tore the mezuzah off the door and threw excrement on the walls of a Conservative Synagogue.

  • Rabbi Ovadia Yosef condemed the Justices of the Supreme Court as "Evil, impure men, who reject Judaism and revolt against it"

Ultra-Orthodox views of Modern Orthodox Jews

The relationship between ultra-Orthodox Jews and Modern Orthodox Jews is more complex; some see these different groups as allies, others see them as enemies.

  • Rabbi Svei, who heads the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, called Norman Lamm, Dean of Yeshiva University, a "Sonai Hashem" or "hater of God."

Attacks on non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall

There have been many documented attacks by mobs of Ultra-Orthodox Jews on other Jews worshipping at the Kotel (the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem) during the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av. For most of the past decade, when Conservative Jewish women prayed near the Western Wall (their services are always held away from it, not at it) the result was often an assault. Death threats have been recived over the telephone. Many of these telehpone calls were confirmed by the Israeli police as coming from Ultra-Orthodox Yeshivas. Jews are safe from attack at the Western Wall as long as they outwardly followed only Orthodox Jewish practice.

The targets of these attacks were sometimes Conservative Jews, sometimes Reform Jews, and sometimes feminist Modern Orthodox Jews. An extensive list of links (at the end of this article) documents these attacks.

Strife between Ultra-Orthodox groups

Some ultra-Orthodox groups have a history of physically attacking each other.

"The Hasidic sects, actually poles apart from each other theologically, contended not only with non-Hasidic, non-Jewish neighbors but also with each other, often on ideological issues in addition to political control of their neighborhoods, much like the Hasidic rabbinic feuds of 18th and 19th-century Poland and Russia. Physical struggles often erupted: in spring 1975 the Satmar hung an effigy of the Lubuvitcher Rebbe from a telephone pole. In the summer of 1977 and 1978 physical conflict arose between Lubavitcher (Crown Heights) and Satmar (Williamsburg) Hasidism over turf, over differing views of involvement in North American society, and over attitudes toward the state of Israel. And Belzer and Satmar Hasidism, two years later, clashed in the synagogue of the Congregation Belz over a similar ideological issue. (18)"

"In the spring of 1981 hundreds of Satmar, who fiercely oppose Zionism and a Zionist state not established by the Messiah, again pelted a Belz synagogue in Williamburg with eggs and bottles, and threatened to harm the Gran Rebbe of the Belz if he came for a visit from Israel to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Belz's arrival in North America. Rabbi Rokeach, whose followers, like the Lubavitcher Hasidim, supported the Israeli government, came anyway. And in the summer of 1983 Lubavitch leaders accused the Satmar of abducting a Hasidic rabbi of the Borough Park Lubavitch sect (who had left the Satmar community), forcing him into a van, assaulting him, and then shaving him of his beard (and Orthodox sign of piety) before dumping him in the street. (19)
"Profiles in American Judaism" Marc Lee Raphael, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1984

(Footnote 18) New York Times, 1 June 1977, Part 2, page 1; 29 October 1979, Part 2, page 3. Bernard Weinberger "Satmar and Lubavitch: The Dynamics of Disagreement" Jewish Life, Part 2, no.2-3 (Fall-Winter 1977-1978): p.55-65
(Footnote 19) New York Times, 8 March 1981, Part 4, page 6.

Attacks on Israeli archaeologists

There have been acrimonious disputes in Jerusalem over the issue of the exhumation of the bones of Jews. According to the Orthodox interpretation, land even suspected of containing Jewish remains should remain untouched, so as to facilitate resurrection of the dead. This interpretation led to considerable conflict between Atra Kadisha, an organization devoted to preserving Jewish burial sites, and archeologists and civil engineers.

In 1982 and 1983, Atra Kadisha led public protests against the archeological excavations at the City of David. According to Atra Kadisha, the site contained a medieval Jewish cemetery. The archeologists, who denied this, succeeded in completing the excavations. In 1992, a number of tombs from the Second Temple period were uncovered during construction of a major highway interchange in French Hill and a large burial area which archeologists insisted was Christian, because of the presence of Christian symbols, was uncovered during construction of the Mamilla project. Archeologists removed and then, following violent protests, returned for burial, the bones and sarcophagi of one tomb from French Hill. At Mamilla, the builders removed the bones and bulldozed the burial area in the dead of night. The young demonstrators who reacted introduced a new level of violence into religious-secular disputes, violently confronting the police, stoning cars, and burning garbage dumpsters.

[Encyclopaedia Judaica, Keter Publishing. Article "State of Israel: Religious Life and Communities; DEVELOPMENTS IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY TO THE THROUGH THE 1980S TO THE EARLY 1990s"]

The rest is yet to be integrated into the body of this article

Rabbi Norman Lamm writes: "Haredim are accommodating themselves to the idea that unity is impossible, that we are already broken up into two separate peoples. A lead article in the January 20, 1998, Yediot Acharonot, tells it all; it is entitled, 'Nipared ki-yedidim', 'let us part as friends. Let me record a personal note: A few years ago I met with one of the most prominent Hasidic rabbis. In the course of a pleasant conversation, I complained about an article by the editor of a newspaper published by this group, in which he wrote that he is doesn't understand why there is such a tumult about Kelal Yisrael (a term denoting the totality of the Jewish people), when after all, 'according to our calculation there are no more than about a million people who belong in this group.' I asked the Rebbe if I and my parents and wife and children and grandchildren are considered part of Klal Yisrael (Hebrew for "the Jewish People"). His painfully ambiguous and evasive answer was, 'Rav Lamm, ihr fregt tzu harb a kashe' (Yiddish for: 'Rabbi Lamm, you are posing too difficult a question.')"

From "Integrity or Unity: Which?" excerpts of an address at The Orthodox Union National Rabbinic Centennial Medallion Awards Dinner, by Norman Lamm, President, Yeshiva University, on February 25, 1998. http://www.yu.edu/lamm/O-U-print-98

In Israel Lt. Gamliel Peretz was stripped of his rank and dismissed from the Israel Defense Forces. Last week, Lt. Peretz, delivering a lecture on the status of women in Judaism to a group of soldiers, stated that he does not recognize Conservative and Reform Jews as Jews and that Reform and Conservative Judaism have caused the assimilation of more than 8 million Jews, doing more damage to the Jewish people than the Holocaust. The lecture was given when Lt. Peretz overheard a conversation where soldiers expressed the view that the Torah was chauvinistic. At the start of the lecture Lt. Peretz pointed out that Jewish men bless God, first thing in the morning, "Sh'Lo Asani Isha" (Who has not made me a woman). Two members of the Masorti Garin Nachal (one the daughter of a Conservative rabbi and one the daughter of a Reform rabbi) pointed out that there are Jews with a different Nusach. The Masorti Siddur says "Sheasani Betzalmo" (Who has formed me in his image). This led to the offensive and obnoxious comments. They were objected to by these two Masorti Garin Nachal women. After seeking and failing to obtain a retraction from Lt.Peretz, these soldiers filed an official objection within military channels, leading to an investigation and then to Peretz's dismissal. He did apologize for the words he chose but continue to maintain the idea behind the words was true.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, one of the foremost Orthodox halakhic authorities in the world, and spiritual leader of the Shas party, related in his weekly sermon to Reform women who pray while wearing a tallit. He talked about Michal, daughter of King Saul who put on tefillin every day (Eruvin 96a) even though women are exempt from wearing tefillin. He explained that the Sages did not excommunicate her because they knew that she did so "for the sake of Heaven. Not like these wicked women, the Reform, who do everything in order to bash Judaism; they should be wrapped in a tallit and buried."

...whether he intended to or not, Rabbi Yosef was inciting Jews to commit violence against or even murder other Jews during the very week when we commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Rabin assassination which taught us what can happen when Jewish leaders incite violence. Murder is obviously forbidden by Jewish law, but Resh Lakish says that even a "person who raises his hand against his friend, even if he does not strike him, is called wicked".

Of burials, body bags and rabbis (http://www.schechter.edu/pubs/insight9.htm)

Ultra-Orthodox Response

Many Orthodox Jews believe strongly that any form of Judaism other than their own is not Judaism at all; they hold that all forms of Judaism (except their own) are destructive to the Jewish people. In response, all non-Orthodox Jews, and some Modern Orthodox Jews, are incensed that their beliefs are deemed heretical by the Ultra-Orthodox community.

Many Ultra-Orthodox leaders claim that other Jewish groups disobey the Torah; they claim that it is a result of the changes in procedure and philosophy made by the leaders of other Jewish groups. Other Jewish group's leaders vigorously proclaim that they have as much right to determine the development of Judaism as any other Jews.

Ultra-Orthodox claim that other Jewish groups are more supportive of intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews. All denominations of Judaism agree that if assimilation and intermarriage go unchecked, then much of Judaism will eventually die out. These groups differ significantly in how they respond to these issues.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders claim that only Orthodox Jews have the right to be part of the Government-sponsored religious leadership in Israel, and that other Jews should not be allowed to hold such positions. Other Jewish groups find this to be discriminatory.

Ultra-Orthodox claim that the mere presence of non-Orthodox forms of prayer at the Kotel[?] (Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem) constitutes a desecration of the Kotel. Ultra-Orthodox Jews hold that they alone own the Kotel, and that no Jews may pray there unless it is in accord with their procedures. Modern Orthodox Jews and non-Orthodox Jews find these claims incredulous and unsupportable. All other Jewish groups hold that Jews may pray in their own way, and should be free to do so without threats.

Some ultra-Orthodox youths desecrate the sites of the other Jewish groups, in revenge for what they perceive as the desecration of Kotel.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders claim that they are the only Orthodox Jews, and find the use by other Jews (e.g. Modern Orthodox) of the word "Orthodox" to be offensive.

External Links

"Jew. Vs. Jew" Samuel Freedman "Jew vs. Jew" wesbite (http://www.samuelfreedman.com/prologue)

HEMDAT The Council for Freedom of Science, Religion and Culture in Israel (http://www.hemdat.org/discredit.htm)

Ultra-Orthodox attacks at the Kotel (Western Wall)

A (http://uscj.org/ctvalley/beki/nobuts), B (http://mosaic.echonyc.com/~onissues/f97chesler), C (http://mosaic.echonyc.com/onissues/f97chesler), D (http://rj.org/arzawuna/wall)

Ultra-Orthodox group attacks Jews who support the State of Israel (http://www.cjnews.com/pastissues/01/mar15-01/main.asp)

Vandals desecrate Jerusalem Conservative synagogue (http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2000/05/29/News/News.7414)

A Reform Jewish critique of ultra-Orthodox attacks (http://uahcweb.org/reform/uahc/rjmag/998sm)

Modern Orthodox leader slandered as a "hater of God" (http://www.yucommentator.com/v63i6/features/donations.shtml)

The Orthodox Moment (http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1061/2_107/53914149/print.jhtml)

Jewish Media Resources - an Ultra-Orthodox response (http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/issues/3/)

The Jewish Observer and Rabbi Avi Shafran Respond to their critics (http://www.shemayisrael.com/jewishobserver/archives/jan/rshafran.htm)



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