Dr. Laurence Boxer
... Jewish practice was largely what, today, we would call insular and Orthodox.
The world outside traditional religious practice offered little -
•Christianity was (almost) universally hostile, regarding Jews as Christ-killers & scapegoats.
•Christian culture was dominated by poverty, ignorance, illiteracy.
•Muslim-dominated societies had similar shortcomings.
Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Poland)
– founder of
Chassidism (today, regarded ultra-Orthodox, but revolutionary in 1700s)
Religious life stressed study of Torah, Talmud
– but intensive study impractical amidst poverty
BeSHT taught greater stress on love of nature; mysticism; joy in pleasures of life; piety & kindness
His change of emphasis became popular
– “genius” – was outstanding Torah/Talmud scholar of era
reforms needed, but not the radical reforms of Chassidism. Advocated, instead:
Simplification of prayers
Reforms in study and teaching methods
Secular knowledge (math, science)
Radical changes by Chassidim, particularly deemphasis on study &
as intermediary, regarded as heresy by Mitnagdim
(excommunication) & counterexcommunication
Eventual moderation of views toward each other, begrudging acceptance
Both sides recognized Western Enlightenment as greater threat to Judaism
Scholar of Torah, Talmud, secular philosophy; translated Torah into
German, with commentary; author, educator, man of letters
Attracted attention of Berlin’s Christian intellectuals, particularly playwright Lessing. Promoted breakdown of social, intellectual barriers between Christians and Jews.
Promoted freedom of conscience (as opposed to community enforcement of religious law)
– a pillar of Reform philosophy.
Mendelsohn’s followers pioneered Reform Judaism, which gained greatest popularity in Western Europe and America.
•Founder, longtime head of Hebrew Union
American rabbinical seminary
•Before 1880s, most American Jews from Western Europe, where Reform was gaining popularity
•Wise dreamt of religious unification of American Jewry; was a moderate reformer who could cooperate with more traditional Jews
•Celebration of 1 st class of graduates of Hebrew
– Reform rabbinical seminary
•Multiple violations of
(laws of kosher food)
– Wise claimed innocence
•Accentuated break between moderate & radical reformers http://www.americanjewisharchives.org/trefa1.htm
Meeting of American Reform rabbinical leadership
Radical views prevailed, including declarations
rejecting much Torah legislation, including
; emphasizing ethics & prophetic ideals rejecting return to Israel rejecting belief in a personal Messiah, substituting belief in a Messianic age to be brought about by cultural progress
By 1880s, more Jewish immigrants from Eastern
– many receptive to moderate reform, but not the radical Reform reforms.
•1886 - moderate reformers established Jewish
Theological Seminary of America
– a pillar of
•1888 – American Orthodox community was forming a movement, institutions
•Born in Romania; educated in Vienna; scholar in Cambridge & London; head of
Jewish Theological Seminary 1902-1915
•Sought middle way between Eastern European Orthodoxy &
American radical Reform
•Stressed unity (“Catholic Israel”), tradition, scholarship
•Stature & appeals for unity exercised moderating influence on Reform leadership
•Founded United Synagogue of America (now, United
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism), 1912
Creation is 5763 years old.
Things that appear older were created that way, for Gd’s mysterious purposes.
Creation of Adam
Scriptural basis for opposing view:
Psalms 90, 4: For a thousand years in thy sight are
but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Hence, modern science does not conflict with Bible’s 6-“day”
Orthodox: Given by G-d to Moses at Sinai
Conservative, Reform: divinely inspired, but modified over centuries by scribal error, disagreements, etc.
Orthodox, Conservative: legislation is binding. C more willing than O to reinterpret with respect to modern scholarship & new situations
Reform: ethical legislation remains relevant.
Individuals should study, then decide for themselves what ritual legislation is meaningful
Reconstructionist: Torah legislation is “folkways”
Most members of all Jewish movements are
Some ultra-O are anti-Zionist, believing only the Messiah should restore Israel to the Jewish people
Some liberal (Reform,
Jews are anti-Zionist, believing
Judaism should be a religion and not a nationalist culture
American Jewish Historical Society, The “Trefa Banquet” and the End of a Dream: http://www.ajhs.org/publications/chapters/chapter.cfm?documentID=241
Solomon Schechter: A Biography
, Jewish Publication Society of
America, Philadelphia, 1938
Chabad-Lubavitch (Chassidic group): http://www.chabad.org/
My People: The Story of the Jews
, Behrman House, NY, 1968
A History of the Jews
, Jewish Publication Society of America,
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation: http://www.jrf.org/
Reform Judaism: http://rj.org/
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism: http://uscj.org/index1.html
Souls on Fire
, Simon & Schuster, NY, 1982
Young Israel (Modern Orthodox group): http://www.youngisrael.org/