Different sects, denominations, and Jewish Movements
Various groups of Jews from past to present, within and without Israel are listed here, many of the Jews are not considered true Jews by their counterparts, similar to the Christian groups assuming their particular church is the only True church
- The "Sadducees":
(From "Saddoc", the High Priest in
times of David), were the followers of Simon Maccabee, the Leader-and-High Priest:
- The priests, the rich, and the politicians, who cooperated with Rome; all High Priests, like Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees.
They accepted only the Torah, ruled out the
coming of the Messiah to deliver them from their captors, rejected angels, demons,
miracles, and the bodily resurrection at the end of the world.
Among them, there were 2 groups:
1- The "Shammai" believed that the righteous would enjoy eternal life and the wicked would suffer eternal damnation.
2- The "Hillel" believed that the wicked would return to eternal life after having been purged by fire in hell.
b- The "Pharisees":
("Separated ones"), were followers
of Judas Macabee:
... The scribes (writers) and rabbis (teachers). St. Paul was one (Act.23:6).
They believed in the Torah and the oral
tradition, the messianic liberation of Israel, the bodily resurrection in the Last
Judgment. Strict observant of the Law. They supported the Synagogue, sat in the front
sits.... and after the destruction of the Temple, in 70 AC, they became the principal
leaders of Judaism... They created the actual "rabbinic system", with the
Talmud, centered in the synagogue...
... They were hated by the Priests, because the Pharisees were laymen who looked more religious than the Priests...
... The "Hasids" were the early "pious ones" who supported the Maccabees.
It was a political party supported by Herod
Antipas who cooperated with Rome. If the Sadducees were the religious power, the Herodians
were the political power.
d- The "Essenes:
A small minority, living around the Dead See a monastic life. They left us the precious Dead See Scrolls found in 1947-48. Some scholars believe that John the Baptisst wass an Essene.
e- The "Zealots":
Founded at the death of Herod the Great (6 BC), as a militantly anti- Roman, and pro-Torah organization, defenders of a pure Judaism. In 66 AC, at Masada, more than 900 of them committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman siege. Judas was a Zealot.
f- The "Samaritan Sect":
A small group in Samaria, who rejected Jerusalem as the center of worship and instead worshiped at Mount Gerizim. It is the only group who today remain faithful to the Torah, with priests, altars and sacrifices.
g- The "Sanhedrin",
the supreme council of the Jews, with 71 members, included the presiding High Priest in office. Composed by the "priests" from the Sadducees, the "scribes" from the Pharisees, and the "elders" from the rich families.
h- The "Publicans":
The Jews tax-collectors, that too often abused of their power, hated by everybody, especially by the Pharisees. St, Matthew and Zacchaeus were Publicans.
[F i r s t ... C e n t u r y]
a- "Ebionites" and "Nazarenes":
- The "Ebionites" ("sectaries"), accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but denied his divinity.
- The "Nazarenes", accepted Jesus as both the Messiah and God, but regarded the Torah as binding upon Jews only... with "legalism", meaning that salvation would be by "works of the Law", and not by faith.
b- "Rabbinic Judaism":
From the 2nd century to the present: The
rabbinic program fashioned by Johanan ben Zakkai's circle replaced sacrifice and
pilgrimage to the Temple with study of the scripture, prayer, and works of piety, thus
eliminating the need for a central sanctuary in Jerusalem.
- The age of the "Tannaim"
("Teachers"), in the 2nd century,
produced the "Mishna", a "collection of rabbinic laws", a corpus of
legal norms on every aspects of life; all done in Palestine under the Romans.
- The age of the "Amoraim",
The "making of the Talmud", in the 3rd-6th centuries, with commentaries of the Mishna, created the "Babylonian Talmud", and later in Israel the "Palestinian Talmud", a shorter one.
c- Anti-rabbinic reactions:
("Scripturalists"), gave again more importance to the Holy Scriptures than to
the Rabbi commentaries of the Talmud. They invented several systems of vocalization of the
Hebrew Bible in Babylonia and Tiberias in the 9th- 10th centuries, and created the
"Masoretic Text" of the Old Testament, the actual so called "Hebrew
d- The "Geonim":
(Plural of "gaon",
"excellency") flourished under Islam in the 7th-8th centuries, and with their
interpretations of the daily Jewish life, made the Babylonian Talmud the unrivalled
standard of Jewish norms everywhere.
e- "Sephardim" and "Ashkenazim":
They were the two major branches of medieval European Judaism, and they are still the main thoughts of judaism today, the traditional Hispanic Sefardics, and the liberal German Ashkenazics.
- The "Sephardim":
The Jews in Spain and Portugal in the 8th
century were known as "Sephardim", a word taken from Obadiah 20, mistakenly
identified with "Spain".
- They developed a language, "Ladino", a Hebrew-Spanish combination written in Hebrew letters.
- Maimonides (1135-1204) was the most influential of the philosophers.
- The "Kabbalah", the Jewish mystical tradition was also developed in Spain, with the "Zohar", compiled in the 13th century by Moses de Leon of Spain.
- It is now the dominant religious and perhaps political group in Israel, with 60% of the Jews, though only one-forth of all world Jewry are Sephardic. They came to Israel mainly from North African countries. They are the most likely to oppose land concessions to the Palestinians. They want to pass legislation to observe the traditional rules of marriage, dietary practices, worship rituals, and the definition of who is a Jew. They want to eliminate humanism, and dream of the day when Israel may have a theocratic state in the manner of King Solomon.
- The "Ashkenazim":
In Germany, in the 12th century, another group
in Jewish life developed, the "Ashkenazim", who took their name from a
great-grandson of Noah (Gen.10:3).
- They created the "Yiddish" language, a Hebrew-German combination written in Hebrew characters.
- Most Jews today, including most American Jews, are Ashkenazim (11 million).
- Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes, known as "Rashi", composed a succinct commentary of the Talmud that achieved an authority approaching that of the text himself.
- The "Hasidism" is a mystical product of the Ashkenazics.
- They represent the liberal, Reform Jews in Israel. They are educated and wealthy, accept changes in theology, and more receptive to intermarriage and concessions to Palestine.
f- Jewish Mysticism:
Two types of mysticism developed in Judaism:
1- Ecstatic and contemplative, based on ecstasies and meditation: Hasidism.
2- The "esoteric", that explores the divine through the natural, because, they claim, the extradivine is symbol of the divine, the reality reveals another superior reality, the divinity. Thus, the Gnosticism and the Hispanic Kabbala.
"knowledge", and Gnosticism claims to know the true and divinity through occult
magic ceremonies coming from Iran.
- It is still alive with the "Neo-Gnosticism", being the theological foundation for many modern cults. Gnostic belief is expressed in the Nag Hammadi Codices, of thee 4th century,and the most recent "The Secret Gospel", "The Forbidden Gospel": They say that God is actually an abstract figure, but the serpent in Eden reveals to Adam and Eve secret knowledge of God; the Flood, they claim, was a revenge of God against the Gnostics, but somehow they still kept the secret knowledge, which is being passed by secret magic ceremonies...
- They believe that Jesus was not God, just a mere man who clandestinely traveled to India to learn the secrets of the Brahmans, and his success was due to hypnotic techniques and sexual baptismal ceremonies... a fertile camp for atheists and agnostics... but its theories are too abstract to interest the average person.
- In Colombia, there is the "Iglesia Gnostica", with Julio Medina, "the Great Living Buddha".
2- "Kabbala" ("tradition"):
Kabbala is Gnosticism purged of the dualism of the Gnostics... it tries to communicate with the divine by secret knowledge transmitted by tradition.
... The "Zohar" ("Book of Splendour"), by the Spaniard Moses de Leon (1275), became the Bible of Jewish mystics everywhere. It is a vast mystical commentary on the Pentateuch.
- However, the Kabbala started in the South of France, with two dimensions:
(1) The "Bahir" (Book of Brightness), a book imported from Iraq, entirely Gnostic,
(2) and Isaac the Blind with the "Book of Creation" with supposed apparitions of the prophet Elijah, in supernatural contemplations and inspirations... and the two tendencies continue today.
Is something important to know thee divinity:
...number "4" is essential because the name of God has 4 letters,
"YHWH", so, the 4 ELEMENTS of "Hearth, Water, Air, Fire", which make
the "Tree of Life".
...Number "10" is the 10 Commandments; number "22", the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet; so, 10 plus 22 makes 32... "the 32 paths of Wisdom"!... it makes no sense!... but this is the real "Tree of Life", the ultimate symbol of creation, say the Kabbalists, with 10 spheres ("Sephiroth"), and the 22 paths... this is what claims the "Sepher Yetzirah", a book attributed to Abraham.
- There are many magical practices and occultism rituals in the Kabbala.
- Since Pico della Mirandola (1494) the Kabbala transcended to other religions, with the "Christian Kabbala"...
... and all of them, specially the "Lurianic Kabbala" talk about successive "reincarnations" of the soul, that Lurianism developed and made more complex...
3- Modern "Hasidism"
("Pious ones"): The modern
"Hasidic Movement" started with Israel ben Eliezer (1700-62) in the Polish
kingdom, with Lithuania, Belorussian, and Ukrainian on it at that time. It is no way
connected with medieval German Hasidism. It originated in Ukraine, and achieved its
greatest influence among the "Shtetl" Jews in Poland. Today is active in the
USA, Israel, and Europe.
... Teaches that zeal, and heartfelt prayers are more acceptable to God than great learning. They made "joy" a central virtue.
... The "zaddik", in Hasidism, is a holy man with greater access to God than average people.
... Preference given to mystical meditation rather than to dialectical study of the Talmud. "Being-with-God" every minute is their aspiration, and even a constant duty.
... It represents the most extreme proponents of Jewish orthodoxy. A Hasidic is a "righteous person" like Noah in Gen.6:9, one who is a teacher, a counsellor, or anyone willing to help his fellow man; he is not a rabbi or a priest appointed or ordained. They love music, song, and dance. They believe in the miraculous power of prayer, specially the "Shema" of Deut.6:4-9.
... They expect the "Messiah" to come soon.
... There are 250,000 in the world, 200,000 live in the USA, mostly in New York City, in 40 communities; the largest is the Lubavitchers court (after Lubavichi, Russia), with headquarters in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, New York. ... It remains rooted in the Lurianic Kabbala.
g- The "Haskala", or "Enlightenment":
It is based on the "power of the
reason" or "Enlightenment" of the 18th century Europe... the
"universal religion of reason".
... Moses Mendelson, is the most outstanding figure. He remained a devout Orthodox, but turned away with the Jewish preoccupation with the Talmud to the intellectual world of the European Enlightenment. He defended Judaism as the inherited faith of the Jews as a divine revelation, and declared himself at the same time to be a believer in the "universal religion of reason"... in some way, he made it possible for his fellow Jews to join the Western world without sacrificing their Judaism... he emphasized "secular education"... but many abandoned the Jewish faith as the only way to win acceptance in the European community.
... He translated the Torah into German, the "Mendelson Bible", and wrote a modern biblical commentary in Hebrew, the "Be'ur".
... The nucleus was the "Berlin Haskala", which abandoned the use of Hebrew for German and gradually disintegrated.
... Later, the "Russian Haskala" made "anticlericalism" his characteristic, and in a "positivist" phase called for practical social and economic reforms... declaring themselves to be Russians by nationality and Jews by religious belief alone, promoting the education of Jews into "readiness for citizenship"... but the massacres of 1881 were to prove how eluded the hopes of the Haskala had been.
JUDAISM IN AMERICA:
Jews to America:
The first group came to New York in 1654. At the time of the American Revolution there were less than 1,000 Jews and no rabbis. In the 19th century came the Ashkenazi from Germany, who were mostly shopkeepers and peddlers, and a few Sephardic, of Hispanic origin, who were mostly merchants and traders. From 1880 to 1920 two million Jews came to the USA mostly from Poland and Russia, most of them Orthodox. The "Pittsburgh Platform" of 1885 marked Reform Judaism's brake from the past as genuine; even "God" was called the "God idea".
Jews in the U.S. Today:
In 1997, there are 6.9 million Jews in the U.S., with 3 major branches: (The "American Jewish Yearbook" 1990):
- Orthodox: 1 million, 1,200 congregations.
- Reformed: 1.3 million, 848 congregations.
- Conservative: 2 million, 800 congregations.
- Reconstructionist: 50,000
In the USA: 2% of the population; In New York City area: 13% of the population.
It is the oldest form of Judaism today. They follow the Law of Torah, and the 613 commandments of the Halakah are observed. They pray 3 times a day, eat only kosher food, observe the Sabbath, refrain from sexual intercourse for 2 weeks each month, avoid interreligious marriage, and devote much time to the study of the Scripture. Women are excluded from the rabbinate, from reading the Torah in the Synagogue, and a woman does not count in the required quorum of ten to hold a prayer meeting.
The place of a woman is at home.
They are expecting the arrival of the Messiah.
They came to America in 1625 following the Sephardic rite. In 1831 in Philadelphia, the Ashkenazi rite began.
Orthodox institutions include YESHIVOS Seminaries of Torah Study; Hebrew Theological College in Chicago; Yeshiva University; and Rabbinical Council of America.
It is the liberal branch, adopting Judaism to the new changes in the world. The Synagogues are called Temples, and favor the equality of the sexes. They follow the spirit but not the letter of the Orthodox practices. It began in Germany in the 1800s, and was brought to the USA by the Reform Society of Israelites in Charleston, South Carolina. The Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, was founded by Rabbi Wise in 1875. The National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods; NFT Sisterhoods; NFT Youth; National Association of Temple Educators, are some of the Reform organizations. In Israel it is the Reform group, the Ashkenazi group, that is most willing to make concessions to the demands of the Palestinians.
It seeks a middle ground between the two groups. In 1985 the Conservative Rabbinical Association approved women in the clergy. It was brought to America by Solomon Schechter, and it is called the United Synagogue of America.
They are non-Rabbi-led groups, about 80 nationwide, started by Kaplan in New York in the 1900s. They deny original sin, and uphold the basic goodness of humankind.
5- Modern "Hasidism":
Humanistic Judaism: Comprised mainly of agnostic and atheists. Theism is replaced by humanism, and morality lies within each person. In 1969 Wine founded the Society for Humanistic Judaism in New York.
JUDAISM IN ISRAEL:
1- Zionism and the "State of Israel":
"Zionism" is the movement to secure a homeland in Palestine for the Jews and to support the new State of Israel in its struggles amidst the Arab Islamic world.
Theodore Herzl is called the "Father of Zionism" since he published "The Jewish State" in 1896. Through his efforts the first World Zionist Congress meet in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897.
The efforts culminated in 1948 when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the "State of Israel". Within minutes the United States recognized the new state, and within a short time Israel was fighting a number of Arab nations.
In the 6 days war of 1967, the Jews occupied all Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. War broke again in 156, 1967 and 1973. In 1978 Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accord.
In 1996 a new "Palestine State" for the Arabs was created within Israel, with Arafat as the head of it... it is not a "territory" with many cities, included Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho... but outside of the city it is again Israel... so, there are now about 50 "checking points" in Israel, and when you go to Bethlehem, for example, you will be checked by the Palestinian Police, and when you leave Bethlehem, you will be checked by the Israeli Police.
To build the "Temple" in Jerusalem, is one the most cherished goals of Zionism today: The Scriptures say that it will be built again in the same place where the Temple of Solomon was... but there is a huge problem: The "Dome of the Rock" stands in that very same place, and it is a constant thorn for the Israeli-Palestinian relations.
2- The Coming of the Jews to Israel:
Since the creation of the State of Israel is an avalanche from all parts of the world... it may be near the prophecy of 2Macc.2: "Jeremiah put the Ark of the Covenant in a huge cave in the mountain which Moses climbed to see God's inheritance, and said: "the place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and show them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud and the column of fire" (The Great Miracle to come).
3- Judaism in Israel Today:
We already commented the two main groups of Jews in Israel: "Sephardim" and "Ashkenazim": The "Sephardim" are now the dominant religious and perhaps political group of Israel, with 60% of the Jews. The "Ashkenazim", more liberal, are more receptive to concessions to Palestine.
The main "branches" of Judaism in Israel today are about the same as those described in America.
Today's Newspapers report some of the conflicts between different branches of Judaism in Israel:
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of Israel issued a declaration on 3-31-97 saying that "the Reform and Conservative movements were no Judaism", and urged Jews "to avoid the movements synagogues"... these movements teachings are outside historic Judaism, and some rabbis were teaching heretical ideas, for example, allowing members of their synagogues to drive on the Sabbath.
In opposition, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary called yesterday (4-16-97) for "dismantling" Israel's chief rabbinate and ending donations to groups that oppose the recognition of non-Orthodox movements in Israel, because they create a climate conductive to violence by one Jew against another.
While the "Reform" and "Conservative" movements comprise the vast majority of religious-affiliated American Jews, they are a minor presence in Israel, whose population is divided, about 4 to 1, between secular and Orthodox Jews.
As for the State of Israel, some Orthodox Jews do not see it as the "Return of the Jews" promised in the prophetic books of the Bible, while most Jews understand the presence of a Jewish state as a major turn in the history of the Jewish people... and surrounded as it is by hostile states, Israel is dependent on world Jewry for continued help.
THE "JEWS FOR JESUS" MOVEMENT:
It is "an international organization whose purpose is to proclaim the message that Jesus, or to use his Hebrew name, Y'shua, is the Messiah of Israel
It began in September 1973 under the leadership of Moishe Rosen; the current executive director is David Brickner, with the Administrative Headquarters in San Francisco, USA. There are in 1998 50,000 members in the USA, with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, Miami... and international offices located in Canada, Argentina, South Africa, France, United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Germany, Australia... their web-page is http://www.jews-for-jesus.com
THE "JEWS FOR ALLAH" MOVEMENT:
It is an international organization whose purpose is to Unite the children of Abraham. Accepting the messiahship of Jesus (Y'shua) , albeit without the Christian theology, and clarifying that the Temple Mount was indeed rebuilt, by Muslims.
It began in July 2,000 under the leadership of Mohamed Ghounem: with the Administrative Headquarters in Connecticut, USA.
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