The identity and diversity of differing traditions within Judaism

Orthodox Judasim

The term ‘orthodoxy’ refers to the belief within Judaism that the Jewish people escaped slavery in Egypt, received the Torah from God at Mount Sinai, and that the Torah is something that all Jews are obliged to live by.

‘Orthodox’ can be used to describe people on any part of the scale of Judaism – from those who are fully observant to the Torah, to those who do not follow it closely. Overall, it refers to someone who accepts that the teachings and practices within Judaism are important.

For an Orthodox Jew, one of the most important things is the continuation of ancient Jewish traditions in an increasingly secular world.

Interior of the Great Synagogue (Budapest, Hungary)

Reform Judaism

A movement to reform Judaism began in Germany in 1819. It emerged independently in Britain in 1842 with the establishment of the West London Synagogue. Reform Judaism is now a major Jewish denomination, followers believe Jewish traditions should be modernised and made compatible with the surrounding culture.

There are some differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Below is a summary of some of the main issues relating to prayer and worship:

  • In Reform Judaism prayers are shorter than those read in an Orthodox synagogue, and some are read in English rather than in Hebrew alone.
  • In Reform Judaism men and women sit together in the synagogue, they sit separately in Orthodox synagogues.
  • Some Reform synagogues have women as rabbis, this would not be the case in Orthodox synagogues.

There are also differences in terms of Shabbat. In summary:

  • In Reform Judaism Shabbat may begin at any time on Friday evening. In Orthodox Judaism, Shabbat will begin at sunset on Friday evening.
  • Shabbat is a day of rest from work. In Reform Judaism 'work’ refers narrowly to the work involved with one's occupation, or any work for profit. In Orthodox Judaism, many focus only on the study of the Torah and will not do any kind of work on Shabbat.
  • In Reform Judaism many drive on Shabbat and use electronic devices. In Orthodox Judaism, it is generally the case that one will not drive, unless it is to reach Orthodox synagogues for services.