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Judaism: World Religion - Family Tree   [Return to List of Trees]

Judaism is a monotheistic and ethnic religion that encompasses the religious, cultural, and legal tradition of the Jewish people. For religious Jews, Judaism is the expression of the covenant that God established with Abram, Moses, and other Hebrew prophets. Based on the Hebrew Bible (including the Torah) and the Talmud, Judaism stresses careful observance of the rites and practices given in the Torah. Both Christianity and Islam are identified as Abrahamic traditions tracing their history back to the Jewish religion.

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Group/Place/Event Founded Description
Traditional Rabbinic Judaism 70 CE Judaism emerged in Palestine in a time before written records and distinguished itself from its neighbors by the development of a belief in monotheism. Under King David, Jerusalem was established as the capital of Israel, with Judaism being its established religion. Worship became focused in the temple built by David's successor, Solomon. Under Solomon's successor, Rehoboam, the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah. Israel was destroyed and ceased to exist after being overrun by the Assyrians c.722 BCE. Judah continued to exist until it was overrun by the Babylonians c.587 BCE. At that time, the temple in Jerusalem was leveled and with the deportation of the Jewish religious elite, Judaism underwent significant changes. Following its conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE, the Persians allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple, completed c. 515 BCE. Judaism again underwent significant changes and would continue to evolve as its land became a prize for competing monarchs century by century. Eventually, the Romans leveled the city and destroyed the temple again in 70 CE. The Roman action destroyed a variety of groups that had emerged in Israel--Sadducees, Zealots, etc. The history of modern Judaism really began after the dispersion of the community and the end of temple-centered worship. After 70 CE, Jews were scattered around the Mediterranean Basin, but two particularly important communities eventually gathered on the Iberian Peninsula and in northeastern Europe from Germany to Poland and Lithuania to Russia. The traditional Jewish community, defined by its allegiance to the Hebrew Bible and its following of the old Oral law as written in the Talmud and Misash, would be challenged on two sides in the nineteenth century by a liberalizing movement influenced by the Enlightenment (Reform) and by the most strict of traditionalists (Hiradi movement). What has emerged is modern Orthodoxy, which attempts to stay true to tradition while also attempting to engage the modern world.
Sepharidic Judaism Sephardim is the name given to the Jewish community that emerged in Spain and Portugal, especially during the years of Muslim rule. It was largely destroyed in 1492-93, when Jews were expelled from the two countries. Sephardic Jews would find their way to the Americas and establish themselves in Brazil and eventually build some of the first centers in North America, but most would migrate into Europe and lose much of their religious (if not ethnic) uniqueness as they identified with Ashkenazi Judaism.
Hassidism Hassidism emerged as a pietistic devotional movement in eastern Europe, built around rabbis that were seen as embodying the teachings they offered and assigned attributes as healers, wonder workers, and bearers of supernatural powers (termed "rebbes" or "tzadiks"). The charismatic Hassidic leaders challenged traditional rabbinic authority but became a major force across eastern Europe-Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. Largely wiped out by the Holocaust, groups moved to Western Europe, the US, and Israel and a few like the Satmar and Lubavicther (currently the largest Hassidic group) have thrived.
Reform Judaism 1800s Beginning at the time of the European Enlightenment in the 18th century, Jewish leaders began to search for a form of Judaism more attuned to modern culture. German Reform leaders began to articulate a way of being fully religious as a Jew that both fit into modern cultural and intellectual expectations and which emphasized the more universal affirmation of Judaism and abandoned what were seen as mere ancient cultural attributes. The reform movement found its organizational unity through Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1873). Reform Jews practice a Judaism that is open to change and adaptation with the times. They view the Torah as divinely inspired (but a product of human hands), are committed to the equality of men and women, ordain women rabbis, and accept gays and lesbians into all areas of Jewish life. Globally, they are a minority movement, though they maintain a signficant presence in North America.
Orthodox Judaism 1800s What today is known as Orthodox Judaism emerged in steps through the nineteenth century as many reacted unfavorably to the development of Reform Judaism and what was seen as the stripping away of the tradition. Attempting to continue traditional belief and practice, modern Orthodoxy assumes its particular cast in its organization to oppose the challenge presented by Reform and then the presence of Hasidism.
Haredi Judaism 1800s Haredi Judaism emerged in the early nineteenth century as the most conservative wing of Orthodox Judaism. It opposed reform Judaism and attempted to push the mainstream to ever more conservative adherence to the Jewish Law. It has re-emerged in strength in modern Israel with a goal of re-establishing the boundaries of King David's ancient kingdom. It is often referred to by its critics as the Ultra-Orthodox, and exists through several organizations, among the most famous being the Neturei Karta.
Conservative Judaism 1886 Conservative Judaism formed amid a new wave of immigration of Jews from Europe in the last decades of the nineteenth century. More specifically, it was founded as a movement in 1886 with the formation of the Jewish Theological Seminary Association. The intention of the movement was to retain traditional Jewish practices while inhabiting an ideological position between Reform and Orthodox Judaism, honoring the past while adapting to the present. In 1913, the United Synagogue of America, today called the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, began connecting Conservative synagogues. The Rabbinical Assembly unites rabbis within Conservative Judaism.
American Ethical Union 1876 By the end of the twentieth century, the stance taken by Reform Judaism in America led to a variety of even more liberal approaches to the tradition. The American Ethical Union grew from the thought of Felix Adler, a reform Jewish rabbi who emphasized the cultural aspects of Judaism over its theological unity. Adler, raised Jewish and trained as a rabbi, was inspired by neo-Kantian idealism to push religion toward “pure” ethics and morality. While maintaining a liberal Jewish base, the Union has steadily moved toward humanism as its dominant perspective and has come to include a significant non-Jewish membership and leadership.
World Agudath Israel 1912 World Agudath Israel was established as a political expression of the Haredi Movement as an alternative to the recently formed Zionist movement.
Reconstructionist Judaism 1930s Reconstructionist Judaism is a movement fueled by the thought of professor Mordecai M. Kaplan, a conservative rabbi who argued for a whole new approach to Judaism as an evolving civilization; it began with the publication of his book Judaism as a Civilization in 1934. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation began to take shape, the rabbinical college was founded in 1954, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association was formed by its graduates. Kaplan was excommunicated by Conservative Jews for his edits to the prayer book in 1945. His followers remain socially progressive and have drawn near to Reform Judaism.
Humanistic/Secular Judaism 1960s By the 1960s, the more liberal wing of the reform movement was moving beyond even Reform theological approaches and adopted a non-theistic Humanist stance. The new secular Jewish movement drew upon a tradition of Jewish leadership in non-theistic forms of philosophy since Spinoza and through the Enlightenment. They have divided over whether they should keep the trappings of the religious tradition, even as they agree in dropping mention of God or revelation. Internationally, they have found a home in the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations.
Ancient Judaism No description available.
Samaritans 586 BCE Samaritans followed an Abrahamic religion which claims to continue the ancient religion of the Israel prior to the Babylonian Exile. The Samaritans emerge as the local opposition to the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, thrive under various Greek and Roman rulers of the Holy Land, and have survived to the present.
Karaites 7th C. BCE Karaite Judaism dates to the Jewish community in Baghdad in the 7th century BCE. It is distinguished by its use of Hebrew Bible alone as the supreme legal authority relative to Jewish law and theology. It rejects the old Oral law, later codified in the Talmud. It is also one of the few ancient variants of Judaism to survive into the present era.

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