Major Religious Denominations
As in many religions, Judaism has different branches of practice. The largest Jewish religious groups in Canada – Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism – are briefly outlined in this guide. It is important to note there are other denominations as well, such as Reconstructionist Judaism and Renewal Judaism.
Orthodox Judaism represents a very traditional approach to Judaism, adhering to the belief in the divine origin of the Written and Oral Teachings and insisting on strict adherence to the laws of the Shulhan Arukh, ‘the prepared table,’ a collection of codes and commentaries by Rabbi Joseph Caro. The community’s rabbi is the chief authority on questions of Jewish tradition and customs.
Hasidic Judaism, which was founded in the 18th Century, is a subset of Orthodox Judaism. Its followers generally wear distinctive clothing.
As a religious movement, Conservative Judaism arose in the middle of the 19th Century in Europe and the U.S. As a middle path between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, its founders believed that the traditional forms and precepts of Judaism are binding, while allowing for gradual changes in response to various challenges that a modern society presents.
Commandments are seen as G-d given, but greater flexibility for interpretation is allowed. The community’s rabbi is the chief authority on such interpretations.
As a religious movement, Reform Judaism was established in Europe in the early 19th Century, but it took root primarily in North America.
The guiding principles of the movement are to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, to embrace diversity while asserting commonality, to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt, and to bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship. In the context of community, each individual is empowered to interpret the demands of Jewish tradition.