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Recently, 58 clergy and lay leaders from Conservative Judaism demanded a strategic plan for the future of the movement, according to Religion News Service.

In response, Rabbi Steven Wernick will replace now-retired Rabbi Jerome Epstein as executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The Conservative movement lost ground under Epstein, as Jews transferred out of the movement and other Jews transferred into Reform Judaism. The synagogue hopes the movement will be see revived interest under Wernick.

What are the different branches of Judaism?

In the United States, there are three main movements: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. (Visit this site to learn about movements in Israel and the UK.)

Orthodox Jews observe Jewish laws and practices strictly and pay special attention to their history, particularly that spelled out in the Torah. For them, all laws needed throughout life were given to Moses.

Reform Jews sought to combine Jewish law with the facts of modern life. Many see themselves as more current and relevant than Orthodox Jews. For them, laws can change and new laws can be revealed as time goes on.

Conservative Jews (including Wernick and Epstein) fall in the middle. They follow traditional Jewish law but will accept changes that jibe with that tradition.

Two other Jewish denominations

Though not as large as the aforementioned big three, two other branches of Judaism exist in the States: Humanistic and Reconstructionist.

Reconstructionist Jews may observe Jewish rituals and practices, but mostly because it’s cultural. They don’t believe in God as a personal God who chose the Jews as His people. 

Humanistic Jews follow Jewish cultural practices but do not pay much attention to the Jewish religion, sometimes believing God doesn’t exist at all.

What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism – in other words, those who practice Kabbalah are more concerned with experiencing unity with God than becoming knowledgeable about Jewish practice, tradition, and literature. For them, the experience of meeting with the divine is key. Learn more on

Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends


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