Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Orthodox Judaism

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Orthodox Judaism is the approach to religious Judaism which subscribes to a tradition of mass revelation and adheres to the interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Tannaim and Amoraim. Orthodox Judaism includes movements such as Modern Orthodox Judaism (אורתודוקסיה מודרנית) and Ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Judaism (יהדות חרדית).


As of 2001, Orthodox Jews and Jews affiliated with an Orthodox synagogue accounted for approximately 50% of British Jews (150,000), 26.5% of Israeli Jews (1,500,000), and 13% of American Jews (529,000). Among those affiliated to a synagogue body, Orthodox Jews represent 70% of British Jewry, and 27% of American Jewry.


Orthodoxy is not one single movement or school of thought. There is no single rabbinical body to which all rabbis are expected to belong, or any one organization representing member congregations.

In the 20th century, a segment of the Orthodox population (as represented by the World Agudath Israel movement) disagreed with Modern Orthodoxy and took a stricter approach. Such rabbis viewed innovations and modifications within Jewish law and customs with extreme care and caution. This form of Judaism may be referred to as Haredi Judaism or "Ultra-Orthodox Judaism".

According to the New Jersey Press Association, several media entities refrain from using the term "ultra-Orthodox", including the Religion Newswriters Association; JTA, the global Jewish news service; and the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest daily newspaper. Several local Jewish papers, including New York's Jewish Week and Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent have also dropped use of the term. According to Shammai Engelmayer, spiritual leader of Temple Israel Community Center in Cliffside Park and former executive editor of Jewish Week, this leaves "Orthodox" as "an umbrella term that designates a very widely disparate group of people very loosely tied together by some core beliefs."

According to Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, the term "Orthodox Judaism" was coined as a response to the rise of Reform Judaism in early 19th century Germany. Responding to the Reform movement’s abandoning of traditional practice and established religious jurisprudence, the new and reactionary "Orthodox Judaism" (a previously unknown term) adopted an opposing stance which sought to enshrine practices that had evolved until that time.


A definite and conclusive credo was never formulated in Judaism; the very question whether the faith contains any equivalent of dogma is a matter of intense scholarly controversy and has been so for centuries. Some researchers attempted to argue that the importance of daily practice and punctilious adherence to Jewish Law (Halakha) relegated theoretical issues to an ancillary status. Others dismissed this view entirely, citing the many debates in ancient rabbinic sources which castigated various heresies without any reference to observance.

However, while lacking a uniform doctrine, Orthodox Judaism is basically united in affirming several core beliefs, disavowal of which is considered major blasphemy. As in other aspects, Orthodox positions reflect the mainstream of traditional Rabbinic Judaism through the ages.

Attempts to codify these were undertaken by several medieval authorities, including Saadia Gaon and Joseph Albo. Each composed his own creed. Yet the 13 Fundamentals expounded by Maimonides in his Commentary on the Mishnah, authored in the 1160s eventually proved the most widely accepted. Various points – for example, Albo listed merely three fundamentals and did not regarded the Messiah as key tenet – the exact formulation, and the status of disbelievers (whether mere errants or heretics who can no longer be considered part of the People Israel) were contested by many of his contemporaries and later sages. But in recent centuries the 13 Principles became standard, and are considered binding and cardinal by Orthodox authorities in a virtually universal manner.


The basic tenets, drawn from ancient sources like the Talmud as well as later sages, include the attributes of God in Judaism: one and indivisible, preceding all creation which He alone brought into being, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, absolutely incorporeal and beyond human reason. Maimonides delineated this understanding of a monotheistic, personal God in six articles concerning His status as the sole Creator, His oneness, His impalpability, that He is first and last, that God alone may be worshiped and no other, and that He is omniscient.


More specific doctrines refer to the times of Godly salvation and afterlife – in Judaism, Olam haBa, The World to Come. These include belief in divine reward for those who observe the Lord's commandments and likewise, punishment meted unto the transgressors. Maimonides reserved one article for this tenet, oft mentioned in traditional sources, stating merely that God rewards and punishes without specification.

This issue has been subject to much debate and interpretation. For example, while Maimonides stated in his writings (and his explanation was very much controversial) that the Garden of Eden is a location on earth that will be recovered, the term Gehinnom ("Hell") referred to punishment in this world, and that only the soul of the righteous shall survive and delight in bliss. Nahmanides offered a more comprehensive system, with divine remuneration for better or worse both in this world, via natural means, and in a celestial heaven and hell.

One of the most important teachings concerning afterlife in Judaism is the Resurrection of the Dead. The Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 11) listed deniers of this faith as heretics who shall have no part in the World to Come. Maimoindes specified it apart as a separate article. This particular notion is closely linked with Reward and Punishment. Saadia Gaon, and many sages who accepted his position, envisioned two Resurrections: one natural, of this world, paired with the salvation of Israel, in which only the righteous among this people alone shall be revived. They will live ordinary, corporeal life but will not die and pass as such into the supernatural World to Come. Then all mankind shall be resuscitated and be given each his just due. Maimonides himself held to a less popular and extremely controversial interpretation (subjecting him to many accusations of heresy), claiming that Resurrection was distinct from the other eschatological events: the righteous of Israel shall merely be given a second, blessed life in this world and then die naturally. The eternal reward shall be preserved for their soul, as beforehand.

Preceding the miraculous events linked with afterlife is the Advent of the Messiah, also independently listed among Maimonides' Thirteen as a tenet of faith.


Orthodox Judaism maintains the historical understanding of Jewish identity. A Jew is someone who was born to a Jewish mother, or who converts to Judaism in accordance with Jewish law and tradition. Orthodoxy thus rejects patrilineal descent as a means of establishing Jewish identity. Similarly, Orthodoxy strongly condemns interreligious marriage. Intermarriage is seen as a deliberate rejection of Judaism, and an intermarried person is effectively cut off from most of the Orthodox community. However, some Orthodox Jewish organizations do reach out to intermarried Jews.

Orthodox Judaism holds that the words of the Torah, including both the Written Law and those parts of the Oral Law which are halacha leMoshe m'Sinai, were dictated by God to Moses essentially as they exist today. The laws contained in the Written Torah were given along with detailed explanations as how to apply and interpret them, the Oral Law. Although Orthodox Jews believe that many elements of current religious law were decreed or added as "fences" around the law by the rabbis, all Orthodox Jews believe that there is an underlying core of Sinaitic law and that this core of the religious laws Orthodox Jews know today is thus directly derived from Sinai and directly reflects the divine will. As such, Orthodox Jews believe that one must be extremely careful in interpreting Jewish law. Orthodox Judaism holds that, given Jewish law's divine origin, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions; in this sense, "creativity" and development in Jewish law is limited.

There is significant disagreement within Orthodox Judaism, particularly between Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism, about the extent and circumstances under which the proper application of halakha should be re-examined as a result of changing realities. As a general rule, Haredi Jews believe that when at all possible the law should be maintained as it was understood by their authorities at the haskalah, believing that it had never changed. Modern Orthodox authorities are more willing to assume that under scrupulous examination, identical principles may lead to different applications in the context of modern life. To the Orthodox Jew, halakha is a guide, God's Law, governing the structure of daily life from the moment he or she wakes up to the moment he or she goes to sleep. It includes codes of behaviour applicable to a broad range of circumstances (and many hypothetical ones). There are though a number of halakhic meta-principles that guide the halakhic process and in an instance of opposition between a specific halakha and a meta-principle, the meta-principle often wins out. Examples of halakhic meta-principles are Deracheha Darchei Noam (the ways of Torah are pleasant), Kavod Habriyot (basic respect for human beings), and Pikuach Nefesh (the sanctity of human life).

Orthodox Judaism holds that on biblical Mount Sinai, the Written Law was transmitted along with an Oral Law. The words of the Torah were spoken to Moses by God; the laws contained in this Written Torah, the 613 mitzvot, were given along with detailed explanations in the oral tradition as to how to apply and interpret them. Furthermore, the Oral law includes principles designed to create new rules. The Oral law is held to be transmitted with an extremely high degree of accuracy. Jewish theologians who choose to emphasize the more evolutionary nature of the halacha point to a famous story in the Talmud where Moses is miraculously transported to the House of Study of Rabbi Akiva and is clearly unable to follow the ensuing discussion.

According to Orthodox Judaism, Jewish law today is based on the commandments in the Torah, as viewed through the discussions and debates contained in classical rabbinic literature, especially the Mishnah and the Talmud. Orthodox Judaism thus holds that the halakha represents the "will of God", either directly, or as close to directly as possible. The laws are from the word of God in the Torah, using a set of rules also revealed by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and have been derived with the utmost accuracy and care, and thus the Oral Law is considered to be no less the word of God. If some of the details of Jewish law may have been lost over the millennia, they were reconstructed in accordance with internally consistent rules.

In this world view, the Mishnaic and Talmudic rabbis are closer to the divine revelation; by corollary, one must be extremely conservative in changing or adapting Jewish law. Orthodox Jews will also study the Talmud for its own sake; this is considered to be the greatest mitzvah of all.

Haredi and Modern Orthodox Judaism vary somewhat in their view of the validity of Halakhic reconsideration. It is held virtually as a principle of belief among many Haredi Jews that halakhah never changes. Haredi Judaism thus views higher criticism of the Talmud as inappropriate, and almost certainly heretical. At the same time, some Modern Orthodox Jews do not have a problem with historical scholarship in this area. See the entry on historical analysis of the Talmud.

Roots of Orthodox Judaism

The roots of Orthodox Judaism can be traced to the late 18th or early 19th century, when elements within German Jewry sought to reform Jewish belief and practice in the early 19th century in response to the Age of Enlightenment, Jewish Emancipation, and Haskalah. They sought to modernize education in light of contemporary scholarship. They rejected claims of the absolute divine authorship of the Torah, declaring only biblical laws concerning ethics to be binding, and stated that the rest of halakha (Jewish law) need not be viewed as normative for Jews in wider society. (see Reform Judaism).

In reaction to the emergence of Reform Judaism, a group of traditionalist German Jews emerged in support of some of the values of the Haskalah, but also wanted to defend the classic, traditional interpretation of Jewish law and tradition. This group was led by those who opposed the establishment of a new temple in Hamburg [1819], as reflected in the booklet "Ele Divrei HaBerit". As a group of Reform Rabbis convened in Braunschweig, Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger of Altona published a manifesto entitled "Shlomei Emunei Yisrael" in German and Hebrew, having 177 Rabbis sign on. At this time the first Orthodox Jewish periodical, "Der Treue Zions Waechter", was launched with the Hebrew supplement "Shomer Zion HaNe'eman" [1845 - 1855]. In later years it was Rav Ettlinger's students Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer of Berlin who deepened the awareness and strength of Orthodox Jewry. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch commented in 1854:

It was not the 'Orthodox' Jews who introduced the word 'orthodoxy' into Jewish discussion. It was the modern 'progressive' Jews who first applied this name to 'old', 'backward' Jews as a derogatory term. This name was at first resented by 'old' Jews. And rightly so. 'Orthodox' Judaism does not know any varieties of Judaism. It conceives Judaism as one and indivisible. It does not know a Mosaic, prophetic and rabbinic Judaism, nor Orthodox and Liberal Judaism. It only knows Judaism and non-Judaism. It does not know Orthodox and Liberal Jews. It does indeed know conscientious and indifferent Jews, good Jews, bad Jews or baptized Jews; all, nevertheless, Jews with a mission which they cannot cast off. They are only distinguished accordingly as they fulfill or reject their mission. (Samson Raphael Hirsch, Religion Allied to Progress, in JMW. p. 198)

Hirsch held the opinion that Judaism demands an application of Torah thought to the entire realm of human experience, including the secular disciplines. His approach was termed the Torah im Derech Eretz approach, or "neo-Orthodoxy". While insisting on strict adherence to Jewish beliefs and practices, he held that Jews should attempt to engage and influence the modern world, and encouraged those secular studies compatible with Torah thought. This pattern of religious and secular involvement has been evident at many times in Jewish history. Scholars believe it was characteristic of the Jews in Babylon during the Amoraic and Geonic periods, and likewise in early medieval Spain, shown by their engagement with both Muslim and Christian society. It appeared as the traditional response to cultural and scientific innovation.

Some scholars believe that Modern Orthodoxy arose from the religious and social realities of Western European Jewry. While most Jews consider Modern Orthodoxy traditional today, some (the hareidi and hasidic groups) within the Orthodox community consider some elements to be of questionable validity. The neo-Orthodox movement holds that Hirsch's views are not accurately followed by Modern Orthodoxy. [See Torah im Derech Eretz and Torah Umadda "Relationship with Torah im Derech Eretz" for a more extensive listing.]

Development of Orthodox religious practice

Contemporary Orthodox Jews believe that they adhere to the same basic philosophy and legal framework that has existed throughout Jewish history, whereas the other denominations depart from it. Orthodox Judaism, as it exists today, is an outgrowth that claims to extend from the time of Moses, to the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, through the development of oral law and rabbinic literature, until the present time. For some, Orthodox Judaism has been seen as a continuation of what was the mainstream expression of Judaism prior to the 19th century.

However, the Orthodox claim to absolute fidelity to past tradition has been challenged by modern scholars who contend that the Judaism of the Middle Ages bore little resemblance to that practiced by today's Orthodox. Rather, the Orthodox community, as a counterreaction to the liberalism of the Haskalah movement, began to embrace far more stringent halachic practices than their predecessors, most notably in matters of Kashrut and Passover dietary laws, where the strictest possible interpretation becomes a religious requirement, even where the Talmud explicitly prefers a more lenient position, and even where a more lenient position was practiced by prior generations.

Jewish historians also note that certain customs of today's Orthodox are not continuations of past practice, but instead represent innovations that would have been unknown to prior generations. For example, the now-widespread haredi tradition of cutting a boy's hair for the first time on his third birthday (upshirin or upsheerin, Yiddish for "haircut") "originated as an Arab custom that parents cut a newborn boy's hair and burned it in a fire as a sacrifice," and "Jews in Palestine learned this custom from Arabs and adapted it to a special Jewish context." The Ashkenazi prohibition against eating kitniyot (grains and legumes such as rice, corn, beans, and peanuts) during Passover was explicitly rejected in the Talmud, has no known precedent before the 12th century and represented a minority position for hundreds of years thereafter, but nonetheless has remained a mandatory prohibition among Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews due to their historic adherence to ReMA's rulings in the Shulchan Aruch.

Growth of Orthodox affiliation

In practice, the emphasis on strictness has resulted in the rise of "homogeneous enclaves" with other haredi Jews that are less likely to be threatened by assimilation and intermarriage, or even to interact with other Jews who do not share their doctrines. Nevertheless, this strategy has proved successful and the number of adherents to Orthodox Judaism, especially Haredi and Chassidic communities, has grown rapidly.

In 1915, Yeshiva College (later Yeshiva University) and its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary was established in New York City for training in an Orthodox milieu. A school branch was established in Los Angeles, California.

A number of other influential Orthodox seminaries, mostly Haredi, were established throughout the country, most notably in New York, Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois. Beth Medrash Govoha, the Haredi yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey is the largest Talmudic academy in the United States, with a student body of over 5,000 students.


While some assert that the majority of Jews killed during the Holocaust were religiously Orthodox, numbering 50–70% of those who perished, researchers have shown that Jewish Orthodoxy was waning at the time, consumed by the Jewish Enlightenment, secular Zionism, and the socialist movements of pre-war Europe.

Streams of Orthodoxy

Orthodox Judaism is heterogeneous, whereby subgroups maintain significant social differences, and less significant differences in understanding Halakha. What unifies various groups under the "Orthodox" umbrella is the central belief that Torah, including the Oral Law, was given directly from God to Moses at Mount Sinai and applies in all times and places. As a result, all Orthodox Jews are required to live in accordance with the Commandments and Jewish law.

Since there is no one Orthodox body, there is no one canonical statement of principles of faith. Rather, each Orthodox group claims to be a non-exclusive heir to the received tradition of Jewish theology. Some groups have affirmed a literal acceptance of Maimonides' thirteen principles.

Given this (relative) philosophic flexibility, variant viewpoints are possible, particularly in areas not explicitly demarcated by the Halakha. The result is a relatively broad range of hashqafoth (Sing. hashkafa Hebrew: השקפה‎‎ – world view, Weltanschauung) within Orthodoxy. The greatest differences within strains of Orthodoxy involve the following issues:

  • the degree to which an Orthodox Jew should integrate or disengage from secular society
  • based, in part, on varying interpretations of the Three Oaths, whether Zionism is part of Judaism or opposed to it, and defining the role of the modern State of Israel in Judaism
  • their spiritual approach to Torah such as the relative roles of mainstream Talmudic study and mysticism or ethics
  • the validity of secular knowledge including critical Jewish scholarship of Rabbinic literature and modern philosophical ideas
  • whether the Talmudic obligation to learn while also practicing a trade/profession applies in our times
  • the centrality of yeshivas as the place for personal Torah study
  • the validity of authoritative spiritual guidance in areas outside of Halakhic decision (Da'as Torah)
  • the importance of maintaining non-Halakhic customs, such as dress, language and music
  • the role of women in (religious) society
  • the nature of the relationship with non-Jews
  • Based on their philosophy and doctrine vis-a-vis these core issues, adherents to Orthodoxy can roughly be divided into the subgroups of Modern Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism, with Hasidic Jewish groups falling into the latter category.

    Modern Orthodoxy

    Modern Orthodoxy comprises a fairly broad spectrum of movements, each drawing on several distinct though related philosophies, which in some combination have provided the basis for all variations of the movement today. In general, Modern Orthodoxy holds that Jewish law is normative and binding, while simultaneously attaching a positive value to interaction with contemporary society. In this view, Orthodox Judaism can "be enriched" by its intersection with modernity; further, "modern society creates opportunities to be productive citizens engaged in the Divine work of transforming the world to benefit humanity". At the same time, in order to preserve the integrity of halakha, any area of "powerful inconsistency and conflict" between Torah and modern culture must be avoided. Modern Orthodoxy, additionally, assigns a central role to the "People of Israel".

    Modern Orthodoxy, as a stream of Orthodox Judaism represented by institutions such as the U.S. National Council for Young Israel, is pro-Zionist and thus places a high national, as well as religious, significance on the State of Israel, and its affiliates are, typically, Zionist in orientation. It also practices involvement with non-Orthodox Jews that extends beyond "outreach (Kiruv)" to continued institutional relations and cooperation; see further under Torah Umadda. Other "core beliefs" are a recognition of the value and importance of secular studies, a commitment to equality of education for both men and women, and a full acceptance of the importance of being able to financially support oneself and one's family.

    Haredi Judaism

    Haredi Judaism advocates segregation from non-Jewish culture, although not from non-Jewish society entirely. It is characterised by its focus on community-wide Torah study. Haredi Orthodoxy's differences with Modern Orthodoxy usually lie in interpretation of the nature of traditional halakhic concepts and in acceptable application of these concepts. Thus, engaging in the commercial world is a legitimate means to achieving a livelihood, but individuals should participate in modern society as little as possible. The same outlook is applied with regard to obtaining degrees necessary to enter one's intended profession: where tolerated in the Haredi society, attending secular institutions of higher education is viewed as a necessary but inferior activity. Academic interest is instead to be directed toward the religious education found in the yeshiva. Both boys and girls attend school and may proceed to higher Torah study, starting anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18. A significant proportion of students, especially boys, remain in yeshiva until marriage (which is often arranged through facilitated dating – see shiduch), and many study in a kollel (Torah study institute for married men) for many years after marriage. Most Orthodox men (including many Modern Orthodox), even those not in Kollel, will study Torah daily.

    Hasidic Judaism

    Hasidic or Chasidic Judaism is a type of Haredi Judaism that originated in Eastern Europe (what is now Belarus and Ukraine) in the 18th century. Founded by Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), it emerged in an age of persecution of the Jewish people, when a schism existed between scholarly and common European Jews. In addition to bridging this class gap, Hasidic teachings sought to reintroduce joy in the performance of the commandments and in prayer through the popularisation of Jewish mysticism (this joy had been suppressed in the intense intellectual study of the Talmud). The Ba'al Shem Tov sought to combine rigorous scholarship with more emotional mitzvah observance. In a practical sense, what distinguishes Hasidic Judaism from other forms of Haredi Judaism is the close-knit organization of Hasidic communities centered on a Rebbe (sometimes translated as "Grand Rabbi"), and various customs and modes of dress particular to each community. In some cases, there are religious ideological distinctions between Hasidic groups, as well. Another phenomenon that sets Hasidic Judaism apart from general Haredi Judaism is the strong emphasis placed on speaking Yiddish; in (many) Hasidic households and communities, Yiddish is spoken exclusively.

    In practice

    For guidance in practical application of Jewish law, the majority of Orthodox Jews appeal to the Shulchan Aruch ("Code of Jewish Law" composed in the 16th century by Rabbi Joseph Caro) together with its surrounding commentaries. Thus, at a general level, there is a large degree of uniformity amongst all Orthodox Jews. Concerning the details, however, there is often variance: decisions may be based on various of the standardized codes of Jewish Law that have been developed over the centuries, as well as on the various responsa. These codes and responsa may differ from each other as regards detail (and reflecting the above philosophical differences, as regards the weight assigned to these). By and large, however, the differences result from the historic dispersal of the Jews and the consequent development of differences among regions in their practices (see minhag).

  • Mizrahi and Sephardic Orthodox Jews base their practice on the Shulchan Aruch. The recent works of Halakha, Kaf HaChaim, Ben Ish Chai and Yalkut Yosef are considered authoritative in many Sephardic communities. Thus Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews may choose to follow the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai when it conflicts with the Shulchan Aruch. Some of these practices are derived from the Kabbalistic school of Isaac Luria.
  • Ashkenazic Orthodox Jews have traditionally based most of their practices on the ReMA, the gloss on the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Moses Isserles, reflecting differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi custom. In the post-World War II period, the Mishnah Berurah has become authoritative. Ashkenazi Jews may choose to follow the Mishna Brurah instead of a particular detail of Jewish law as presented in the Shulchan Aruch.
  • Chabad Lubavitch Hasidim follows the rulings of Shneur Zalman of Liadi in the Shulchan Aruch HaRav.
  • Traditional Baladi and Dor Daim (Yemenite Jews) base most of their practices on the Mishneh Torah, the compendium by Maimonides of halakha, written several centuries before the Shulchan Aruch. The Talmidei haRambam also keep Jewish law as codified in the Mishneh Torah.
  • A smaller number, such as the Romaniote Jews, traditionally rule according to the Jerusalem Talmud over the Babylonian Talmud.
  • Spanish and Portuguese Jews consider the Shulchan Aruch authoritatively but differ from other Sephardim by making less allowance for more recent authorities, in particular customs based on the Kabbalah. Some customs are based on Maimonides or the Arba'ah Turim.
  • Orthodox Judaism emphasizes practicing rules of Kashrut, Shabbat, Family Purity, and Tefilah (Prayer). Many Orthodox Jews can be identified by their manner of dress and family lifestyle. Orthodox men and women dress modestly by keeping most of their skin covered. Married women cover their hair, most commonly in the form of a scarf, also in the form of hats, snoods, berets, or, sometimes, wigs. Orthodox men wear a skullcap known as a kipa, and often fringes called tzitzit. Many men grow beards, and Haredi men usually wear black hats and suits. Modern Orthodox Jews are commonly indistinguishable in their dress from those around them.

    In the United States

    Although sizable Orthodox Jewish communities are located throughout the United States, the highest number of American Orthodox Jews live in New York State, particularly in the New York City Metropolitan Area. Two of the main Orthodox communities in the United States are located in New York City and Rockland County. In New York City, the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Midwood, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights, located in the borough of Brooklyn, have particularly large Orthodox communities. The most rapidly growing community of American Orthodox Jews is located in Rockland County and the Hudson Valley of New York, including the communities of Monsey, Monroe, New Square, Kiryas Joel, and Ramapo. There are also sizable and rapidly growing Orthodox communities throughout New Jersey, particularly in Lakewood, Freehold, Teaneck, Englewood, Passaic, and Fair Lawn. Growth in the Orthodox Jewish population in Lakewood has driven overall population growth, making it the fastest growing town by absolute numerical increase in New Jersey between roughly 2008 and 2012; Lakewood's population grew from 70,046 to 96,575, an increase of 26,529 over that period.

    In addition, Maryland has a large number of Orthodox Jews, many of whom live in Baltimore, particularly in the Park Heights, Mount Washington, and Pikesville areas. Two other large Orthodox Jewish centers are southern Florida, particularly Miami Beach, and the Los Angeles area of California.

    In contrast to the general American Jewish community, which is dwindling due to low fertility and high intermarriage and assimilation rates, the Orthodox Jewish community of the United States is growing rapidly. Among Orthodox Jews, the fertility rate stands at about 4.1 children per family, as compared to 1.9 children per family among non-Orthodox Jews, and intermarriage among Orthodox Jews is practically non-existent, standing at about 2%, in contrast to a 71% intermarriage rate among non-Orthodox Jews. In addition, Orthodox Judaism has a growing retention rate; while about half of those raised in Orthodox homes previously abandoned Orthodox Judaism, that number is declining. According to The New York Times, the high growth rate of Orthodox Jews will eventually render them the dominant demographic force in New York Jewry.

    Politically, Orthodox Jews, given their variety of movements and affiliations, tend not to conform easily to the standard left-right political spectrum, with one of the key differences between the movements stemming from the groups' attitudes to Zionism. Generally speaking, of the three key strands of Orthodox Judaism, Haredi Orthodox, and Hasidic Orthodox Jews are at best ambivalent towards the ideology of Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel, and there are many groups and organisations who are outspokenly anti-Zionistic, seeing the ideology of Zionism as diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Torah, and the Zionist administration of the State of Israel, with its emphasis on militarism and nationalism, as destructive of the Judaic way of life.

    On the other hand, Orthodox Jews subscribing to Modern Orthodoxy in its American and UK incarnations, tend to follow far more right-wing politics than both non-Orthodox and other Orthodox Jews. While the majority of non-Orthodox American Jews are on average strongly liberal and supporters of the Democratic Party, the Modern Orthodox subgroup of Orthodox Judaism tends to be far more conservative, with roughly half describing themselves as political conservatives, and are mostly Republican Party supporters. Modern Orthodox Jews, compared to both the non-Orthodox American Jewry and the Haredi and Hasidic Jewry, also tend to have a stronger connection to Israel due to their attachment to Zionism.

    Movements, organisations and groups

  • Agudath Israel of America is the largest and most influential Haredi organization in America. Its roots go back to the establishment of the original founding of the Agudath Israel movement in 1912 in Katowitz, Prussia (now Katowice, Poland). The American Agudath Israel was founded in 1939. There is an Agudat Israel (Hasidic) in Israel, and also Degel HaTorah (non-Hasidic "Lithuanian"), as well as an Agudath Israel of Europe. These groups are loosely affiliated through the World Agudath Israel, which from time to time holds a major gathering in Israel called a knessia. Agudah unites many rabbinic leaders from the Hasidic Judaism wing with those of the non-Hasidic "yeshiva" world. It is generally non-nationalistic and ambivalent towards the modern State of Israel.
  • The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, known as the Orthodox Union, or "OU", and the Rabbinical Council of America, "RCA", are organizations that represent Modern Orthodox Judaism, a large segment of Orthodoxy in the United States and Canada. These groups should not be confused with the similarly named Union of Orthodox Rabbis (described below).
  • The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) and the Council of Young Israel Rabbis (CYIR) are smaller groups that were founded as Modern Orthodox organizations, are Zionistic, and are in the right wing of Modern Orthodox Judaism. Young Israel strongly supports and allies itself with the settlement movement in Israel. While the lay membership of synagogues affiliated with the NCYI are almost exclusively Modern Orthodox in orientation, the rabbinical leadership of the synagogues ranges from Modern Orthodox to Haredi.
  • The Chief Rabbinate of Israel was founded with the intention of representing all of Judaism within the State of Israel, and has two chief rabbis: One is Ashkenazic (of the East European and Russian Jewish tradition), and one is Sephardic (of the Mediterranean, North African, Central Asian, Middle-Eastern, and of Caucasus Jewish tradition.) The rabbinate has never been accepted by most Israeli Haredi groups. Since the 1960s, the Chief rabbinate of Israel has moved somewhat closer to the positions of Haredi Judaism.
  • Mizrachi, and political parties such as Mafdal and National Union (Israel) all represent certain sectors within the Religious Zionist movement, both in Israel and the diaspora. The defunct Gush Emunim, Meimad, Tzohar, Hazit and other movements represent over competing divisions within the sector. They firmly believe in the "Land Of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel" principle, although Meimad are pragmatic about such program. Gush Emunim are the settlement wing of National Union (Israel) and support widespread kiruv as well, through such institutions as Machon Meir, Merkaz HaRav and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner. Another sector includes the Hardal faction, which tends to be unallied to the Government and quite centristic.
  • Chabad Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidic Judaism widely known for its emphasis on outreach and education. The organization has been in existence for 200 years, and especially after the Second World War, it began sending out emissaries (shluchim) who have as a mission the bringing back of disaffected Jews to a level of observance consistent with Chabad norms (i.e., Chassidus, Chabad messianism, Tanya). They are major players in what is known as the Baal Teshuva movement. Their mandate is to introduce Chabad philosophy to non-observant Jews and to make them more observant as Beinonis. According to sociologists studying contemporary Jewry, the Chabad movement neither fits into the category of Haredi or modern Orthodox, the standard categories for Orthodox Jews. This is due in part to the existence of the "non-Orthodox Hasidim" (of which include former Israeli President Zalman Shazar), the lack of official recognition of political and religious distinctions within Judaism and the open relationship with non-Orthodox Jews represented by the activism of Chabad emissaries.
  • The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute is a provider of adult Jewish courses on Jewish history, law, ethics, philosophy and rabbinical literature. It also develops Jewish studies curricula specifically for women, college students, teenagers, and seniors. In 2014, there were 117,500 people enrolled in JLI, making it the largest Jewish education network in the world.
  • In Israel, although it shares a similar agenda with the Sephardic Shas political party, Shas is more bipartisan when it comes to its own issues, and non-nationalistic-based with a huge emphasis on Sephardi and Mizrahi Judaism.
  • The Agudath HaRabbonim, also known as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, is a small Haredi-leaning organization founded in 1902. It should not be confused with "The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America" (see above) which is a separate organization. While at one time influential within Orthodox Judaism, the Agudath HaRabbonim in the last several decades has progressively moved further to the right; its membership has been dropping and it has been relatively inactive. Some of its members are rabbis from Chabad Lubavitch; some are also members of the RCA (see above). It is currently most famous for its 1997 declaration (citing Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog and Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik) that the Conservative and Reform movements are "not Judaism at all".
  • The Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada (CRC) was established in 1952. It is an anti-Zionist, Haredi organization, closely aligned with the Satmar Hasidic group, which has about 100,000 adherents (an unknown number of which are rabbis), and like-minded Haredi groups.
  • The left-wing Modern Orthodox advocacy group, Edah, formed from United States Modern Orthodox rabbis. Most of its membership came from synagogues affiliated with the Union of Orthodox Congregations and RCA (above). Their motto was, "The courage to be Modern and Orthodox". Edah ceased operations in 2007 and merged some of its programs into the left-wing Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
  • The Beis Yaakov educational movement, begun in 1917, introduced the concept of formal Judaic schooling for Orthodox women.
  • References

    Orthodox Judaism Wikipedia