Contemporary Judaism
The Major Branches

Judaism, like all modern religions, has struggled to meet the challenge of secularization: the idealization of science, rationalism, industrialization, and materialism. The response of the Orthodox has been to stand by the Torah as the revealed word of God and the Talmud as the legitimate oral law. Orthodox Jews feel that they are bound by the traditional rabbinical halakhah, as a way of achieving closeness to God. But within this framework there are great individual differences [e.g. Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi), Modern-Orthodox, Hasidic, Chabad (Lubavitchers)], with no central authority figure or governing body. (Living Religions, 291)
The Long Search
Judaism: The Chosen People

Oesterle: 291 L85 v. 7

The Reform (or Liberal) movement, at the other end of the spectrum, began in nineteenth-century Germany as an attempt to help modern Jews appreciate their religion and find a place for it in contemporary society, instead of regarding it as static and antiquatd. In imitation of Christian churches, synagogues were redefined as places for spiritual elevation, with choirs added for effect, and the Sabbath service was shortened and translated into the vernacular. The liturgy was also changed to eliminate references to the hope of return to Zion and animal sacrifices in the Temple. Women and men were allowed to sit together in the synagogue, in contrast to their traditional separation. Halakhic observances were re-evaluated for their relevance to modern needs, and Judaism was understood as an evolving, open-ended religion rather than one fixed forever by the Torah. (Living Religions, 292-3)
The liberalization process has also given birth to other groups with intermediate positions. With roots in mid-nineteenth-century Germany, Conservative Judaism seeks to maintain, or conserve, traditional Jewish laws and practices while also using modern means of historical scholarship, sponsoring critical studies of Jewish texts from all periods. ... Conservative Jews believe that Jews have always searched and added to their laws, liturgy, Midrash, and beliefs to keep them relevant and meaningful in changing times. Conservative women have long served as cantors and have been ordained as rabbis since 1985. (Living Religions, 293)

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, an influential American thinker who died in 1983, branched off from Conservatism and founded a movement called Reconstructionism. Kaplan held that the Enlightenment had changed everything and that strong measures were needed to preserve Judaism in the face of rationalism. Kaplan asserted that “as long as Jews adhered to the traditional conception of the Torah as supernaturally revealed, they would not be amenable to any constructive adjustment of Judaism that was needed to render it viable in a non-Jewish environment.” ... Kaplan created a new prayer book, deleting traditional portions he and others found offensive, such as derogatory references to women and Gentiles, references to physical resurrection of the body, and passages describing God as rewarding or punishing Israel by manipulating natural phenomena. (Living Religions, 293)
In addition to those who are affiliated with a religious movement, there are many Jews who identify themselves as secular Jews, affirming their Jewish origins and maintaining various Jewish cultural traditions while eschewing religious practice. (Living Religions, 293)
Messianic Judaism is a religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who is referred to as Yeshua by its adherents, that claims to have at least 47,000 followers and 280 congregations worldwide as of 2006.[1] [2] Like Christians, and unlike adherents of mainstream Judaism, Messianic Jews believe Jesus to be the Messiah. While Messianic Judaism identifies itself as a branch of Judaism rather than a branch of Christianity,[3] this classification is rejected by all major Jewish denominations (Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism), as well as national Jewish organizations, [4] the State of Israel [5] and others.
What do all of these forms
have in common?