This article discusses basic judaism and the differences between the three major sects of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform
Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion, and for the majority of its 6,000 year history it has remained pretty much the same. But over the past two centuries it has undergone something of a split into three major sects: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. To understand the differences between the three, it is first important to understand some basics about Judaism. The holy book of the Jews is the Torah, better known to non-Jews as the Old Testament. The Torah provides the laws of the Jews, such as the Ten Commandments and the dietary laws known as the laws of Kashrut. There are many laws in the Torah, but they are somewhat ambiguous and open to interpretation. This is where problems arise. Throughout the more recent history of Judaism, a book of commentaries of these laws written by prominent Rabbis, known as the Talmud has been the accepted interpretation. Orthodox Jews follow the Talmud to the letter. They do not use electricity on the Sabbath and they follow all of the many laws of Kashrut, to name a few of the more prominent features of Orthodox Judaism. This was pretty much the only type of Judaism up until about two centuries ago. As the Jews of Eastern Europe began to immigrate to other countries, they began to look for ways to blend in better with the general population. Reform Judaism was born as a way to keep religion and secularism in a sort of balance. Reform Judaism has the very basic features of the religion, but Reform Jews do not follow many of the laws in the Torah and do not keep many Jewish customs. Conservative Judaism is the newest of the three and in essentially a middle-ground between the two extremes, having features of both Orthodox and Reform Judaism.