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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 2.7:
What are some of the Orthodox sub-groups?

Answer:

The term "Traditional" has often been used as a synonym for Orthodox (especially when using the dichotomy Traditional/Liberal). However in recent years this useage has become less common: A faction broke off from the Conservative movement, and took the name "The Union for Traditional Judaism" (UTJ); its members are known as Traditional Jews. UTJ is a trans-denominational organization, working with the broad spectrum of Jews, and is not part of Modern Orthodoxy or any other denomination. Their "hashkafa" is in line with what many people might think of as Modern Orthodox, although in some ways it may be the left of standard Modern Orthodoxy and in other ways it may be to the right of Modern Orthodoxy. They shun denominational lables in order to get beyond the politics of religion, so that they can work with all Jews in supporting the practice of halachic Judaism.

Note also that the Conservative movement in Israel and Europe is called Masorti (Traditional) Judaism. As such, fewer people use the term "traditional" without additional qualification, so as to avoid confusion. In the FAQ, the term "traditional" (little-t) is used in the generic sense, while "Traditional" (big-T) is used to refer to UTJ. "Masorti" is used to the Conservative Movement in Israel and Europe.

The following are some of the major divisions within Orthodoxy:

"Centrist/modern/cosmopolitan" (colloquially [sometimes pejorative, sometimes affectionate] "kipa sruga" [crocheted skull cap]) Orthodox usually mean an Orthodoxy which approves of many aspects of secular culture, especially secular education, in addition to traditional Torah study. They tend to be Zionist. The precise term depends on the speaker - R' Norman Lamm uses "centrist," R' Shlomo Riskin uses "cosmopolitan" and R' Emmanuel Rackman uses "modern." The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, Yeshiva University, and the Rabbinical Council of America in some sense represents this group. In Israel, the Mizrachi organization is a well-known representative.

Some of the Liberal Orthodox/Open Orthodox/Modern Orthodox groups include:

Modern/Centrist Orthodox groups include the following:

"Yeshivish" (colloquially, [sometimes pejorative, sometimes affectionate] "black hat" or "black") suggests an Orthodox outlook in which the focus of life is Torah study, as is done in Lithuanian-style Yeshivos. Secular culture is either tolerated or criticized for its corrupting influences. This group tends to be "non-Zionist" in the sense that they love the land of Israel and its holiness (many spend years in Israel for Torah study), but are unenthusiastic about secular Zionism and Israeli secular culture. In America, Agudah Yisroel is yeshivish. In Israel, Agudah Yisroel is chassidic, and Degel haTorah is yeshivish. This is partially because in America, the Agudah is a communal organization that runs a number of charitable, humaniterean and outreach projects and lobbies and advocates for the rights of Torah-observant Jews and to protect and strengthen Torah observance. In Israel, on the other hand, 'Agudath Israel' is a political party that holds seats in the parliament. The Shas contingency are generally considered to be in the 'Charedei' camp.

Some examples of such Orthodox groups include the following:

The Chassidic style of Orthodox Judaism is described in a later section.

In Israel, the "Dati/Chareidi" distinction is more a matter of attitude towards Zionism than of political affiliation or religious views. The Dati tend to be more supportive of Zionism, with the Chareidi not having much belief in the modern Jewish state. Please note that these are general positions; individual members may hold different views and your milage may vary. Note that there are lots of debates over these classifications, so nothing here is cast in stone.

Some other useful resources to explore the wide variety of Orthodox Judaism include:


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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