Throughout history, people of Jewish descent have gone through many trials and tribulations that may have changed the way people perceive the religion. From the beginning of time, Jews have kept a special covenant with God, and have never lost faith, despite all the anti-semitism they have been victims of throughout their time on earth. Society and its standards have also changed, which play a part in the altering of how the Jewish religion is practiced. There are three main types of Jewish people, and they are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews; each one has a different way of how they choose to live out the teachings and traditions of their faith. These different types of Jews were not there from the beginning of the religion, but have evolved, and, in turn, have changed the meaning of being Jewish.
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Orthodox Jews are the most conservative type of Jews. They will strictly follow the rules of the Torah, and practice their everyday traditions exactly how they’re supposed to. They choose to dress very modestly, and are very conservative when it comes to sexuality; to them, it is considered inappropriate for a boy and girl to shake hands outside of marriage. If there was any group of Jews that have not changed throughout their long history, it would be this group. For them, the meaning of Judaism has not changed one bit. Although Orthodox Jews have not changed anything about the faith, the way other people interpret their way of living has changed. Also, the number of Jews who identify as Orthodox has slowly been declining since Judaism was established. In fact, studies suggest that only 10% of people practicing the Jewish faith identify as Orthodox. Many have left the Orthodox way of Judaism to join more liberal ways of Judaism, like conservative or reform Judaism. Kathy Finkelson, a Reformed Jewish teacher at Villa Angela – St. Joseph High School, recently informed a class about Judaism and the differences between the three different types of Jewish people; she stated that Orthodox Jews are by far the most conservative Jews; she mentioned that Orthodox Jews have a strict interpretation on how to live out their laws, especially on the Shabbat, or Sabbath, the day of rest. She recalled that they refuse to do any work on the Sabbath; they even go so far as to set timers on their lights, and rip toilet paper before the Sabbath starts, because they consider doing that to be work. This implies that for Orthodox Jews, the meaning of being Jewish has not changed one bit. However, other Jews’ have perceived the faith differently. According to the Pew Research Center, 32% of millennial Jews believe that the faith and identifying with it has more to do with culture than it does with actual belief in God; these numbers are highly contrasted to the mere seven percent of Greatest generation Jews who do not believe in God, but identify as Jewish.
Conservative Jews have somewhat strayed away from the original meaning of Judaism, compared to those who are Orthodox. A yarmulke is a Jewish hat used to cover up the head, and many Jewish men use it. Orthodox Jews obviously always wear it in the synagogue, and sometimes, Conservative Jewish men will wear it is Conservative synagogues, but not all. This is where the perception of Judaism starts to change. Conservative Jews will follow some of the same things that Orthodox Jews follow, but change some things because they are more liberal. There are also some things that change depending on the person; for example, since Jews have no actual spot in their Scripture that talks about the afterlife, it is up to interpretation, and this how the meaning of Judaism changes. Basically, for Conservative Jews, the meaning of Judaism is very flexible. They do some things in the old tradition that the Orthodox Jews follow, but they also do things in new ways, and do not keep the words of their holy books so strict. They do not strictly follow the sabbath, and they may or may not even eat kosher. This is more evidence that the meaning of Judaism has changed and that is varies from person to person. Also, each different type of Jew has different interpretations of the Torah. The Orthodox Jews follow it strictly and believe everything in it is the true law, while the Conservative Jews believe the Torah was given by God but transmitted through humans, and the Reform Jews have a very loose interpretation on the Torah and its laws; they are very radical compared to the Orthodox Jews. This again proves that the meaning of being Jewish has changed.
Reform Jews are very, very different in their beliefs that Orthodox, and maybe even Conservative Jews.for them, the meaning of Judaism is far off from what some of their counterparts believe. Reform Jews do all kinds of work on the synagogue, which Orthodox Jews wouldn’t dream of it; the majority of Reform Jews do not eat kosher, while Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews do; in whole, Reform Jews are almost completely different from Orthodox Jews, while Conservative Jews are a happy medium. Many Jewish people have slowly been moving away from the traditional ways of life to a more liberal one; in fact, one-third of the Jewish population identifies as Reform. For these people, the meaning of being Jewish has changed drastically. Obviously, reform Jews still respect their more traditional counterparts; for example, a Reform Jew may put on a yarmulke when entering an Orthodox or Conservative synagogue, even if they interpret the meaning of Judaism differently. Throughout the past several years, Jewish people have been moving inside the different realms of their religion, some even leaving the religion entirely. About one third of Orthodox-raised Jews moved to Conservative or Reform, 30% of Conservative-raised Jews became Reform, and 28% of Reform have stopped identifying with Judaism altogether.
All this information suggests that in many different ways, the meaning of being Jewish has been changed, in regard to many different aspects of Judaism, such as the different ways to worship, the different appearances one is allowed to have, the different ways to eat, and many more. It has changed so much, it even branches off to a few other sections, with varying degrees of interpretation of the holy books. Judaism is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, recognized religion in the world, and it would be nearly impossible for the meaning of it to stay completely static.
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