Most people basically believe there are only three major movements in the U.S. today: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. The truth is there are many established and fledgling movements growing all around the world. The differences between Jewish movements today is not so much a matter of theology, rather more a matter of how literally the scriptures are viewed, how much each group thinks biblical requirements can be changed, and whether such requirements are mandatory. Who knows what the NEXT breed of movements will be?
Here is a little on five lesser known Jewish movements:
Reconstructionist Judaism follows substantial theological diversity within the movement. Though in general the movement emphasizes positive views toward modernism. Halakha is not considered binding, but is treated as a valuable. It is a cultural remnant that should be upheld unless there is reason for the contrary. This movement approaches Jewish custom form the view which aims toward communal decision making. The intent is to achieve this “through a process of education and distillation of values from traditional Jewish sources”. For more info visit The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation.
Wilderness Torah explains Earth Based Judaism well in stating the basics. They seek to revitalize Jewish life by reconnecting Jewish traditions to the cycles of nature. Their goal is to facilitate an individual’s spiritual growth, strengthen multi-generational community, and connect them to nature. They strive for this through land-based festivals, rites of passage, and sustainable life skills education. They create programs to cultivate understanding of Judaism’s earth-based roots, inspire appreciation for Creation, and offer skills that empower participants to engage in Tikkun Olam by living sustainably in the modern world.
Drawn from ALEPH one can ascertain some basics of The Jewish Renewal Movement. It is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement. Following in Judaism’s prophetic and mystical traditions, Jewish renewal carries forward Judaism’s perpetual process of renewal. They seek to bring creativity, relevance, joy, and an all embracing spiritual practice to life. It is looked on as a path to healing one’s heart and finding balance and wholeness, thus called tikkun halev. They work to act to fully include all Jews and to respect all peoples. In this ideology this movement seeks to help to heal the world by “promoting justice, freedom, responsibility, caring for all life and the earth that sustains all life” and thus tikkun olam.
According to The Society of Humanistic Judaism this movement embraces a human-centered philosophy. They strive to combine the celebration of Jewish culture with an identity of adherence to humanistic values and ideas. The objective is for Humanistic Judaism to offer a non-theistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. It was established by Rabbi Wine in 1963 in Detroit, Michigan. His idea was to provide a home for humanistic, secular, and cultural Jews. Humanistic Judaism has become a worldwide movement. Humanistic Jewish communities celebrate Jewish holidays and life cycle events (such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvah) with inspirational ceremonies that draw upon but go beyond traditional literature.
The karaite-korner.org explains well the basics of Karaite Judaism‘s principles through The Karaite Declaration of Faith, called Tuv Ta’am. It has been recited in the Karaite Synagogue on High Holidays since at least the 13th Century. An abridged version is now being recited twice daily. It consists of statements read aloud by the Hazan (cantor). The congregation responds by shouting Emet! “Truth!” They belive in the uniqueness, oneness of YHWH as G-d and Creator. For this movement the truth of the Torah given to Moses is central and singular amongst reference works. They hold the concept of an ultimate reward for those who keep the Torah. They also belive in a truth and holiness of the Biblical Holidays and Feasts. They follow that the eternal nature of G-d rules the universe and that there is a “Messianic” Era.