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Article Benchmarks:
Messianic Judaism
Ultra Orthodox
Past Denominations

Messianic Judaism:

Med-Messianic-SealThis is the only branch of Judaism that openly recognizes Jesus as the Messiah. Messianic Jews worship Jesus the same way Christians do. They also sometimes celebrate many of the Old Testament feast like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. Some Messianic Jews are "torah observant" which means they would try to obey the written laws in the first 5 books of the Bible. They do this not to earn ether salvation because they recognize salvation comes through faith alone and not works. They do this because they view being torah observant as an act of obedience to God's commandments. You do not have to be born Jewish to practice Messianic Judaism. Many Messianic congregations are made up of a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.

Ultra Orthodox:

Ultra Orthodox Judaism takes the word of the Bible very literally. For this type of Judaism, usually, any Old Testament Law that can be followed is obeyed when possible. This would include things like observing the Sabbath on Saturdays and obeying dietary laws (keeping kosher). In addition to this often Rabbinical Law is followed. Books like the Talmud help to give their belief system additional direction.

Ultra Orthodox Jews would typically belong to some of the following groups:

Lubavitch Hasidism, which is generally presented through its organizational arm called Chabad, is a Jewish Haredi Hasidic movement. Chabad Lubavitch adherents are referred to as Lubavitchers or Chabadniks.(1)

Lubavitch Hasidism, which is generally presented through its organizational arm called Chabad, is a Jewish Haredi Hasidic movement.(2)

Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia that served as the movement's headquarters for over a century. In Russian, the word Lubavitch means the "city of brotherly love." Lubavitchers claim the name Lubavitch conveys the essence of their movement, which stresses reaching out with love toward every single Jew.(2)

The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of wisdom (chochmah), comprehension (binah) and knowledge (da'at).(2)

Chabad Lubavitch Hasidism was formed from the writings of Rabbi Shneur Zalman in the 18th century. Schneur Zalman was succeeded by seven other Lubavitcher Rebbes, each designated by his predecessor. Lubavitcher Rebbes served as spiritual, intellectual and organizational leaders. They delved into Jewish mysticism, encouraged Jewish learning and practice, and worked for the betterment of Jewish life everywhere.(2)

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1950. In this post-Holocaust period, Schneerson - referred to simply as the Rebbe - succeeded to create an amazing array of programs to serve Jews worldwide.(2)

In 1994, Schneerson died childless and with no designated successor. Chabad leadership decided that Schneerson would be the final Rebbe. The decision has led many who think of Schneerson as the Messiah, and thus been controversial.(2)

Rabbi SchneersonNote from Those who did support Rabbi Schneerson as Messiah looked to passages such as Isaiah 53 which lends support to the idea that Jews know this area of the Bible speaks about the Messiah and not Israel.

Recently, some members of the sect of Ultra Orthodox (Lubavitchers) in New York believed (and still believe) that Chief Rabbi Menachem Schneerson was the Messiah. When he died in 1994, they turned to Isaiah 53 (Supporting The Idea That Isaiah 53 Is A Messianic Passage) to predict his resurrection and ascension to the throne of Jerusalem.(2)

Since the Rebbe's death, Chabad, which is headquartered in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, has expanded. Today Chabad hosts an international Jewish outreach movement with thousands of emissary couples working in more than 100 countries worldwide. The emissaries aim to encourage Jews to return to traditional practices.

Haredi Judaism is often translated as ultra-Orthodox Judaism, although Haredi Jews themselves object to this translation. Haredi Jews consider themselves to be the true Jews, and consider all the more liberal forms of Judaism to be unauthentic.(1)

According to Haredi Jews, authentic Jews believe God wrote the Torah, strictly observe Jewish Law (halacha), and refuse to modify Judaism to meet contemporary needs. The word Haredi derives from the Hebrew word for fear (harada) and can be interpreted as "one who trembles in awe of God" (Isaiah 66:2,5).(3)

In 18th century Europe, as many Jews were promoting a reformation of Judaism that would enable them to take advantage of new opportunities opening up to them outside of the ghetto, more conservative Jews were arguing that Judaism could not be modified in any way.(3)

These Eastern European Jews, who fought against the birth of more liberal forms of Judaism, were the founders of today's Haredi movement.(3)

Hasidic Judaism is one movement within Haredi Judaism. The Hasidic movement is unique in its focus on the joyful observance of God's commandments (mitzvot), heartfelt prayer and boundless love for God and the world He created. Many ideas for Hasidism derived from Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah).(1)

Hasidic Jews are called Hasidim in Hebrew. This word derived from the Hebrew word for loving kindness (chesed). The Hasidic movement is unique in its focus on the joyful observance of God's commandments (mitzvot), heartfelt prayer and boundless love for God and the world He created. Many ideas for Hasidism derived from Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah).(4)

The movement originated in Eastern Europe in the 18th century, at a time when Jews were experiencing great persecution. While the Jewish elite focused on and found comfort in Talmud study, the impoverished and uneducated Jewish masses hungered for a new approach.(4)

Fortunately for the Jewish masses, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1700-1760) found a way to democratize Judaism.

He was a poor orphan from the Ukraine. As a young man, he traveled around Jewish villages, healing the sick and helping the poor. After he married, he went into seclusion in the mountains and focused on mysticism. As his following grew, he became known as the Baal Shem Tov (abbreviated as Besht) which means “Master of the Good Name.”(4)

In a nutshell, the Baal Shem Tov led European Jewry away from Rabbinism and toward mysticism. The early Hasidic movement encouraged the poor and oppressed Jews of 18th century Europe to be less academic and more emotional, less focused on executing rituals and more focused on experiencing them, less focused on gaining knowledge and more focused on feeling exalted. The way one prayed became more important than one’s knowledge of the prayer’s meaning. The Baal Shem Tov did not modify Judaism, but he did suggest that Jews approach Judaism from a different psychological state.(4)

Despite united and vocal opposition (mitnagdim) led by the Vilna Gaon of Lithuania, Hasidic Judaism flourished. Some say that half of European Jews were Hasidic at one time. Over time, Hasidism broke up into different groups headed by the different tzadikim. Some of the larger and more well-known Hasidic sects include Breslov, Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Ger, Belz, Bobov, Skver, Vizhnitz, Sanz (Klausenberg), Puppa, Munkacz, Boston, and Spinka Hasidim.(4)

Like other Haredim, Hasidim don distinctive attire, which is similar to that worn by their ancestors in 18th and 19th century Europe. And the different sects of Hasidim often wear different clothing – such as different hats, robes or socks – that identify their particular sect. The largest Hasidic groups are located today in Israel and the United States. Hasidic Jewish communities also exist in Canada, England, Belgium and Australia.(4)

Satmar Hasidism, which originated in the town of Szatmárnémeti (now Satu Mare, Romania), is a branch of ultra-orthodox Judaism founded by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum in the 18th century. Like other Haredi Jews, Satmar Hasidic Jews live in insular communities. Like other Hasidic Jews, Satmar Hasidim approach Judaism with joy. Like the Neturei Katra sect, Satmar Hasidim oppose all forms of Zionism.(1)

Neturei Karta refers to an ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist, extremist sect of Judaism. Neturei Karta is a loosely governed group united primarily by its anti-Zionistic ideology. The name Neturei Karta is Aramaic for Guardians of the City, as they plan to watch over Jerusalem.(1)

Neturei Karta is a Haredi Litvish (as opposed to a Haredi Hasidic) movement. Litvish is the Yiddish term for Ashkenazi Jews associated with Lithuanian religious beliefs. The majority of Litvish Jews were opposed (mitnagdim) to Hasidism, and even today they tend to behave more stoically than the joyful Hasidic Jews.(5)

Lithuanian Jews, who were students of the Gaon of Vilna, and Hungarian Satmar Hasidic Jews, who settled in Jerusalem's Old City in the early 19th century, were the forebears of today’s Neturei Karta.(5)

Neturei Karta is a loosely governed group, without clear membership, that is united primarily by its anti-Zionistic ideology. The name Neturei Karta is Aramaic for “Guardians of the City (Jerusalem)”. The name implies that they, rather than the Israeli government, will watch over Jerusalem until the Messiah comes.(5)

According to Neturei Karta, it is a sin, an affront against God, for Jews to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel. They believe that Jews must wait for the Messiah to bring about the end of the Jewish exile from their Promised Land. Neturei Karta adherents do not recognize the current State of Israel. They do not carry Israeli identity cards, pay taxes, receive benefits, serve in the armed forces, or recognize the authority of the court system.(5)

Some Neturei Karta members have actively engaged in the State's downfall in the past. Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, the author of Neturei Karta's prayer book, served in Yasser Arafat's cabinet as Minister for Jewish Affairs. In 2006, Neturei Karta leaders visited Iran, praised Iranian president Mohamed Ahmadinejad, and expressed solidarity with anti-Zionism sentiments voiced in Iran.(5)

It is estimated that there are 1000-5000 members of this Neturei Karta, with most of them living in Jerusalem (Batei Ungarin and Meah Shearim neighborhoods). Other members of the sect live in Bnai Brak, London and Brooklyn.(5)


Orthodox Jews believe that God gave Moses the Torah, and it contains 613 mitzvot (commandments) that are binding upon Jews. Modern Orthodox Jews strictly observe halakhah (Jewish Law), but still integrate into modern society. Ultra-Orthodox Jews strictly observe Jewish laws and do not integrate into modern society.(6) During a worship service in a synagogue men and women often sit separately. Men are usually wearing a head covering (yarmulkes or kippot), and during some services a prayer shawl (Tallit). Songs and liturgy are generally in Hebrew. Orthodox Jews believe in the rebuilding of the temple and the resurrection of the dead. The torah is often viewed through the eyes of rabbinic commentators such as Rashi.(7)


Worship services are in a synagogue or temple and women are able to take part in leading the service, even as a rabbi or cantor. Services can be a combination of Hebrew and English. Conservative Judaism is kind of like a middle ground between Orthodox and Reform Judaism.(7) Conservative Judaism maintains that the ideas in the Torah come from God, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human component. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halakhah (Jewish Law), but believes that the Law should adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism's values.(8)


Reform Judaism affirms the central tenets of Judaism - God, Torah and Israel - and embraces diverse beliefs and practices. Reform Jews accept the Torah as the foundation God's ongoing revelation while learning also from modern exploration of its development. Reform emphasizes Jewish ethics through action to improve the world.(9) Sometimes referred to as Liberal Judaism in Great Britain. Usually meets for worship service in a temple. Head coverings are optional. Services are often in English. Reform Judaism tends to reject the binding authority that rabbinical Judaism seems to have on Conservative and Orthodox congregations.(7)

Reconstructionist Judaism:

Reconstructionist's believe that Judaism is an "evolving religious civilization." The movement does not believe in a personified deity that is active in history and does not believe that God chose the Jewish people. Reconstructionist's observe halakhah (Jewish Law) if they choose to, not because it is a binding Law from God, but because it is a valuable cultural remnant.(10)

The founder of the reconstructionist movement, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, launched the movement in the 1920's.

Kaplan's beliefs endorsed traditional Jewish customs and practices, but the reasoning behind them changed from the Lord's creation to Sancta, a concept that rituals are made holy due to the unity and community of the people performing them, as opposed to the traditional Jewish view that customs are mandatory due to God's command.

Humanistic Judaism:

Humanistic Judaism, founded in 1963 in Detroit, Michigan by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, offers a non-theistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life. Humanistic Jews believe in creating a meaningful Jewish lifestyle free from supernatural authority, in achieving dignity and self-esteem, and in reviving the secular roots of Judaism. Humanistic Judaism embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with adherence to humanistic values.(11)

Flexidox Judaism:

In 2003 Rabbi Gershon Winkler coined the term Flexidox as a corrective to Orthodoxy, "reflecting its original intent and spirit as opposed to its otherwise superficial extremities." A flexidox Jew may think the Torah was written by people, but keep kosher and the Sabbath laws. He or she may pray in an Orthodox synagogue, but support equal synagogue roles for women and the ordination of gay rabbis. (12)

Past Denominations:

The first mention of them is in a description by Josephus of the three sects or schools into which the Jews were divided (B.C. 145). The other two sects were the Essenes and the Sadducees. During the Days when Jesus lived, they were the popular party (John 7:48). They were extremely accurate and minute in all matters appertaining to the law of Moses (Matt. 9:14; 23:15; Luke 11:39; 18:12). Paul, when brought before the council of Jerusalem, professed himself a Pharisee (Acts 23:6–8; 26:4, 5).(13)

The Pharisees originated during the intertestamental period, likely as an offshoot of the Hasidim. Unlike their arch rivals the Sadducees, who tended to be wealthy priest or Levite's, the Pharisees generally came from the middle class. Therefore, though few in number (there were about 6,000 at the time of Herod the Great, according to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus), they had great influence with the common people (though, ironically, the Pharisees often viewed some with contempt [cf. 7:49]).  Despite being the minority party, their popularity with the people gave them significant influence in the Sanhedrin (cf. Acts 5:34-40).With the disappearance of the Sadducees in A.D. 70 (after the temple was destroyed) and the Zealots in A.D. 135 (after the Bar Kochba revolt was crushed). The Pharisees became the dominant force in Judaism. In fact, by the end of the second century A.D., with the completion of the Mishna (the written compilation of the oral law, rituals, and traditions), the Pharisee’s teaching became virtually synonymous with Judaism. True religion was replaced with behavior modification and ritual.(14)

There were many Sadducees among the “elders” of the Sanhedrin. They were the deists or skeptics of that age. The first time they are met with is in connection with John the Baptist’s ministry. They came out to him when on the banks of the Jordan, and he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7.) The next time they are spoken of they are represented as coming to our Lord tempting him. He calls them “hypocrites” and “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 16:1–4; 22:23). The only reference to them in the Gospels of Mark (12:18–27) and Luke (20:27–38) is their attempting to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection, which they denied, as they also denied the existence of angels. They are never mentioned in John’s Gospel. They do not appear as a separate sect after the destruction of Jerusalem.(13)

The Essenes were a Jewish mystical sect somewhat resembling the Pharisees. They affected great purity. They disappeared from history after the destruction of Jerusalem. They are not directly mentioned in Scripture, although they may be referred to in Matt. 19:11, 12, Col. 2:8, 18, 23.(13)

They are also commonly known today because of their affiliation with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

They refused to pay tribute to the Romans, on the ground that this was a violation of the principle that God was the only king of Israel. (13) They were zealous defenders of the Law and of the national life of the Jewish people; name of a party opposing with relentless rigor any attempt to bring Judea under the dominion of idolatrous Rome, and especially of the aggressive and fanatical war party from the time of Herod until the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. The members of this party bore also the name Sicarii, from their custom of going about with daggers ("sicæ") hidden beneath their cloaks, with which they would stab any one found committing a sacrilegious act or anything provoking anti-Jewish feeling.(15)


Rabbinic Judaism: This type of Judaism is not focused solely on the what the Bible says. Instead, it focuses on the writing of famous rabbi's who have written highly respected commentaries explaining what they believe to be God's message. The rabbi's commentaries are given precedence when they are in conflict with what the word of God teaches. That is because the Talmud (writings of the Sages) teaches that the prevailing view of the Sages was that they had superseded and taken over the role of the prophet (Sifra Bechuk, 94 BB 12a, Yev. 102a, AZ36a). This is much different from Biblical Judaism which would use the word of God itself as the guiding light.

Who is a Jew?

Paul gives us a definition of what a Jew is from a New Testament perspective:

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).








7). Rich Robinson with Jews for Jesus Newsletter, Aug. 2007.



10). judaism/



13). Easton, M.G.: Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897

14). Possibly John MacArthur, Book of John Commentary 1-11


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