Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

What are some historically important religio-ethnic groups?

  • Ashkenazic Jewry: Jews of Central European (esp. Rhineland) origin, many of whose descendants migrated to Eastern Europe.
  • Conservative: nineteenth- to twentieth-century movement of largely American development, designed to allow more latitude for inculturation in practice while at least ostensibly not encouraging too much assimilation.
  • Essenes: ascetic community living in the region of the Dead Sea at Qumran (150B.C.E.-75 C.E.); like Pharisees, believed in immortality of soul and resurrection of the body.
  • Hasidim: eighteenth-century European movement emphasizing prophetic message of divine unconditional love (hesed) and devotional fervor, known in the USA largely through the Chabad movement.
  • Karaites: an early medieval “reform” movement that, in effect, revived basic theological principles more famously espoused by the Sadducees six hundred years previously.
  • Orthodox: began to distinguish itself in early modern Europe, recommending strict observance of rabbinical law and avoidance of assimilation.
  • Pharisees: a school of religious scholars (rabbis) active especially from the second century B.C.E. through the first century C.E., who believed in the resurrection, the fatherhood of God, and accepted as canonical the Prophets and Writings in addition to the Torah, and insisted on the need for oral tradition to understand the scripture in changing times.
  • Reform: nineteenth-century European movement based on Enlightenment principles and designed to allow greater freedom both in theory and practice than “orthodox” traditions.
  • Reconstructionist: twentieth-century adaptation more traditional in practice than Reform, but espousing a more generic theism than styles of Jewish theology.
  • Sadducees: a school of religious scholars active from the second century B.C.E. through the first century C.E., who accepted Torah alone as sacred text, denied the legitimacy and need of oral tradition, and rejected belief in the resurrection.
  • Sephardic Jewry: Jews of Iberian, and, by extension, North African or Middle Eastern origin.


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