What are the differences?
Most people could easily name some differences between the Progressive (formerly ‘Reform’) and Orthodox Judaism. Progressive Judaism allows mixed seating and female rabbis. Orthodox Judaism has separate seating of men and women and only male rabbis. Orthodox Judaism maintains that a Jew should keep kosher and not drive on Shabbat. Some might incorrectly state that Progressive Jews do not keep kosher or observe any of the mitzvot. Conservative Judaism is considered a compromise, somewhere in the middle.
These practical differences which we observe or assume are the manifestation of significant theological differences between the movements. The single most distinguishable factor that determines these differences is each movement’s relationship to halachah (Jewish Law).
Halachah is the system which determines how to observe the mitzvot (biblical commandments). Each of the movements embraces the mitzvot; they differ in their approach to halachah. Orthodox Judaism follows a defined set of halachot, determined by the rabbis, which are incumbent upon each individual Jew to observe in the manner prescribed by their rabbis.
Conservative Judaism is also bound by halachah. However, Conservative Judaism follows a more lenient halachah determined by a committee of modern rabbis who have studied and interpreted the texts and laws for the present day.
Progressive Judaism views halachah as a guideline rather than Divine Law, thus Progressive Jewish observance of halachah is a choice rather than an obligation.
All movements call upon Jews to study and inform themselves as to what Judaism requires.
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