Orthodox vs Reform Judaism: Difference and Comparison

Judaism is one of the oldest religions on the planet and has today developed into two to three sects. Two of the most followed ones are Orthodox and Reform Judaism.


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Although both essentially refer to the same religion, they differ in their beliefs and how they practice their religion. The differences are as such.

Key Takeaways

  1. Orthodox Judaism adheres to traditional Jewish laws and customs, maintaining strict observance of Halakha.
  2. Reform Judaism allows more flexibility in religious practices, emphasizing personal autonomy and social justice.
  3. Both branches share core beliefs in Jewish history and traditions but differ significantly in their approaches to religious observance.

Orthodox vs Reform Judaism

The difference between Orthodox and Reform Judaism is that they differ in how the two groups practice the religion. Orthodox Jews tend to stick to the principles of the religion as they were first developed. Whereas Reform Judaism allows people to make many of their own decisions about how to practice their religion.

Orthodox vs Reform Judaism

 Orthodox Judaism is a group of related movements within Judaism that seek to adhere to the doctrine and customs of Judaism as it is generally understood by Orthodox Jewish practice.

The Orthodox Jewish practice emphasizes strict observance of Jewish Law, as codified in the Talmud and Maimonides. Orthodoxy considers Halacha codified by these authorities as both binding and infallible.

Reform Judaism is an approach to Judaism that emerged in Germany and the United States in the nineteenth century. Its primary focus is to take a rational, progressive approach to Jewish life.

This includes a relatively liberal set of beliefs, a focus on the idea that Judaism is a religion instead of a race or ethnicity, and a desire to make sure that Jewish values are relevant to the modern world.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonOrthodox JudaismReform Judaism
Time of BirthOrthodox Judaism is one of the oldest religions existing from the 17th century.Reform Judaism started in the 1880s.
The approach of TorahOrthodox Jews refers to the Torah as a message from God that can only be understood and followed like a law.Reform Jews translate the Torah by the nneeds of their current time.
LanguageOrthodox Judaism texts and prayers are in Hebrew.Reform Judaism makes use of local language to better suit the changing environment.
ShabbatFor Orthodox Jews Shabbat begins only at sunsets on Fridays.For reform Jews, Shabbat can begin at any time on Friday’s.
PrayersOrthodox Jews do not allow men and women to pray together.Reform Judaism does not believe in any such separation.

What is Orthodox Judaism?

Orthodox Judaism is a branch of Judaism that believes that the Torah is the word of God, with both religious and moral law, and that the Oral Law was transmitted with it.

It believes that both the Written and Oral laws are divine in origin but not a human composition. An Orthodox Jew believes that the Messiah is yet to come.

Orthodox Judaism is the most practised form of Judaism, describing 90% of all adherents to Judaism. It is most commonly associated with the Charedi movement.

Orthodox Judaism is based on the belief that the Torah was given by God to Moses and contains all the necessary and sufficient commandments and laws for the Jewish people today.

Orthodox Jews believe in the principle of the Oral Law, which states that the Torah must be studied and understood with the aid of the oral teachings of the prophets and the rest of the Jewish tradition.

Orthodox Judaism is a branch of Judaism that follows the Torah and the Talmud as the ultimate authority in Jewish life. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, and the Talmud is a collection of teachings and commentary on the Torah.

Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah and Talmud were divinely inspired, and they consider them to be the sole and final legal authority for all Jews and the ultimate and supreme expression of God’s will for Jews and Judaism.

Traditional Judaism and Orthodox Judaism share a similar history and belief in the importance of the Torah and the importance of the Land of Israel.

A core set of laws and commandments also binds Orthodox Judaism. No radical changes in their beliefs have been made over time, like changes in language or practice.

What is Reform Judaism?

Judaism is a religion that is based on the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. In Judaism, there are three main branches of religious practice. Reformed Judaism, Conservative Judaism and Orthodox Judaism.

According to the Pew Research Center, in the United States in 2015, there were 1.9 million Jews who identified as Conservative and 1.6 million Jews who identified as Reform.

Reform Judaism is a sect within Judaism that believes in progressive social change.

Drawing from the Torah, Prophets and Talmud, Reform Jews believe in a personal and evolving relationship with God, and they greatly emphasise individual autonomy.

This sect is largely known for its advocacy of civil rights and gender equality, and they also tend to follow more traditional rituals and ceremonies than other mainstream sects.

Reform Judaism is very popular in the United States, and thousands of synagogues and affiliated communities follow this sect.

Reform Judaism is a branch of Judaism that was started in the 19th century. It started when a man named Zacharias Frankel decided that Jews needed to accept that Jesus Christ was the messiah fully.

A lot of Jews were getting less religious and mixing their traditions with Christianity, so Frankel decided to start a new branch of Judaism that focused on parts of the Torah that weren’t Christian.

The branch started by focusing on the idea that Judaism is about the people, not the laws. Local languages and different formats of Shabbat and prayers are accepted in this form.

Also, they are more accepting of technology and tolerant towards non-classical sexuality and intermarriages with non-Jews.

Main Differences Between Orthodox and Reform Judaism

  1. Orthodox Judaism is the traditional form of Judaism. This includes Orthodox Jews, Chasidic, Israeli, etc. This ancient religion has undergone multiple changes over the years, with reforms being made to adapt to the changing world.
  2. Orthodox Judaism refers to only the Torah and sees it as Halacha or law. Reform Judaism is very similar to Orthodox Judaism, with the major difference being that they accept the Talmud but also use the Torah for interpretation of the Talmud.
  3. Orthodox Jews wear more traditional clothing and are more resistant to accepting new ideas. Reform Judaism is more progressive. They are more open to new ideas.
  4. Prayers are longer and in Hebrew only for Orthodox Jews, while Reform Judaism have shorter prayers and in local languages, including English.
  5. Women are not allowed to work in certain positions like educators, rabbis and so on per Orthodox Judaism, while Reform Judaism give them the freedom to do so.
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bEyD_MaeqP4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA311&dq=orthodox+judaism&ots=ne-Wc28lqd&sig=0HlZ0_ikRHFars7bI502C8NTx2M
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=bEyD_MaeqP4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA291&dq=reform+judaism&ots=ne-Wc28ltb&sig=2B5G7oeQgaa9w_u0G0dTmmMhuRk
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