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Reform Judaism In America Essay

698 words - 3 pages

Reform Judaism in America

There are three main denominations of Judaism. These denominations are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Reform Judaism started to arise in America with the arrival of the German Jews. German Jews began to immigrate to the United States in large number in the 1840's. The German Jews could find better economic opportunities and more freedom in America. In December 1824,Isaac Harby, along with fifty other Jews from Charleston, spoke to leaders of their temple and demanded to see a change in the way Shabbat services were carried out in their synagogue. In the 1820's, Isaac Harby became concerned with anti-Semitism, and efforts from Protestants to convert American Jews. Isaac Harby wanted himself and his fellow Charleston Jews to defend their religion, although he felt that they knew too little about their own religion to do so. To understand Judaism better, Harby wanted to "Americanize" the services at their synagogue.

Their temple's name was Beth Elohim. Isaac Harby and his followers wanted each Hebrew prayer that was read in their temple to be followed by an English translation of the prayer. They called for shorter services, new prayers that were more modern, and also wanted the Rabbi of the temple to give an English sermon once a week. These sermons would be an English description of the Torah and other readings. The frontrunners of Beth Elohim did not agree with Isaac Harby's views. Isaac Harby and his reformers started their own society, called the Reformed Society of Israelites, where they wrote their own prayer book, incorporated music in the services, and prayed without wearing yamakahs.1

The reform movement was in dire need of a new leader. Isaac Mayer Wise was successful in leading the way for Reform Judaism. Wise came to America from Germany in 1846. He became the Rabbi of Congregation Beth El in New York. At Beth El, Isaac Wise began installing new reforms to the services. These reforms included singing and mixed-gender seating. Isaac Wise started to receive a lot of criticism from the board of...

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