views. For example, the Conservative Jew would feel that although the law,
the HALAKAH (Jewish Law), is changeable, the interpretation of existing
laws must be maintained in firm Jewish tradition. The Torah is accepted as
binding. The Conservative movement is identified by some as the area for
possible coalition within the Jewish community.
Conservative Jews attempt to adapt Orthodox precepts to modern life.
They maintain that Jewish Law is a living organism which is subject to and
undergoing change. Conservative services resemble those of the Orthodox
except that men and women usually sit together, and the use of the organ and
choir is permitted.
Reconstructionist Judaism arose as a response to the climate of natural-
ism and functionalism in American thought. The Reconstructionist Judaism
movement, a derivative of Conservative Judaism, was inspired by the
teachings and writings of Mordecai Kaplan. The Reconstructionist move-
ment functioned as a school of thought in the 1920s and 1930s. Professor
Kaplan served as a teacher of philosophy of religion at the Conservative
Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City and had great influence over
his followers. In 1940, the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation was estab-
lished. This was followed in 1951 by the establishment of the Reconstruc-
tionist Federation of Congregations and Fellowships of which local
congregations are a part. At present, the Federation has 36 affiliates in the
United States and Canada. Reconstructionist Judaism is the only branch of
Judaism with which families may affiliate as individuals in the absence of a
Black Hebrew Israelite Nation
The Black Hebrew Israelite Nation traces its roots to the Torah.
Adherents believe themselves to be the true descendants of the original Jews,
and heirs of the Promised Land.
After the destruction of the second temple of Jerusalem, the Israelites are
believed to have moved southward into Africa. Hundreds of years later,
some descendants of these Israelites were sold into slavery and brought to
America. As early as 1880, some of these black people began to recover their
identity as Israelites. In 1960 black groups began to gather in Chicago and
other urban centers. Ben Ami and Moreh Isedek led a group migrating to
Liberia in 1967 and to Israel in 1971. Most of these people later returned to
the United States. Other groups, not a part of the migration, remained as
independent congregations in various cities. There are about 4,000 members
of the Black Hebrew Israelite Nation in the United States today.
Jews are organized locally rather than nationally. Jewish worship is
distinguished by its congregational or group character. Jewish congregations
are self-governing religious communities. Each congregation elects its own
rabbinic and lay leadership.