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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

The Jewish community, representing both a religious faith-community and a national ethnic group, is organized along both spiritual and secular lines. Contemporary Jewish communities sponsor an array of organizations, from synagogues and Jewish community centers to regional and national organizations dedicated to a range of causes.


In ancient Israel, the clan descended from Moses' brother Aaron served as priests who administered all of the rituals, assisted in this role by the consecrated tribe of the Levites. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the priestly rituals were replaced by verbal prayer, today led by cantors, and prophecy was replaced by the rabbis' scholarly expertise in the interpretation and adjudication of Torah law.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

The source for Jewish moral and ethical norms is the system of rabbinical law, or halakha. The primary sources of this religious legal system are the Talmud, medieval codes of law, and ongoing rabbinical response.

Vision for Society

Judaism is neither a universal nor an evangelizing religion. Jews believe that the Torah and its laws are the unique inheritance of a people elected, or chosen, by God for the purpose of forging a "kingdom of priests" whose mission is to spread the principles of ethical monotheism to all humankind.

Gender and Sexuality

Rabbinical Judaism has historically assigned distinct roles to the different genders, especially notable in the realms of public worship and ecclesiastical leadership. Judaism's positive attitude to sexuality has had the net effect of consigning women largely to domestic roles, as well as precluding women from attaining positions of ecclesiastical leadership.