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Religion Library: Judaism

Community Organization

Written by: Allan Nadler

Title: Orthodox rabbi in New York Source:

Most of the major Israeli political parties—from the secular Mapam Socialist Zionist Organization to the Orthodox Mizrachi Religious Zionist Organization—maintain branches throughout the Jewish Diaspora, many of which sponsor youth groups, educational programs, lecture series, summer camps, and a variety of organized trips and missions to Israel. In the United States, the two largest Zionist organizations are left-center American Zionist Federation and the more right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

Religious life in the United States is also highly organized.  There are no Jewish bureaucratic structures approaching the ecclesiastical centralization characteristic of the major Christian denominations.  Individual Jewish congregations, their synagogues, and schools are legally constituted as private, not-for-profit institutions.  Nevertheless, almost all major congregations are affiliated with one of the four major denominations of contemporary Judaism—Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Reform—each of which sponsors synagogue councils, rabbinical and cantorial associations, and seminaries for the training of their rabbis and cantors, as well as vocational placement bureaus for their alumnae.

Study Questions:
1.     What is the kahal? How is it organized?
2.     How has the institutionalism of Judaism helped to create community?
3.     What is the Anti-Defamation League? How is it a political agent?
4.     How are Jewish congregations organized within American culture?


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