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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

The Orthodox Community is the least structured of all the denominations of contemporary Judaism. While there are a number of rabbinical organizations and synagogue councils, none is officially recognized by all Orthodox Jews.


The most revered members of the Orthodox community are its rabbis, whose main credential is their scholarship in Torah. Rabbis in Orthodox communities are seen primarily as teachers of Torah and religious judges. While cantors once played a greater role, the large majority of Orthodox synagogues no longer employ cantors at all, and services are led by laymen.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Orthodox Judaism does not recognize any autonomous, let alone humanistic, ethical system not rooted in the Torah, and derives its moral theory exclusively from the halakha, or rabbinical Jewish law. The ethical standards that determine membership in the Orthodox community are essentially defined by strict adherence to the practices of Talmudic law.

Vision for Society

True to its origins as a separatist movement, Orthodox Judaism is almost exclusively concerned with the internal welfare of the observant Jewish community and the State of Israel. It rejects interfaith theological dialogue and shuns religious interaction with non-Orthodox Jews.

Gender and Sexuality

Gender roles are clearly and strictly divided in Orthodoxy, in accordance with Talmudic law. Women's roles in public religious life are strongly curtailed, as priority is given to their domestic and child-rearing duties. However, there is a rapidly growing trend among modern Orthodox Jews in Israel and America for a more inclusive role for women in public religious services.