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Orthodox Judaism is based on the philosophy of outreach and inclusiveness. Rabbi Moshe and Rebbetzin Dinie Scheiner are passionate in their desire to “make a difference” and they are great at doing so. From its humble beginnings in 1994, the Palm Beach Synagogue in Palm Beach, Florida, has blossomed into a flourishing center of Orthodox Jewish life. It prides itself on being a place of warm welcome for Jews from all walks of life and all levels of Jewish observance, while maintaining its abiding adherence to traditional Jewish law and observance of mitzvot.
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The word Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chochmah (wisdom), binah (comprehension) and da’at (knowledge). The movement’s system of Jewish religious philosophy teaches understanding and recognition of the Creator; the role and purpose of creation; and the importance and unique mission of each creature. This philosophy guides a person to refine and govern his or her every act and feeling through wisdom, comprehension and knowledge.
The word Lubavitch is the name of the town in present-day Belarus where the movement was based for more than a century. Appropriately, the word Lubavitch in Russian means “City of Brotherly Love.” The name Lubavitch conveys the essence of the responsibility and love engendered by the Chabad philosophy toward every single Jew. Following its inception 250 years ago, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement — a branch of Hasidism — swept through Russia and spread in surrounding countries as well. Eventually, the philosophy of Chabad-Lubavitch and its adherents reached almost every corner of the world and affected almost every facet of Jewish life.
Orthodox Judaism is a branch of Judaism that adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and principles set forth in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. It is one of the three main streams of Judaism, along with Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism.
Orthodox Judaism is characterized by a strict adherence to Jewish law and tradition, and a belief in the literal truth of the Torah. Orthodox Jews follow a strict code of conduct, known as Halakha, which guides observers’ daily lives and includes laws and practices related to diet, dress, and behavior.
Additionally, Orthodox Jews observe the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays, and participate in traditional religious practices such as prayer, Torah study, and the observance of kosher laws. Typically, Orthodox Judaism places a strong emphasis on community and tradition since observers often belong to synagogues and participate in communal events.
Orthodox Judaism, as a distinct movement within Judaism, has a long and complex history that dates back to ancient times. The roots of Orthodox Judaism can be traced back to the early Jewish communities that developed after the Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt, as described in the Torah.
Orthodox Judaism as it is practiced today emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries, in response to the emergence of Reform Judaism and other modern movements that challenged traditional Jewish beliefs and practices. In response to these challenges, Orthodox Jews sought to reaffirm the importance of traditional Jewish law and beliefs, and to maintain the integrity of traditional Jewish practices.
The first Orthodox Jewish organizations were established in the late 19th century, and the term “Orthodox Judaism” was coined in the early 20th century to distinguish this movement from the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism. Today, Orthodox Judaism is the largest and most traditional stream of Judaism, and it is practiced by a significant percentage of Jews worldwide.
Jewish History with Dr. Henry Abramson
The fact that Orthodox Judaism is, in the words of historian Jonathan Sarna, the “great success story of late 20th-century American Judaism” may seem surprising; a religion that believes in strict adherence to rules and rituals thrives at a time when personal choice seems to reign as the cultural norm. But traditional religious values can be said to be the great success story of many major religious groups since the 1970s. In Judaism, the Reform movement, long so averse to tradition that the wearing of yarmulkes was officially barred from some synagogues, has itself embraced a more traditional path of observance.
The shift to the right is a product of many factors. While Orthodox Judaism rejects proselytizing non-Jews, it does embrace kiruv, the concept of working to convince non-observant Jews to adopt a more traditional lifestyle. Through organizations like the National Council of Synagogue Youth (NCSY), Chabad Lubavitch, Aish HaTorah, and others, many non-Orthodox Jews have been brought into the Orthodox fold in recent decades.
In addition, the rise of conservative religion is likely a reaction against the increased permissiveness and anything-goes attitude of secular culture. Boundaries and rules attracted many people today just as the removal of such behavioral limits attracted the youth of the ’60s and ’70s.
Orthodox Judaism also has higher birthrates than other Jewish communities; sends a much-higher percentage of its children to Jewish day schools; has a much lower intermarriage rate (and children of intermarriages have a higher likelihood of being uninvolved in Jewish life); and generally have a much higher rate of participation in Jewish life — all factors that help to strengthen Orthodox communities and make it attractive for non-Orthodox Jews to join.
Practicing Orthodox Judaism and the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is easier than ever before. A change in societal norms now makes working on Shabbat less of a necessity. The plethora of kosher food in supermarkets worldwide eases observance of the dietary laws, and the growth of kosher restaurants in many cities reduces the inclination among many Orthodox Jews to eat in non-kosher establishments. Religious books, CDs and website publishing is thriving and an industry of Jewish-items producers seems to make observance ever-simpler, with innovations such as a snap-together sukkah, Shabbat-friendly kitchen appliances, and Passover-kosher food from pizza to granola bars to hamburger buns.
Orthodox Jews are today reviving customs and laws that had been virtually forgotten for decades except among haredim. Increasing numbers of married women in Orthodox communities are covering their hair — either with hats or wigs — a Jewish law that was hardly observed among most Modern Orthodox women since the days of the shtetl in Europe. Kosher restaurants and caterers often need to pay for multiple kosher-certification certificates, each from an agency or rabbi with somewhat different standards, to convince all customers of their acceptability.
The shift is in culture and not just halakhic (Jewish law) observance. After high school, many Orthodox teens may spend a year studying in yeshiva in Israel, and increasingly, one year is turning into two, three, or even more. When they return, these are expressing ever-deeper discomfort with secular college life — socially because of the culture of sexual permissiveness and intellectually because of their discomfort with academic teachings on subjects like the Bible and the nature and history of religion.
The mantra of Modern Orthodox Judaism was, for generations, expressed in the motto of Yeshiva University — Torah u’Madda. The phrase literally means “Torah and science,” but is used to convey the parallel values of Jewish observance alongside engagement with the secular world. Today, though, Orthodox Jews live in a world where the balance has tipped heavily in favor of Torah over madda — and in which many people have redefined “madda” as support for making one’s livelihood in the secular world, not culturally or intellectually engaging with it.”