God chose Israel to be a priest-people to all nations. The special is called the Covenant, or agreement. The concept of the chosen people does not mean a favored people, but rather a people charged with a responsibility to all mankind. It means that Jews must keep themselves distinct as a priest-people until all Gods children have entered the kingdom of God. The Torah, or law, is the commandment of God to His chosen people. The Torah originally referred to the Ten Commandments, and later to the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses.
Ina broad sense, Torah now includes all the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the whole of the sacred tradition from Biblical times to the present. In this sense, the Torah includes the Talmud, which interprets biblical commandments and deals also with many fields of knowledge. Furthermore, the Law has 613 mitzvot, or commandments, to guide the Jew through every moment of his life. Every male is circumcised on the eighth day of his life. By tradition, when a boy reaches 13 he participates in a ceremony through which he becomes bar mitzvah. It then is his duty to take on the religious responsibilities of an adult Jew.
In some congregations, there is a similar ceremony, bat mitzvah, for girls. Various prayers are to be recited in the morning, afternoon, and evening”at home or in a synagogue or temple. The holy day of the week is the Sabbath, which begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. (All other Jewish holidays also begin at sundown). Orthodox, Conservative, and some Reform Jews observe strict dietary laws. Foods that are permitted to be eaten are said to be kosher. In addition, the spiritual leader of a congregation is the rabbi, who decides questions of Jewish law and ritual.
A hazzan (cantor) chants the service. Each congregation is independent, but is usually affiliated with a national organization representing one of the branches of Judaism. III. Conclusion Judaism is the United States has four branches: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist. The total membership of the four branches is lower than the estimated total number of Jews in the United States, because many Jews are not outside the United States and Canada are Orthodox. Orthodox Jews advocate strict observance of traditional rituals and customs.
Hasidic Jews form a small, extremely orthodox, mystical group. Many orthodox synagogues are members of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Reform Jews have abandoned many rituals and customs that they consider unsuited to modern life. They stress the prophetic ideas of the Bible rather than the Law, and emphasize the mission of the Jews to spread godliness throughout the world. The reform movement began early in the 19th century in Germany and is now centered mainly in the United States. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations is an association of reform congregations.
Conservative Jews hold a middle ground between the orthodox and the reform. In the United States, this movement began during the 1890s. The United Synagogue of America is the national organization of Conservative congregations. Reconstructionist Jews observe many of the traditional rituals and customs, but reject supernaturalism and divine revelation. Reconstructionist Judaism was founded by Mordecai Kaplan in the 1920s as a movement within the Conservative branch. With the establishment of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1968, it emerged as a separate branch of Judaism.