Additional Jewish Groups
Additional Jewish Groups
Neturei Karta of USA
Carlebach Shul, 305 W. 79th St., New York, NY 10024
Among the most charismatic leaders to arise in the 1960s outside of the normal synagogue structures was Shlomo Carlebach (1925–1994). Born in Berlin, Germany, and raised in a traditional Hasidic family, Carlebach combined the neoHasidim of Martin Buber (1878–1965), the havurah (small group) movement in Judaism, and the counterculture lifestyle into a unique blend of traditional Judaism that has found a widespread audience among younger Jews.
Among the earliest structures that evolved out of Carlebach’s work was the House of Love and Prayer, a Jewish community in San Francisco. It emerged in 1969 among Jews who had rediscovered their Jewishness in response to Carlebach’s work in the drug culture. The emphasis of the house was placed on the shared life, Torah, and prayer. For several years Carlebach limited his travels to teach at the house’s yeshivah. The San Francisco group published two periodicals, Holy Beggars’ Gazette and Tree, and operated the Judaic Book Service. There were, in the mid-1970s, between 20 and 40 members at the house, an optimum number for a havurot. Services were held on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, and each day at 6:30 a.m. Open classes were conducted in Hebrew and taught the Talmud. (The Talmud is an authoritative record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history.)
While the San Francisco group flourished, similar groups emerged in New York and Jerusalem. By the early 1980s the San Francisco group had disbanded, and Carlebach transferred his headquarters to New York. There, he took over the synagogue his father, Rabbi Naphtali Carlebach (d. 1967), had founded in the 1940s. Shlomo Carlebach was considered both rabbi and rebbe, the leader of a Hasidic group. He traveled widely and was a popular speaker, storyteller, and musician. Since 2002, Naftali Citron has been the rabbi of Carlebach Shul; he has initiated new programs including the Rosh Chodesh Institute, Torah in the Park, Saturday morning shiurim, and a community-wide Lag Ba’Omer celebration.
A distinguishing characteristic of the Congregation Kehillath Yaakov is that it attempts to bring together and inspire a wide spectrum of the Jewish community, including traditional Chassid, modern orthodox, and the unaffiliated. The Carelbach Shul relies on two fundamental Torah teachings: Neshama Yesiera, a special soul received on Shabbos; and Lecham Mishnah, the two loaves of bread that commemorate the double portion of manna received in the desert for Shabbos.
Carlebach’s following is national and international (especially in Israel). His following has continued to grow, though the structure containing it has evolved through the years.
Carlebach Shul. www.carlebachshul.org
Hoffman, Edward. “Judaism’s New Renaissance.” Yoga Journal 61 (March/April 1985).
Jacobs, Susan. “A New Age Jew Revisits Her Roots.” Yoga Journal 61 (March/April 1985).
Skir, Leo. “Shlomo Carlebach and the House of Love and Prayer.” Midstream (February 1970).
1032 S Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035
International Headquarters: 25 Burgrashov St., Tel Aviv 63342, Israel.
The Kabbalah Learning Centre, also known as the Research Centre of Kabbalah, was founded in 1922 by Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (1886–1955), a mystic and scholar who hoped to open the teaching of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical system, to anyone who desired to study it. Traditionally, the Kabbalah was considered a subject for a few elite scholars. To accomplish his goal, Ashlag translated the entire Zohar, the basic Kabbalistic text, from Aramaic into modern Hebrew. He organized the text, breaking it into chapters and paragraphs. He also wrote an introductory text on the Zohar, which has been translated into English as Ten Luminous Emanations.
Ashlag was succeeded by his student, Rabbi Judah Brandwein, who continued translating the Aramaic Kabbalistic texts into Hebrew. Following his death in 1969, Brandwein was succeeded by Philip S. Gruberger, now known as Philip S. Berg. Berg, who in 2008 was the dean of the center, was an orthodox rabbi who met Brandwein in 1962 and became his close disciple. In 1965 Berg opened the first U.S. office of the center in New York City. He moved to Israel in 1974 with his wife, Karen Berg, who began teaching the Kabbalah in the early 1970s and later became the codirector of the center. The Berg’s two sons, Yehudah and Michael, also assumed public leadership roles.
Under Berg’s leadership the center expanded its program, opening offices across Israel, and in Europe, Canada, and Mexico. In 1981 Berg moved back to the United States. During his years leading the Kabbalah Centre, Berg has been a prolific author. His books in English have provided to be popular introductions to the Kabbalah and have attracted a wide following. Translations of his basic text, Kabbalah for the Layman, into Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Persian led the way for the center’s spread in Europe and the Middle East, and his texts on reincarnation and astrology attracted Jews affected by the New Age movement. Berg suggested that Kabbalah is not simply a Jewish teaching, but one open to every person, and the center is focused in bringing Kabbalah to the world.
In the 1990s the growing movement became increasingly controversial. It attracted a number of celebrities, most notably the singer Madonna, comedian Rosanne Barr, and movie stars Winona Ryder, Ashton Kutcher, and Demi Moore. Berg’s credentials were challenged by some Jewish leaders, some of whom questioned the legitimacy of his inheritance from Judah Brandwein and his lack of traditional rabbinical training. There also were complaints about the large cash flow that the movement generated. In Israel the orthodox rabbinate rejected Berg’s claims to a role in Jewish leadership, and in the west some Jewish leaders have termed the group a “cult” in an attempt to separate themselves from its teachings. Many have objected to Berg’s openness in sharing the secrets of the Kabbalistic teachings, and his receptiveness to other religions, especially those with a mystical bent. The center has largely dismissed these criticisms, and continued to defend its leadership and teachings and the direction its program is taking.
Not reported. In 2008 there were 32 centers and study group locations in the United States, and an additional 66 centers and study groups scattered around the world.
Kabbalah Centre. www.kabbalah.com.
Ashlag, Yehuda. Kabbalah: A Gift of the Bible. Jerusalem, Israel: Research Centre of Kabbalah, 1994.
Berg, Philip, ed. An Entrance to the Zohar. Jerusalem, Israel: Research Centre of Kabbalah, 1974.
———. Kabbalah for the Layman. 3 vols. Jerusalem, Israel: Research Centre of Kabbalah.
———. The Wheel of the Soul. Jerusalem, Israel: Research Centre of Kabbalah, 1984.
Udovitch, Mim. “The Kabbalah Chronicles I–III.” Radar Online web site, June 16, 2005. Available from www.radaronline.com/web-only/the-kabbalahchronicles/2005/06/inside-hollywoods-hottest-cult.php.
c/o KJA B’nai Israel, 1575 Annie St., Daly City, CA 94015
Karaites are Jews, originating in Iraq, who are distinguished by their refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Talmud, the commentary on Jewish law (the Torah), as on Jewish practice. In rejecting the authority of the Talmud, however, the Karaites do not consider it unlawful to consult it or to rely on it, but they deny its heavenly origin, considering it an original work of the sages in interpretation of the written Torah. As such, it is subject to the shortcomings inherent in any handiwork of mortals uninspired by heaven. The Karaites consider themselves the original pre-rabbinic Jews who follow only the Torah. The majority of the Jewish community is seen as having separated from them.
The Karaite community became visible in the eighth century c.e. in Babylonia (Iraq), where contemporary Kairaites insist that one Anan ben David had revitalized a lineage which had passed through a variety of earlier groups including the first century community at Qumran (which became famous in the twentieth century because of the Dead Sea Scrolls). Other modern historians have questioned Anan’s role in Karaite origin, and argue that Karaites arose in the medieval period and later rewrote their history to include Anan.
The Karaite movement spread through that part of the Jewish community that resided in the Islamic Empire late in the ninth century and eventually found its way to Palestine. Its original Palestinian centers were wiped out by the first Christian crusade in 1099. Karaites moved to Byzantium (Constantinople). After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in the fifteenth century, Karaites migrated northward to Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania and eastward to Crimea. Only a small Karaite community survived the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. By the middle of the twentieth century, the largest Karaite community was found in Egypt, but since the founding of Israel, most have moved there. The primary Israeli centers are at Ramla and Ashdod.
Karaites accept the authority of the Tanach (or Tanakh), the Hebrew Bible (called the Old Testament by Christians), but reject other writings such as the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Christian New Testament, and the Muslim Qur’an. They believe in the future arrival of a Davidic Messiah (Isaiah 11:1) who will be a human king filled with God’s prophetic spirit. The Messiah will not be a divine or semi-divine in nature.
Karaites have rabbis, but reject the notion that they are the primary authority in interpreting the Torah; the individual is responsible for studying the Jewish Bible and reaching the best interpretation for their situation; in the end, it is the individual who will face judgment. This individual approach regularly introduces various interpretations into the community and insures a level of diversity.
Over the centuries, Karaites have developed several practices that contrast with those of the larger Jewish community, and their variant interpretations of Jewish law make intermarriage between Karaites and other Jews difficult. Karaites also calculate their calendar from actual observation of the new moon, and it varies slightly from the calendar now common in Judaism. They prohibit sexual relations on the Sabbath. Karaite synagogues do not have chairs and the liturgy is very different from that in other Jewish traditions. They do not recognize the post-biblical holiday Hanukkah.
More than 1,000 Karaites live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most are associated with Congregation B’nai Israel in Daly City, led by Rav Joe Pessah. The founding members had fled from Cairo, Egypt, immediately after the Six-Day War in 1967.
In the early twenty-first century, there were some 30,000 Karaites in Israel, with smaller communities in Egypt, France, and the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
The Karaite Korner. Available from http//:www.karaite-korner.org.
The Karaite Jews of America. Available from http//:www.karaites.org.
Astren, Fred. Karaite Judaism and Historical Understanding. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.
Birmbaum, Philip, ed. Karaite Studies. New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1971.
Schur, Nathan. History of the Karaites. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.
7135 Germantown Ave., 2nd Fl., Philadelphia, PA 19119-1842
During the 1960s, as part of the larger wave of communalism that swept America, a variety of primarily young Jews began to combine their exploration of Jewish roots with experiments in communal living. Havurot Shalom was one of the first such experiments. It was established as a traditional Jewish community in Boston in 1968. It was conceived as a core community around which a larger constituency would be oriented. It offered adult education courses in Torah, Hasidism, traditional arts such as challah baking, and more contemporary subjects.
At about the same time and in the years following, other havurot communities emerged within Jewish communities in such widely scattered locations as New York City; Phoenix, Arizona; Madison, Wisconsin; Ithaca, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; Rochester, New York; and Austin, Texas. Some were attached to congregations; many were completely independent enterprises. The movement has tried to draw from each of the three dominant Jewish traditions rather than identifying with any one of them. Full equality of women has been a major commitment of the movement. In 1979, 350 havurot members held a conference at Rutgers University and organized the National Havurot Coordinating Committee, which immediately began planning programs to assist havurah communities to survive by gaining a greater knowledge of their Jewish heritage.
Administered by volunteers, the National Havurah Committee (NHC) is a network of diverse individuals and communities engaged in what they describe as a “joyful grassroots Judaism.” A primary activity is the Summer Insititue, a weeklong event that includes prayer, conversation, and meditation, as well as activties such as singing, dancing, music sessions, and hiking. Rabbis and teachers are addressed by their first names during the event, and those who often are not in leadership roles are given the opportunity to instruct and contribute to the community. An annual three-day retreat, incorporating tradition and innovation, offers an opportunity for study, Jewish experience, and spiritual growth.
The NHC utilizes a five-person board of directors, currently headed by Sherry Israel, under which there are thirteen members at large and a managing director, assisted by a large advisory council.
Havurah! Newsletter, quarterly.
National Havurah Committee—Homepage. www.havurah.org
Loeb, Laurence D. “Prayer and Community: The Havurah in American Judaism.” American Jewish History 80, no. 2 (Winter 1991): 305–310.
Reisman, Bernard. “The Havurah: An Approach to Humanizing Jewish Organizational Life.” Journal of Jewish Communal Service 52, no. 2 (Winter 1975): 202–209.
Neturei Karta of USA
Box 1315, Monsey, NY 10952
The Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City) emerged in 1935 as an ultra-Orthodox faction within the Agudat Israel, a movement that sought to focus Jewish attention on the Holy Land but was opposed to Zionism. Agudat Israel also had been a separatist movement in that it opposed cooperation with non-Orthodox Jews. In the early 1930s some members of Agudat Israel residing in the Holy Land demanded an independent Orthodox Jewish community separate from the “Zionist” community. When the larger membership of Agudat Israel opposed the demand, the organization split, and the group seeking the independent Orthodox community broke away and founded Hevrat ha-Hayyim, which eventually became Neturei Karta. Among the leaders of the breakaway group was Amram Blau (1895–1976).
After World War II Neturei Karta members opposed the creation of the Jewish state of Israel and Israel’s control of Jerusalem. They claimed that the Talmud prohibits cooperation with any state not created by revelation from the heavenly realms. They worked, unsuccessfully, for the internationalization of the city. Today, many members of the Neturei Karta refuse to cooperate or even recognize the existence of the State of Israel, manifesting their opposition by refusing to vote, to accept an Israeli identity card, or to recognize the decisions of Israeli courts.
The Neturei Karta faced a severe test in 1966 when Blau married a convert, Ruth Ben-David; this led a number of members to leave the group. Members have established themselves in the United States and found an ally in the Satmar Hasidism, who share their anti-Zionist stance. The Satmar community contributes regularly to the support of the Neturei Karta.
The Jewish Guardian.
Neturei Karta. www.nkusa.org/.
Domb, I. The Transformation: The Case of the Neturei Karta. Reprint. New York: Hachomo, 1989.
Lawrence, Bruce. Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt against the Modern Age. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Park West Church, 86th St. and Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10025
Hungarian-born Rabbi Joseph H. Gelberman was a leader of a Conservative congregation who left it to found the Little Synagogue (Congregation Tel Aviv), a “modern Hasidic community” located just north of Greenwich Village in Manhattan in New York City. After more than twenty years with the Little Synagogue, he continued his ministry with the New Synagogue. Gelberman’s program combines elements of Hasidism, New Thought, and Eastern religious thought. Integral to the program is the Midway Counseling Center, specializing in psychological counseling and based upon the concept that learning to love is the key to growth on all levels of the self.
Rabbi Gelberman has become a popular figure in New Thought metaphysical circles and has often spoken at International New Thought Alliance (INTA) meetings and at the New York congregation of the Church of the Truth. Science of Mind lessons are a regular part of the weekly program. Over the years, Martin Buber’s Hasidism has come more and more to the fore in Gelberman’s thinking. The synagogue seeks, through Hasidic thought and techniques, to find personal growth and the joy of worship. Friday night Sabbath services include chanting, silent meditation, and spontaneous verbalization leading to mystical and metaphysical encounter. Interpretation of the Zohar is a central feature of the educational program. The synagogue also offers workshops on the Kabbalah and other aspects of Jewish experience.
Although a single congregation, the New Synagogue has immense influence through media coverage and Gelberman’s lecturing and leading workshops around the United States. Gelberman also established, at age 87, the All-Faiths Seminary International, an institute that trains modern interfaith ministers who in turn provide community instruction, counsel, dedications, sermons, weddings, workshops, and memorials. Wisdom Press publishes Rabbi Gelberman’s books and tapes, distributing them throughout the country.
Not reported. There is one center in Manhattan.
All-Faiths Seminary International, New York, New York, www.allfaithseminary.org.
All-Faiths Seminary International, Available from http//:www.allfaithseminary.org.
Gelberman, Joseph H. Psychology and Metaphysics. New York: Little Synagogue Press, n.d.
———. Reaching a Mystical Experience: A Kabbalistic Encounter. New York: Wisdom Press, 1970.
———. To Be… Fully Alive. Farmingdale, NY: Coleman Graphics, 1983.
———. “Kabbala for Moderns.” Hadassah Magazine 54, no. 3 (November 1972).
Gelberman, Joseph H., with Lesley Sussman Physician of the Soul: A Modern Kabbalist’s Approach to Health and Healing. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 2000.
6445 Greene St., #A-401, Philadelphia, PA 19119
The P’nai Or Religious Fellowship evolved from the B’nai Or Religious Fellowship, founded in 1962 by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (b. 1924), one of the pioneers in the wave of Jewish spirituality that emerged among the youthful Jewish population in the 1970s. Schachter-Shalomi was born in Poland, but his family later moved to Belgium. There he became associated with Lubavitch Hasidism. After arriving in New York during World War II (1939–1945), Schachter-Shalomi trained for the rabbinate and was ordained in 1947. He served several Lubavitcher centers and took a master’s degree in psychology of religion. Meanwhile, his personal mystical-religious quest led him to psychic and occult literature, non-Jewish forms of spirituality, and an early experimentation with psychedelic drugs. He found that his attachment to Judaism had deepened, but he also concluded that Judaism was not the only true religion. He believed truth expressed itself in all religions, especially in their mystical variations.
In the early 1980s the issue of the role of females within the fellowship was forcefully debated, and members committed themselves to make the fellowship more egalitarian (i.e., full participation at all levels for both men and women) and welcoming to gay and lesbian Jews. As part of this commitment, the name of the organization was changed from B’nai Or (sons of light) to P’nai Or (faces of light), a gender-free term derived from the Kabbalah. Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi departed for Colorado in 1995; the current rabbi is Marcia Prager.
P’nai Or is conceived of as a traditional Jewish center whose members pursue Judaism as a spiritual way of life. Its program centers upon traditional study of Torah, the mystical Kabbalah, Hasidic writings, and the celebration of traditional Jewish practices of ritual and worship. However, the traditional practices are set within an atmosphere of acceptance of modern spiritual practice, meditation, transpersonal psychologies, and the recognition of alternative spiritual paths, even for those born Jewish. In addition to a weekly Torah class, the program offers workshops such as Exploring Shabbat; festivals; high holy days; shofar blowing; service leadership; and writing a drash or D’var Torah.
Activities in Philadelphia have centered around the fellowship’s house of study and prayer. It houses a library, a study area, administrative offices, and a space for weekly and seasonal celebrations. Increasingly, the group has developed an outgoing perspective and a commitment to tikkun olam, that is, a commitment to improve the world, using spirituality to fuel this work personally and socially. A national and international network, the Chai Network, consists of individuals and groups that support the fellowship and its program of revival within the larger context of Judaism. P’nai Or is a member of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, which advances vital Judaism as an ethical and spiritual path.
P’nai Or is supported entirely by members’annual dues and volunteer services; no one is denied membership for financial reasons.
There are seven affiliated centers in the United States and in two foreign countries, one each in Switzerland and the Netherlands.
P’Nai Or—Philadelphia. www.pnaior-phila.org
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman. Fragments of a Future Scroll: Hassidism for the Here and Now. Germantown, PA: Leaves of Grass Press, 1975.
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, and Donald Gropman. The First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, and Edward Hoffman. Sparks of Light: Counseling in the Hasidic Tradition. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1983.
Schwartz, Howard, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. The Dream Assembly: Tales of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Amity, NY: Amity House, 1987.
Weichselbaum, Lehman. “Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi to the Counterculture.” New Age 7, no. 2 (September, 1981).
Current address not obtained for this edition.
Sha’arei Orah (“Gates of Light”) is a neo-Hasidic congregation founded in 1982 by Rabbi David Din, a student of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1810). Following the death of Rabbi Nachman, his followers interpreted his words, “My light will glow till the days of the Messiah,” as meaning that they would never need another rebbe, the traditional Hasidic leader. During the 1970s, Nachman’s teachings enjoyed a revival. New English editions of his writings and stories appeared. Sha’arei Orah combines traditional Hassidic teachings with the newer movement of younger Jews for a close community of intense spirituality. There is one center, located in New York City.
Hoffman, Edward. “Judaism’s New Renaissance.” Yoga Journal 61 (March/April 1985).
Kramer, Mordechai, ed. The Thirteen Stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. Jerusalem: Hillel Press, 1978.
28611 W Twelve Mile Rd., Farmington Hills, MI 48334
Within the American Jewish community, attempts have been made since the mid-nineteenth century to articulate a secular, humanistic, and even atheistic Judaism. Such efforts have resulted in structures such as the Ethical Culture Society (which, while predominantly Jewish in membership, did little to relate to the Jewish community) and a variety of Jewish agricultural communal experiments. Primarily, however, secular Jews were not related to synagogue life. In the 1960s there arose a group of rabbis who wished to combine the religious life and affirmation of their Jewishness within a humanist perspective. Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine (1928–2007) led the way in the formation of the first humanist congregation in 1963, the Birmingham Temple in suburban Detroit. He was joined by Rabbi Daniel Friedman who had led congregation Beth Or in Deerfield, Illinois, to adopt humanistic thought and practice. In 1969 they led in the formation of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and the Association for Humanistic Rabbis. Secular Humanistic Judaism has since grown into an international movement with supporters on five continents.
Humanistic Judaism is a religion for Jews who value their Jewish identity but question the traditional view of Jewish history. It offers a non-theistic approach to the celebration of Jewish identity and Jewish culture. Humanistic Jews understand and appreciate the Jewish past and present in ways consistent with the best insights of modern enlightenment. Humanistic Judaism promotes certain important values in Jewish life that the traditional establishments have resisted. These values are rationality, personal autonomy, feminism, the celebration of human strength and power, and the development of a pluralistic world with mutual understanding and cooperation among all religions and philosophies of life.
Humanistic ethics assert that ethics and morality rest upon a human foundation, and that each person must be responsible for individual ethical decisions and their consequences. Humanistic ethics also assume that people must be treated noncoercively, with respect, and in such a way that their individuality and dignity are affirmed. Assisting others to assume responsibility for their own lives is a primary ethical activity.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ) serves as a voice for Humanistic Jews. It publishes educational, philosophical, and celebrational materials, and helps to organize Humanistic Jewish communities and congregations in North America. As of 2008, there were 29 Humanistic congregations, communities, and havurot in the United States and Canada, plus affiliates in Israel, Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Mexico, Russia, and Uruguay. The society is affiliated with the International Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews led by noted Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer, and is served by the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, based in Jerusalem and North America, which functions as the intellectual center and rabbinic seminary for Humanistic Judaism. The current SHJ president is Louis Altman, a member of the Florida congregation; its executive director is M. Bonnie Cousens. Rabbi Peter Schweitzer serves as a leader for The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in New York City and is also president of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis.
The society reports a membership of 10,000.
Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jerusalem, Israel; Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Humanistic Judaism, quarterly.
Society for Humanistic Judaism. Available from http//:www.shj.org.
Cohn-Sherbok, Dan, Harry T. Cook, and Marilyn Rowens, comp. A Life of Courage: Sherwin Wine and Humanistic Judaism. Farmington Hills, MI: The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism/Milan Press, 2003.
Feldman, Ruth. “Beth Or Offers Alternative Form of Judaism, Maintains Low Profile, Earns Activists’Scorn.” North Shore 2, no. 1 (January/February 1979): 56–59.
Goodman, Saul N. The Faith of Secular Jews. New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1976.
Weisman, Sidney M. “From Orthodox Judaism to Humanism.” The Humanist 39, no. 3 (May/June 1979): 32–35.
Wine, Sherwin T. The Humanist Haggadah. Birmingham, MI: Society for Humanistic Judaism, 1979.
———. Humanistic Judaism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1978.
c/o Center for Applied Judaism, 109 E 39th St., New York, NY 10016
Jewish converts were mentioned in Christian Science literature in the 1890s. In the first decade of the twentieth century, substantial numbers in the still small Jewish community began to look to Mary Baker Eddy (who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist) for inspiration. In 1911 the California Grand Lodge of B’nai B’rith adopted a resolution denying membership to Jews adhering to Christian Science, and in 1912 the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reformed) devoted a session at its annual meeting to a discussion of the issue. Of particular interest were those Jews who insisted that Christian Science only made them better Jews.
Out of this debate came Alfred Geiger Moses, a Reformed rabbi from Mobile, Alabama, who, in 1916, published his Jewish Science. Drawing upon Hasidic sources, he translated Chochmah (the Kabbalistic sephirot, generally translated as wisdom). He saw the Baal Shem Tov as the source of Eddy’s thought and Christian Science as Hasidism with a veneer of Christology. He further emphasized “faith cure” as a genuinely Jewish tradition and recounted incidents of cures he had witnessed. Moses’s position was actually nearer New Thought than Christian Science, inasmuch as he refused to deny the existence of matter. He emphasized thinking “right thoughts” and training the mind with affirmations (short statements “affirming” God and creation), following a proper diet, avoiding excesses, and refusing to become angered.
In 1922 the Lithuanian-born Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein gave organizational form to Moses’s ideas, establishing the Society of Jewish Science in New York City. In 1925 he published Jewish Science and Health and, in subsequent years, several other books. From 1923 to the present, the society has published the Jewish Science Interpreter eight times per year. By 1938 there were nineteen practitioners. Rival groups had begun to emerge almost immediately: Rabbi Clifton Harby Levy organized the Center of Jewish Science in 1923. Levy published a series of lessons, The Helpful Manual, and a periodical, the Jewish Life. By 1929 he had six active groups in New York City and one each in Baltimore, Maryland; Rochester and Syracuse, New York; and Washington, D.C. The center continued until the late 1950s.
Rabbi Lichtenstein died in 1938 and was succeeded by his wife, Tehilla Lichtenstein, who occupied his pulpit until her death in 1973. She was the first woman to fill such a role uninterruptedly and for so long (more than three decades). She wrote the basic introductory booklet, “What to Tell Your Friends about Jewish Science.” Ms. Lichtenstein draws the distinction between Jewish Science and Christian Science by noting that within Judaism are all the spiritual goals any Jew needs. Jewish Science is a way of life that puts into application all the spiritual, ethical, and moral principles of the Jewish faith, and thus enables one to attain health and happiness. That the cure of physical and mental illnesses can be effected by restoring one’s mental processes to their natural condition is a central postulate.
Since the death of Tehilla Lichtenstein, the Society has been administered by non-rabbinic professionals; rabbis conduct religious services, High Holy Days, and Passover Seders, as well as teach Torah classes. Because the principles of Jewish Science are applicable to all Jews, some prefer to attend a local, usually movement-affiliated synagogue in addition to the Jewish Science synagogue.
Not reported. There are groups in New York City; Piscataway, New Jersey; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles, California; and Netanya, Israel. Other adherents scattered across the country are affiliated through the society’s literature.
Jewish Science Interpreter, eight per year.
Society of Jewish Science. Available from http//:www.appliedjudaism.org.
Appel, John J. “Christian Science and the Jews.” Jewish Social Studies 31 (April 1969): 100–121.
Levy, Charles Harby. The Helpful Manual. New York: Centre of Jewish Science, n.d.
Lichtenstein, Morris. Jewish Science and Health. New York: Jewish Science Publishing Company, 1925.
———. Joy of Life. New York: Jewish Science Publishing Society, 1938.
Lichtenstein, Tehilla. What to Tell Your Friends about Jewish Science. New York: Society of Jewish Science, 1951.
Trachtenberg-Alpert, Rebecca. The Life and Thought of Tehilla Lichtenstein. New York: Society of Jewish Science, n.d.
Umansky, Ellen M. From Christian Science to Jewish Science: Spiritual Healing and American Jews. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
200 East 10th St., Ste. 111, New York, NY 10003
Editorial Offices: PO Box 561476, Charlotte, NC 28256.
The United Israel World Union (UIWU) was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York in 1944 by founder David Horowitz (1903–2002) who served as president until his death at age 99. The primary purposes of the UIWU are to represent a universal version of the Hebraic faith to the non-Jewish world, based primarily on the Hebrew Bible, as well as to provide a meeting place for Jews with non-Jews who are accordingly drawn to this message. The hallmark of the organization is Isaiah’s prescription that “My house will become a house of prayer for all peoples.” Central to this mission is the conviction that scattered among the Gentiles are untold numbers of descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel who are discovering their identity and their kinship to the Jewish people. Membership is based on the simple declaration of faith in the One God of Israel and a commitment to live according to the principles of the Hebrew Bible. Members, accordingly, observe the Sabbath day, Jewish festivals, and a biblical “kosher” diet, although the manner and extent of such observances are left to one’s individual conscience.
During the decades of the 1950s through the 1970s the movement flourished with centers in New York, Michigan, and West Virginia; members scattered through 30 states and 15 foreign countries; and the UIWU mantained an active mailing list of 9,000. Horowitz edited and published the triennial United Israel Bulletin from 1945 until his death. As an accredited member of the United Nations Press Corp since 1945, and serving twice as its president, Horowitz rubbed shoulders with many ambassadors and heads of state, forming a close friendship with the late Dag Hammarskjöld. He published a syndicated weekly column that appeared in 22 Anglo-Jewish newspapers, reflecting his Jewish perspectives on world events in the light of UIWU perspectives. Horowitz received many honors including Israel’s Defender of Israel Medal presented by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In the 1980s and 1990s operations of UIWU reached a low ebb due to the age and health of Horowitz.
Although it remains incorporated in New York, in 2004 the UIWU transferred most of its records, archives, and operations to Charlotte, North Carolina. Administered by Dr. James D. Tabor, the offices house the David Horowitz Memorial Library, which holds correspondence between Horowitz and various world leaders and celebrities including David Ben Gurion, Eleanor Roosevelt, and King Abdullah of Jordan; 60 years of back issues of the United Israel Bulletin; and a complete archive of Horowitz’s weekly UN columns (1950–1998).
As of 2008 membership is at 300 with active surface and e-mail lists totaling 1,700.
United Israel Bulletin; this has ceased regular publication but archive and new materials are added regularly to the organization’s Internet site, www.unitedisrael.org.
United Israel World Union (UIWU). unitedisrael.org.
By-Laws of United Israel World Union, approved 1944, amended 2005.
Horowitz, David. Thirty-three Candles. New York: World Union Press, 1949.