Other Jewish Groups
Other Jewish Groups
Community of Micah (Fabrengen)
The Community of Micah was one of several radical, left-oriented groups which emerged from the wave of social consciousness in the late 1960s. Members attempt to relate all action to the goal of human liberation. A major concern has been the survival of Judaism, and the group has been involved in Jewish consciousness-raising. An urban communal structure, the community in 1972 attempted to establish Kibbutz Micah as an experiment in Jewish rural communal living in central Pennsylvania, but it did not survive.
The Community developed an active study program which included Hasidic literature (especially the books of Martin Buber), mysticism, yoga and radical Jewish politics. The group was disowned by the Washington (D.C.) Jewish Community in 1971. The Community published the Voice of Micah and other Jewish and political action material.
Congregation Kehillath Yaakov (Kehilat Jacob)
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 and raised in a traditional Hassidic family, Carlebach combined the neo-Hassidim of Martin Buber, the havurat (small group) movement in Judaism, and the counter-culture lifestyle into a unique blend of traditional Judaism that has found a widespread audience among younger Jews.
Among the earliest structures which 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 Beggers' Gazette and Tree, and operated the Judaic Book Service. There were, in the mid-1970s, between 20 and 40 at the house, an optimum number for a havurat. Services were held on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, and each day at 6:30 a.m. Open classes were conducted in Hebrew and the Talmud.
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 had founded. Carlebach was considered both rabbi and rebbe, the leader of a Hassidic group. He traveled widely and was a popular speaker, story-teller, and musician.
Membership: 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.
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).
c/o Congregation B'nai Israel
Daly City, CA 94015
Karaites are Jews, originating in Iraq, are distinguished by their refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Talmud, the commentary on Jewish law (the Torah), as an on Jewish practice. 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 (that 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 residing 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 Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans 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. In the late 1950s most relocated to Israel. The primary Israeli centers are at Ramla and Ashdod.
Karaites accept the authority of the Tenach (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, 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 that 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.
Membership: As the twentieth-first century begins, there are some 30,000 Karaites in Israel, with smaller communities in Egypt, France, and the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
Birmbaum, Philip, ed. Karaite Studies. New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1971.
The Karaite Korner. http://www.karaite-korner.org/. 11 April 2002.
Schur, Nathan. History of the Karaites. Frankfurt am Main/New York: Peter Lang, 1992.
National Havurah Committee
7135 Germantown Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 1919-1842
During the 1960s, as part of the larger wave of communalism which 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; Washington, DC; 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 survive by gaining a greater knowledge of their Jewish heritage. The organization's web site is found at http://havurah.org.
Membership: Not reported.
Reisman, Bernard. "The Havurah: An Approach to Humanizing Jewish Organizational Life." Journal of Jewish Communal Service 52, no. 2 (Winter 1975): 202-209.
7 W. 96th St., Ste. 19-B
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 20 years with the Little Synagoque, he has continued his ministry with the New Synagoque. 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. 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.
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 has also developed "Interfaith Seminars" as a means of interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians, Muslims, and members of Eastern religions. Wisdom Press publishes Rabbi Gelberman's books and tapes, distributing them throughout the country.
Membership: Not reported. There is one center in Manhattan.
Educational Facilities: New Seminary, New York, New York.
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).
P'nai Or Religious Fellowship
6723 Emlen St.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
B'nai Or Religious Fellowship was founded in 1962 by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one of the pioneers in the wave of Jewish spirituality which 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, 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 mid-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 a welcome to gay and lesbian Jews. As part of this commitment, the name of the organization was changed from B'nai Or Religious Fellowship (sons of light) to P'nai Or (faces of light), a gender-free term derived from the Kabbalah.
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, and Hassidic 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, and transpersonal psychologies, and the recognition of alternative spiritual paths, even for those born Jewish.
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, by which is meant 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. Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi periodically travels around the United States to meet with members of the network.
Membership: P'nai Or is not a membership organization. There are approximately 50 people who gather regularly at the Philadelphia center. There are seven affiliated centers in the United States and two foreign countries, one each in Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Periodicals: New Menorah.
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman. Fragments of a Future Scroll. Germantown, PA: Leaves of Grass Press, 1975.
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman, and Donald Gropman. The First Step. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Schachter, Zalman M., and Edward Hoffman. Sparks of Light. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1983.
Schwartz, Howard, and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. The Dream Assembly. Warwick, 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-Hassidic 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 Hassidic leader. During the 1970s, Nachman's teachings have enjoyed a revival. New English editions of his writings and stories have 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.
Membership: Not reported.
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.
Society for Humanistic Judaism
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 led the way in the formation of the first humanist congregation, 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 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. There now are more than 35 Humanistic congregations, communities, and havurot in the United States and Canada. 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.
Membership: The society reports a membership of 10,000.
Educational Facilities: Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jerusalem, Israel; Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Periodicals: Humanistic Judaism. • Humanorah.
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.
Society of Jewish Science
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' 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' 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 a year. By 1938, there were 19 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 his 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 which 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.
Membership: Not reported. There are groups in New York City; Piscataway, New Jersey; Abuquerque, New Mexico; Los Angeles, California; and Netanya, Israel. Other adherents scattered across the country are affiliated through the society's literature.
Periodicals: Jewish Science Interpreter.
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.
Society of the Bible in the Hands of Its Creators, Inc.
The Society of the Bible in the Hands of Its Creator, Inc., was formed in 1943. The inspiration for the Society was the work of Moses Guibbory, the Ukrainian-born international president and organizer of the group. He was assisted by British-born radio commentator and Jewish convert Boake Canter and by David Horowitz, founder of the United Israel World Union, who met Guibbory in Jerusalem. The object of the society was to publish and spread the ideas of The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators by Guibbory and both a Hebrew and an English Bible as perfected by Guibbory's research, and to develop and maintain places of devotion and spiritual guidance for members of the society.
The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators is a massive volume, the chief ideas of which center upon defining the nature of Jehovah, the one God, besides whom there is no other. Jehovah, while one, is also many. He is both male and female, the terrible God, the creator, the merciful and gracious God, the forgiving and long-suffering one. The prophetic day of Jehovah began in 1929 (5689A.M.) and has since continued.
Guibbory, as the international president, controlled the society, assisted by an executive board of from five to 13 members. Missionary work was begun in the Society but was stopped by Guibbory. In the late 1970s, the Society closed its New York office and no contact has been re-established. In the 1970s the only known gathering of members was at Guibbory's South Norwalk, Connecticut home for the major Jewish holidays. Gentile converts were included.
Guibbory, Moses. The Bible in the Hands of Its Creator. New York: Society of the Bible in the Hands of Its Creator, 1943.
United Israel World Union
New York, NY 10010
The United Israel World Union was formed in 1944 in Walerville, New York, by Swedish-born David Horowitz. The UIWU is based upon "the eternal monotheistic values contained in the Torah and the eternal precepts of Israel as emanating from Sinai under Moses." It accepts the Hebrew Bible as a blueprint not for Israel alone, but for all humanity. As such, a vigorous educational program to inform all people, particularly Christians, of its activities is being conducted. Among the leaders of the movement are a number of converts from various national, ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds, including black Jewish rabbi Mosha Hailu Paris, and former Jehovah's witness, Olin Moyle. Horowitz has developed a special appreciation for Pastor Charles Taze Russell, first president of what is today known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, who was one of the earliest voices of Zionism, and in 1986 Horowitz authored a book about Russell's Zionist activities.
Underlying the UIWU credo is the recognition of untold numbers of Gentiles as the descendents of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. A major goal of the organization is a reunion of Judah and Israel, and it sees itself as a meeting place for this reunion. Some acceptance of the union has been found among Reform Jews, who also seek to universalize the Jewish message. In America, groups were formed in New York, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and other states. In New York, the triannual United Israel Bulletin is published by the movement. Associated with the New York headquarters is the Brotherhood Synagogue in Manhattan.
Membership: In 1995 the union reported 21,100 members and 20 centers. Foreign members could be found in Israel, England, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, and Spain.
Periodicals: United Israel Bulletin.
Horowitz, David. Pastor Charles Taze Russell, An Early American Christian Zionist. New York: Philosophical Library, 1986.