A New Jewish Classification Scale

The Jewish classification system of Reform, Conservative, Modern and Yeshivish/Charedi has shown some wear and tear in recent years, as it’s often hard for people to see where they belong, and everybody is forced into a single square. I’ve come up with a new classification system that can be thought of as more of a scale rather then discreet categories.

At the beginning of the scale is the group that finds Torah Not-Relevant. They don’t believe or study Torah or participate in any Jewish observances.

The next point are those that find Torah Relevant. They may not believe Torah was received through prophecy at Mt Sinai, but they do believe it is an important document with many relevant teachings and rituals.

The next point are Jews that think Torah is Important. They generally believe Torah was received through prophecy at Mt Sinai and keep the mitzvos> Living a Torah lifestyle is an important part of their lives.

Finally are Jews who find Torah to be the Primary force in their lives. They may be learning in Kollel or working full time, but Torah learning and observance is the primary thing that drives them.

So the scale looks like this:

A person may find themselves between two points of the scale as they move from say, Relevant to Important. In addition this classification is based more on internal factors, rather than external. Let me know if you think this is helpful.

13 comments on “A New Jewish Classification Scale

  1. I can imagine that some well-motivated Jews, whose knowledge of Torah from their upbringing or education is hazy, could feel they are making Torah important, but are really making a distortion of Torah important.

  2. Neil,

    I think we can help make Torah relevant, by working on ourselves to increase the spiritual effects of the Torah. The secular world has accepted that there is a spiritual dimension and we can demonstrate to people that Torah observance creates a real spiritual connection with G-d.

    I think someone who does mitzvos by rote and doesn’t learn considers Torah important by the fact that he does mitzvos. However I don’t think we would say that Torah is the primary force for such a person, because they are not working on growing in this area.

  3. Mark,
    Thanks for the revising it.

    The idea of the Torah being the common denominator is excellent.

    So, at what point do we attempt to make the Torah relevant for those who don’t see it that way?

    Also, if someone who is in the “primary” side of the scale, but does mitzvos by rote without thought or meaning and doesn’t study the Torah were would you put them?

  4. David_L,
    I see two benefits:
    1) It joins people by their Torah focus. So a person working and one learning full time can be united in purpose if they both have a “Torah is primary” point of view.
    2) It provides a path for people who want to enhance the Torah, awareness of G-d and Jewish spirituality in their lives.

  5. Neil, good point, I changed the post to reflect your point as follows:

    At the beginning of the scale is the group that finds Torah Not-Relevant. They don’t believe or study Torah or participate in any Jewish observances.

  6. Mr Cohen and David_L, while it would certainly be simpler to break it down that way, I think the posted classification allows for more grey areas within the observant and non-observant groups and between those two groups.

  7. One point…

    Regarding “not-relevant” I think that including not believing in the Torah and Jewish cultural observance as the benchmarks of the “not-relevant” part of the scale is a stretch. Jewish observance that is cultural can be extremely important in keeping a Jewish identity.

  8. In the classification system used by Sephardic Jews, there are only two categories:
    religious and not religious.

    Orthodox Jews are religious; everyone else is not religious.

    Personally, I like the simplicity of that system.

    Viewed from the perspective of Jewish Continuity, the Sephardic classification system is justified by the fact that all communities of Jews, except for the Orthodox, eventually become extinct. Therefore, there is not much need to distinguish between different categories of non-Orthodox Jews, viewed from the perspective of Jewish Continuity.

  9. In my opinion, it’s simpler than that.

    Either you believe that Jews are obligated to observe the Torah and the 613 mitzvos/commandments, or you don’t.

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