Union for Traditional Judaism

Union for Traditional Judaism

The Union for Traditional Judaism is an ostensibly non-denominational Jewish educational, outreach and communal service organization. The UTJ, as it is known, sees itself as trans-denominational, and works to encourage traditional observance among all Jews. The UTJ maintains various educational and religious programs, and makes these available to the wider community. Though officially non-denominational, the UTJ is understood [http://en.allexperts.com/q/Conservative-Judaism-951/Judaism-9.htm] to have many components typically associated with a religious denomination, i.e. a seminary, an association of clergy, and a committee which has authority over religious issues. The UTJ is often viewed [http://www.bnaibrith.ca/institute/millennium/millennium11.html] as representing a denomination or inhabiting an ideologic space nestled between Conservative Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. [ [http://www.jstandard.com/articles/302/1/Can-Teaneck%92s-UTJ-push-Conservative-Jews-to-the-right%3F "Can Teaneck’s UTJ push Conservative Jews to the right?" New Jersey Jewish Standard. January 1, 2006] ]

The UTJ is headquartered in Teaneck, NJ, USA.


The Union for Traditional Judaism, originally known as the Union for Traditional Conservative Judaism, began as a rabbinic rather than a lay movement. It was founded by a group of traditionalist Conservative rabbis, led by former Jewish Theological Seminary Talmud professor David Weiss Halivni, who broke with the movement because of ideological differences, including the Conservative's approach to changes in Halakha and the manner in which the issue of admitting women to the rabbinate was addressed.

Halivni and other traditionalists claimed that in this and other decisions the Conservative movement had made decisions to change from traditional practices in a legislative rather than a judicial fashion, by poll or majority vote. Traditionalists believed that halakhic decision-making should be made by Talmud and Halakha scholars following a process of legal reasoning.

While still a Conservative rabbi, Halivni had written a responsum supporting the ordination of women as rabbis, although by a more gradual process than the one approved by the Conservative movement. [ [http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/teshuvot/docs/19912000/oh_55_1_2002.pdf David Fine, "Women and the Minyan", Rabbinical Assembly, 2002] ] [David Weiss Halivni, "The Book an The Sword", Westview Press, 1996, page 105. ] Halivni withdrew this responsum prior to leaving the Conservative movement and founding the UTJ. The UTJ issued a responsum opposing the ordination of women as part of its first volume of responsa. [Liberman, "Tomekh kaHalakhah" v.1, 1986.]

The Union originally intended to form the elements of a separate denomination, including an association of rabbis, a rabbinical school, and an association of synagogues. The organization subsequently described itself as being trans-denominational in character.

Beliefs and practices

The Union for Traditional Judaism attempts to combine modern approaches to studying Judaism's sacred texts, including the use of critical methods and the study of approaches such as the Documentary hypothesis, with what it regards as classical approaches to interpreting and making decisions regarding Jewish religious law. As such, it stands in between Modern Orthodox Judaism, which retains a belief that the current written Torah and Oral Torah were transmitted in an unbroken tradition from what was received by Moses on Mount Sinai through Divine revelation, and Conservative Judaism, which in the UTJ's view has sometimes permitted personal views to override classical halakhic scholarship. The Union endorsed women's prayer groups [http://www.utj.org/faq.html#q9] . The Metivta, its rabbinical school, does not ordain women as rabbis.

David Weiss Halivni, one of the Union founders and the head of its rabbinical school, has written extensively on an approach to harmonizing the perspectives of contemporary biblical criticism (as well as critical study of the Talmud) with traditional religious belief. In his books "Peshat and Derash" and "Revelation Restored", he developed the concept he called "Chate'u Israel" ("Israel sinned"), in which he argued that the biblical texts were originally given to Moses on Mount Sinai, but they subsequently became irretrievably corrupted and the texts we currently have were redacted by editors in an effort to restore them.

The Institute of Traditional Judaism/The Metivta

The Institute of Traditional Judaism, also known as the Metivta, is the rabbinical school sponsored by the UTJ. The Metivta trains men for the rabbinate, and also offer study programs for men and women which do not lead to ordination.

Graduates of the rabbinical program have been hired by both Conservative and Orthodox synagogues.

Important figures

*David Weiss Halivni - Rabbi, talmud scholar, and "Reish Metivta" of the UTJ's rabbinical school.
*David Novak - Rabbi and theologian. He currently teaches at the University of Toronto and the Institute of Traditional Judaism.
*Isaac S.D. Sassoon - Sephardic Rabbi and scholar. He currently teaches at the Institute of Traditional Judaism.

See also

*Conservadox Judaism
*Conservative Judaism
*Modern Orthodox Judaism
*Biblical criticism
*Conservative Halakha
*Role of women in Judaism


External links

* [http://www.utj.org - The UTJ Homepage]
* [http://www.utj.org/principles.html - The UTJ "Statement of Principles."]
* [http://www.utj.org/faq.html - The UTJ FAQ]
* [http://www.themetivta.org - The Institute of Traditional Judaism / The Metivta]
* [http://www.templeisraeloflb.org/rabbi/halachic.pdf - Gradofsky, Being a Halachic Jew]


* [http://www.tradcong.org/ Traditional Congregation of Creve Coeur, MO]
* [http://www.templeisraeloflb.org/ Temple Israel of Long Beach, NY]
* [http://www.netivotshalomnj.org/ Congregation Netivot Shalom of Teaneck, NJ a self-described Orthodox Synagogue]
* [http://nceh.org/ Northbrook Congregation Ezra Habonim] , Northbrook, Illinois

Further reading

*Ament, Jonathon. "The Union for Traditional Judaism: A Case Study of Contemporary Challenges to a New Religious Movement." Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Near Eastern and Jewish Studies, Brandeis University, 2004. Reviewed in "Dissertations in Jewish Studies", "Jewish Quarterly Review", Volume 95, Number 3, Summer 2005, pp. 601-608

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