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My Experience at the Temple Beth Tefilloh

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I decided that I would visit one of the local Jewish temples here in Brunswick, Georgia. As I did I learned a lot more about the Jewish than I already knew. The temple that I visited on many occasions including their congregation time and pray time was the Temple Beth Tefilloh. In 1886, a group of twenty-one Jewish families convened to form a congregation and build a house of study and Jewish worship. In 1888, a parcel of land on Egmont Street was purchased and a building committee established. Temple Beth Tefilloh's dedication was held on November 7, 1890, and was attended by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of Reform Judaism in America. For more than a century now, the members of Temple Beth Tefilloh, House of Prayer, have been active in the community, living and working among non-Jews, but maintaining a sense of Jewish identity and pride. In the years ahead, they are committed to teach Torah to their as well as other children and show by example how a small number of dedicated people can keep the Jewish belief and tradition alive. At first being of Baptist faith myself I was a little worried about entering into this Temple, but found once in I was welcomed by all the membership of this faith and found it interesting when I did not have to wear a head dress on my head in this temple. It was explained to that because of the reform move some of the requirement that orthodox Jewish worship follows were not followed by the reformed Jewish worship.

There are three main denominations of Judaism. These denominations are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Reform Judaism started to arise in America with the arrival of the German Jews. German Jews began to immigrate to the United States in large number in the 1840's. Reform Judaism, also called Liberal or Progressive Judaism, sets forth a Judaic religious system that takes as its critical task which is the accommodation of Judaism to political changes in the status of the Jews from the late eighteenth century onward. These changes, particularly in Western Europe and the U.S.A., accorded to Jews the status of citizens like other citizens of the nations in which they lived. But they denied the Jews the status of a separate, holy people, living under its own laws and awaiting the Messiah to lead it back to the Holy Land at the end of history. Reform Judaism insisted that change in the religion, Judaism, in response to new challenges represented a valid continuation of that religion's long-term capacity to evolve. Reform Judaism thus denied that any version of the Torah enjoyed eternal validity. It affirmed that Jews should adopt the politics and culture of the countries in which they lived, preserving differences of only a religious character, narrowly construed.

The Reformers stated explicitly that theirs would be a Judaism built on the facts of history. These would guide Jews to the definition of what was essential and what could be dropped. Conservative Judaism took the same position, but reached different conclusions. History would show how change could be effected, and the principles of historical change would then govern. Orthodoxy met the issue in a different way, maintaining that Judaism was above history, not a matter of mere historical fact at all.

Those who support these changes maintained that historical precedent legitimated change. Change, they argue, is legitimate, and their changes in particularly with law, or the tradition, or the inner workings of the faith, or the dictation of history, and/or whatever out of the past could justify their actions. The laymen who made the changes tried to demonstrate that the changes fit in with the law of Judaism. They took the trouble because Reform patterned the evolution of Judaism. People who made changes had to show that the principle that guided what they did was not new, but did follow somewhat the orthodox way. The foundation of change was formed of the bedrock of precedent from the past. So Reform claim not to change at all but only to regain the correct state of affairs, one that others, in the interval, themselves have changed. The appeal to history, a common mode of justification in the politics and theology of the nineteenth century, therefore defined the principal justification for the new Judaism: it was new because it renewed the old and enduring, the golden Judaism of a mythic age of perfection.

For Judaism is a religion, meaning a mode of organizing the social order that encompasses a worldview, or ethos (belief), a way of life or ethics, and a community of practitioners who identify themselves by appeal to that worldview and through the practice of that way of life. Judaism is a religion that knows God through the Torah; for its way of life carries out the religious obligations of building a holy community that the Torah sets forth;



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