by Chaim Potok
Forms of Judaism
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The forms of Judaism discussed in The Chosen don't act as symbols, but it's good to know some background information on them. As we read the novel, it becomes obvious that there are many different ways of practicing Judaism. That’s what the book is all about: choice.
In fact, there are quite a few denominations of Judaism. The novel uses the terms "Hasidic" and "Orthodox" interchangeably, and doesn’t mention other denominations – that’s because things weren’t quite as neatly divided in 1944 as they are today. Still, we think a basic rundown of the major denominations will be helpful to your understanding of the book, and we’ve provided links to more information.
Hasidic (also written as Hassidic and Chasidic) or "Ultra Orthodox" Jews strictly observe Jewish law, from the way they dress, to how they worship, to what they eat. They remain more separate from modern society that other Jewish people. (Learn more here.)
Orthodox Jews are a little less strict, and are much more fully integrated in modern society. (Learn more here.)
Conservative Jews are even less strict, and are even more integrated in modern society. Learn more here.)
Reform Jews believe in the "spirit" of Judaism, like doing good works and trying to make the world a better place. Many Reform Jews also choose to follow the clothing and dietary traditions and celebrate Jewish holidays. In general, Reform Jews follow a less strict form of Judaism, and it is more commonly practiced in the U.S. than in other countries. (Learn more here.)
Secular Jews or Humanist Jews identify as Jewish and believe in Jewish principles, like making the world a better place, but don’t necessarily believe in God. (Learn more here.)