Tag Archives: Judaism

Hasidic Judaism: Debunking the myths

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They are easily distinguishable with their conservative clothing, curls, and large families. So, what’s the deal with the Hasidic Jewish? While Hasidics believe in the same things as other the other Jewish branches, Hasidics are often the center of controversy. There are many myths that circulate about the Hasidics and it’s about time we figure out which are true and which are false.

Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism meaning “loving kindness.” This branch that focuses of mysical Judaism was founded in Poland during the 18th century by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov. Hasidism focuses on the personal relationship between man and God.

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Hasidics usually live in large communities together that can be mainly found throughout the United States, Israel and Canada. There are several cities that have large Hascidic populations, like New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Paris, Sydney, London and Montreal. One of the largest Hasidic neighborhoods is in Brooklyn, specifically Williamsburge, Crown Heights, and Boro Park.

The ideal life for the Hasidics is to live a hallowed life. They life in small communities that are centered around the religion with one religious leader called the rebbe.

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Hasidics are often identified by the interesting way their dress. Usually, men have full beards and wear clothing and hats. Men wear hats in a respect for God. The covering of the head is meant as a sign that there is a greater God ruling above the human mind. In the place of the usual hat, some men choose to wear the yarmulke. Some Hasidics even wear the yarmulke to bed. Women have long, modest dresses and scarves they sometimes use as head coverings. In general, Hasidics usually wear0202123 darker clothing, but it is not always black. Some other popular colors are browns and grays. However, Hasidics always wear black on the Sabbath and on holy days which are reserved for honoring God. Both men and women are expected to be modest and cover the body.

Another Hasidic characteristic that is always noted are the payos which are the sidecurls. These payos and the beard are maintained in accordance with the Torah which says “You shall not round corner of your heads, nor mar the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). Not cutting the hair or beard show an obedience to God. Usually, once the man is old enough to grow a beard, they no longer keep the payos.

Hasidic Judaism is regarded for some of its strict policies. For instance, men and women are not allowed to shake each other’s hands. This rule was created to promote modesty throughout the Jewish church. Hasidics are only permitted to touch if they are married and it is in private. The body is considered sacred and only for the one person to whom you are married. By the same token men and women who are not married are not allowed to make eye contact.

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There is one urban myth about Hasidics however which is not true, and that is that Hasidics have sex through a hole in the sheets. This is a myth that started a long time ago. While the Hasidic movement was still Europe the Hasidics used to hang out their garments on a clothes line, specifically a white garment with a hole in the middle that is where the head goes through. The rumor mill started and this myth was created. In fact, Hasidics regard sex as natural and families tend to be large.

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Unitarian Universalists: leaders in marriage equality

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Gay marriage is nothing new for Unitarian Universalists. Two female Unitarian ministers got national media attention in 2004 after illegally marrying gay couples without marriage licenses.

Unitarian Univeralism is an open-minded, individualistic approach to religion that grew out of the Protestant Reformation which began in Poland and Transylvania in the 1560s. There are about 800,000 Unitarian Universalists worldwide and 225,000 in the United States. Most Unitarians blend concepts from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other humanistic and pagan, earth-centered religions. Unitarianism is a movement that is heavily influence by the ideas of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Other famous Universalists include Sylvia Plath and John Quincy Adams.

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Unitarians are a highly tolerant group of people who are accepting of others beliefs. They believe that everyone is free to search for the meaning of life and come to conclusions in their own way. They stress that followers should seek truth and meaning through intellect and life. Unitarians believe that religions should be “broad, inclusive, and tolerant.”

There are no standard set of beliefs or central creed so people from all kinds of religions can be Unitarian Universalists. In Unitarian Universalism whatever you believe whatever you feel is right. The very core of Unitarian Universalism is that you have the freedom to believe what you believe. Unitarians are extremely skeptical that one religion could possess the whole truth. Unitarians believe that religion should be a blending of two or more ideologies, although most Unitarians identify with the idea of the Holy Spirit. Unitarians promote the Seven Principles and Purposes:

9ee46b917e874f661379d94aa66424daThe inherent worth and dignity of every person;

  • justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  • a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  • the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
  • respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Although there is no central creed, all Unitarians support freedom and religious thought. Religious ideas must be based on rational thought and formed through the conscience, thinking and life experiences. All Unitarians must also be tolerant of others religious beliefs. Unitarians have differing views of God, but most identify with one of the following:

  • the principle that unites all things
  • the ground of existence
  • the source of original and ongoing creation
  • the ultimate good
  • the ideals and aspirations of humanity
  • a loving power with which human beings can have a personal relationship
  • the still small voice within each of us
  • a great mystery

Unitarians see no conflict between faith and knowledge. Most believe that religion and science are rooted in one reality. They also reject original sin and do not believe that humans have fallen from grace. Unitarians also do not believe that we must be dependent on God for salvation.

061113_banner550One central belief in Unitarian Universalism is the belief that religion should make a difference and that actions speak louder than words. For these reasons, many Universalists are strongly active in social justice issues, like equal rights for gay couples and gender equality, and community work. Unitarians use gender-inclusive language and concepts from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions. The Unitarians were the first group of people to accept women ministers in 1904.

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Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey went to court in 2004 after becoming the first two ministers to be prosecuted in the United States for performing same sex marraiges. Both women were Unitarian Universalists. They were charged with multiple accounts of marriage without a license. The two women would have faced fines up to $500 and a year in jail, but the charges were dropped later that year.

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