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What Are Some Similarities Between Orthodox & Reform Judaism?

Updated March 23, 2017

Just as there are different branches of Christianity or Islam, there are also differing branches of Judaism. Among these are Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. While these two branches have differing interpretations of many parts of Jewish law and observance, there are many areas in which their values are the same.

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Both Reform and Orthodox Judaism observe the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday. Observance begins with services on Friday night, when the Sabbath begins (The Jewish Calendar is lunar, so days begin and end when the sun sets.) The most strictly observant Jews do no work on the Sabbath day, so the services are designed so that Jews spend the hours of the Sabbath participating in services. These begin with prayers and a meal (prepared before sunset) on Friday night, which continue the following morning. While most Orthodox Jews observe the strictures against work on the Sabbath, only a few Reform Jews do. However, both sects observe the scheduling of services on Friday night and Saturday.

Bar Mitzvah

Another custom that both Reform and Orthodox Jews observe is the bar mitzvah. In Judaism, the age of adulthood is 13. This is marked by the rite of passage called the bar mitzvah, in which the boy who recently turned 13 is called to lead a prayer service and read the scheduled passage from the Torah. At the conclusion of this service, the boy is considered to have the rights and responsibilities of an adult within Judaism.


Passover is a major event in Judaism, both Orthodox and Reform. It is a holiday that marks the event recorded in Old Testament lore when the Supreme Being freed the Jews from a state of slavery in the land of Pharonic Egypt. To mark the travails and suffering inflicted on both the fleeing Jews and the Egyptians, Jews hold a special dinner called a Seder and refrain for seven days from eating leavened bread, to commemorate the flat, unleavened bread eaten by the fleeing Jews.

Yom Kippur

Jews observe the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which mark the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar, whether they are Orthodox or Reform Jews. Jews spend the week between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a state of good behaviour and repentance, followed by a day of fasting on Yom Kippur to ask that they be given favour from the Divine for the coming year.

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About the Author

Micah McDunnigan has been writing on politics and technology since 2007. He has written technology pieces and political op-eds for a variety of student organizations and blogs. McDunnigan earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis.

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