What is the difference between Orthodox, Reform and Conservative?

I'm asking purely in a da ma l'hoshiv context. I grew up frum (Orthodox) and currently work for a Jewish organization that hires a lot of non-jews as well as Conservative and Reform Jews.

The two questions I get asked most often are:

  1. About our dating system.
  2. What is the difference between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform?

After being asked this question enough I was wondering if I could get an answer. But, I'm afraid that posting such a question my lead to slander or long discussions and therefore felt the need to ask if it was appropriate first.

1 Answer 1


Apparently yes, as it has been previously asked. The answers there might not address the specific points you're looking for, but that question is a starting point.

Having said that, though, let me reiterate that questions should be focused and answerable. So a better question than "what are the differences" would be "what are the differences with respect to (topic)". By analogy, "what are the differences between Ashkenazim and Sefardim" would be too general, but "...concerning s'lichot" or "...concerning Pesach food restrictions" would not.

  • 2
    A general but circumscribed and therefore possibly-answerable formulation that takes shachna's needs into account could be "What should I tell non-Jews who ask me to explain, on one foot, the differences between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform?"
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 8, 2012 at 19:16
  • @IsaacMoses Is 'on one foot' really an idiom that a non-Jew might use?
    – Double AA Mod
    Aug 9, 2012 at 5:43
  • @DoubleAA Just insider shorthand for comments. A real question would have more words.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Aug 9, 2012 at 13:56

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