Origins and Conditions
Contrary to conventional wisdom, traditional Jewish society prior to the Enlightenment never completely presented a united stand on matters of religious interpretation of the world. Different readings of Jewish law by Sephardic and Ashkenazi scholars, disputes on the significance of kabbalistic and philosophical reflections, the conflict concerning the pseudo-messiah Shabtai Zvi (1616–1676) or the conflicts between the Chassidim and their intellectualistic adversaries, the Mitnagdim, mark important stages within Jewish religious history during the pre-modern era.1
The religious pluralisation that arose with the entry of Central European Jews into bourgeois society was nevertheless a turning-point. Although the level of religious education decreased somewhat in the course of the 18th century, a somewhat remiss religious practice at times became the object of internal Jewish criticism and, in spite of processes of acculturation at both ends of the social scale, traditionally structured Judaism, defined not so much by a creed as by rules and prohibitions for everyday life, as well as by its numerous popular customs, remained basically uncontested.2 However, the authorities began gradually to limit the privileges of the communities that traditionally regulated internal affairs on their own according to Jewish law. The so-called "Amulettenstreit" which broke out around the mid-18th century, involving the Hamburg rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz (1690–1764) as a supposed secret supporter of pseudo-messiah Shabtai Zvi, caused long-lasting damage to the rabbis' religious claim to leadership. Thus the first cracks appeared in the façade of Jewish society.3
Ever since the general enlightenment in Germany during the second half of the 18th century was able to win over a small intellectual elite of Jews to its ideas, a secular Jewish sphere, with ever-growing boundaries, came into being.4 Conflicts arose between Jewish enlighteners, the Maskilim, and rabbinic scholars, to begin with over educational issues. Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725–1805) and Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) were the leading spokesmen. After Mendelssohn's death, such radical proponents of enlightenment as David Friedländer (1750–1834)questioned traditional ritual practices as national components which, in the incipient debates on equality, were perceived as being hindrances for Jews seeking political integration. This link between gaining civil rights with alterations in the Jewish sacral law was to have an impact on the entire emancipation era, but without German Jews having to yield unavoidably to outward pressure in creating religious reforms.5
First Steps in Reform
In parts of Europe in which the legal situation of the Jewish minority living under French influence significantly improved, political framework conditions of an intellectual avant-garde facilitated the first concrete reform steps in the field of ritual life. In 1796, only a short while after the French conquest of The Netherlands, a reform community (Adath Yeschurun) was founded in Amsterdam, which was, however, dissolved in 1808 by order of the authorities.6 In the kingdom of Westphalia, a model state under the rule of Napoleon's (1769–1821) brother Jérôme (1784–1860), an Israelite consistory was constituted in 1808. In the following years, its president Israel Jacobson (1768–1828) initiated a state-wide re-designing of school education and synagogue practice.7 The core of the modernisation which he imposed was the synagogue in Seesen – Jacob's Temple. Consecrated in 1810 and having a bell tower, it not only set an architectural precedent, but also had an organ. Jacobson's reforms of the synagogue services – choral singing, sermon and prayers in German – did not last long. Following the fall of Napoleon, the Jewish population soon returned to the traditional form of prayer.
Jacobson moved to Berlin where, in 1815, he was at first able to continue with his reform attempts. Along with the wealthy sugar merchant Jakob Herz Beer (1769–1825), he founded a private synagogue in Beer's home, which became highly popular among acculturated Jews, both male and female. But opposition set in within the orthodox faction of the Jewish community, which was also able to count on the support of the authorities. In Prussia, where by 1815 at the latest a restorative spirit was noted, for the time being Jewish religious reform could not develop. A cabinet order issued in December 1823 by King Friedrich Wilhelm III (1770–1840), decreed the closing of the Berlin temple. This command from the highest level henceforth formed the policy basis for all the provinces of the Prussian state. Only such services should take place "that were held according to the traditional rites without the slightest innovation in language and ceremonies, totally according to the old customs".8
Reform Judaism took root lastingly in Hamburg in December 1817, when 65 Jewish heads of families – for the most part merchants and members of the upper middle class – signed the founding charter for the New Israelite Temple Association, which thereby constituted itself as a private association alongside the German-Israelite Community. In 1818, the Hamburg temple rented premises in which it held its own services on Sabbaths and holidays. The Torah reading platform was located, still in accordance with tradition, in the centre of the room, but the women's gallery disposed with the partition to block visual contact between the sexes. The first prayer book published by the Hamburg Temple in 1819 contained the first comprehensive Jewish reform liturgy.9 Traditional Jewish prayers were shortened and their wording changed, while others were abolished and replaced by German hymns or printed only in German translation or paraphrased. Hopes for the future referring to the Holy Land and considering presumed elements of a national faith were meanwhile viewed as questionable – the expectation of the Messiah, the redemption of the Jews by their return from exile to Eretz Israel, the resurrection of the dead, and the re-establishment of sacrifices – these were all either diminished or taken off the list. But the Tempelverein was still a long way from formulating a true reform ideology. The liturgical changes were hardly aimed at creating a consistent theological standpoint, but rather primarily intended to take into account their members' wishes for stricter religious order and discipline, as well as their contemporary aesthetic expectations.
The Temple Association delegated the conducting of the services to the preachers Eduard Kley (1789–1867) and Gotthold Salomon (1784–1862), whose vestments inevitably awakened memories of the official robes of Lutheran pastors. Both men presented alternately sermons in German delivered from the pulpit, which they based in part on Protestant homilectics. These edifying sermons had little in common with the rare Talmudic lectures given by rabbis during the pre-modern era. The Temple also provided new traditions with regard to music. Cantor David Meldola (1780–1861), whose ancestors had originally emigrated from the Iberian Peninsula, not only brought old Spanish-Judaic cantilations to the Temple, but also spoke the prayers according to the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew, as scholars believed that this was more correct than the traditional pronunciation of Central European Jews. A (boys') choir, joint singing of songs, and instrumental music provided further innovations in line with contemporary bourgeois taste. In particular, harmonium and organ playing were not oriented towards a genuine Jewish tradition, but rather aroused associations with Christian examples of services of worship. These imitations provoked objections raised by the Orthodox majority which was, however, unable to hold back the institutional consolidation of the Reform in Hamburg, as it lacked political support.10
Towards a Jewish Reform Theology
The founding of the Hamburg Temple marked a milestone in the history of Jewish religious reform, which at this time was still far from actually being a movement. Progressive Jewish schools were also trend-setting in the modernisation of the cult, as they offered a protected area in which their own services could be held and new formats, especially those dealing with the "confirmation" of girls and boys, could be tested. From the 1820s and 1830s on, a growing number of synagogue congregations showed interest in moderate changes in Jewish cult practices, which also reflected the gradual cultural change within the religious minority. An increasing number of communities formulated synagogue regulations which were not only meant to discipline synagogue worshippers, but also to curb popular forms of piety and give greater dignity and formality to communal prayer, thus paving the way for liturgical changes.11
In the beginning, laymen frequently initiated the service reforms; this had to do with an authority crisis within the traditional rabbinate. It had lost important functions within its internal jurisdiction, and furthermore most of these rabbis had hardly any secular education to enable them to cope with the changes in expectations of qualification with which they were confronted both from the outside and from within. However, from the 1830s onwards, a new generation of rabbis emerged, who had completed their university studies and actively participated in forming religious practice both inside and outside the synagogue.12 These scholars did not limit their work to cosmetic changes within the cult, but rather began to support their case for (or against) religious reforms on the basis of a scholarly theology. Judaism was no longer exclusively presented as an action system based on eternally valid divine self-revelation. Religion was to be understood in part as being shaped by man, and as such as a phenomenon changing in and by the course of history. The so-called "Wissenschaft des Judentums" (The Science of Judaism) therefore served to legitimize a defensive modernisation of the Jewish religion, oriented to bourgeois standards as a religious denomination claiming its role in modern-day society.13
The Religious Spectrum Around 1850
A close look at the religious disputes in 19th century German Judaism reveals that the different concepts of appropriate religious conduct at that time were accompanied by confessionalisation. This was not, however, seen as tending towards uniformity, clericalisation, centralism or social regimentation. On the contrary, confessionalisation in the Jewish context related to an inner pluralisation, i.e. the emergence of religious commitments whose competing exclusivity was attached to significant and distinctive theological features.14
Irrespective of a growing acculturation, accompanied by an expansion of secular areas of life, it can be assumed that religious law, the Halacha, in the middle of the century still shaped the everyday life of most Jews. The terms "orthodoxy" and "law-abiding Judaism" prevailed, which in contrast to traditional Judaism consciously distanced themselves ideologically from the reform trends.15 Admittedly, a growing number of Orthodox Jews could not and did not want to elude social changes. Especially in the large-membership congregations in urban centres, orthodoxy soon overcame its original reservations towards emancipation and began to use new possibilities of participation, but without calling their orthodox way of life according to religious law in question.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808–1888) made a name for himself as the most influential speaker and master thinker of this position, frequently characterised as neo-orthodoxy.16 Hirsch, who was born in Hamburg, was able to connect the commitment to Jewish sacral law and the belief in divine inspiration, both as found in the Bible and in the Talmud, with a patriotic attitude and an enthusiastic affirmation of European culture and education ("Torah im Derech Eretz"). His theology conceptualised the religious ideal of "Mensch-Jissroel", in which general humanity connected harmoniously with specific Jewish concerns. Seen from this progressive-optimistic point of view, the present did not represent a threat to the Jewish faith, but rather offered the worshippers new possibilities for religious development. The observation that the synagogue communities were increasingly opening to cult reform and that conservative Jews encountered difficulties for this reason was met by Hirsch with a militant policy of social separation. Hirsch, Chief Rabbi in Nikolsburg, Moravia, from 1847 to 1851 and then religious head of the strictly conservative association 'Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft' (Israelite Religion Society) in Frankfurt am Main, promoted the idea that Jewish orthodoxy should refuse cooperation with the reform and organise its practised faith in separate communities.17
As a representative of a religious "juste milieu", Rabbi Zacharias Frankel (1801–1875), born in Prague, presented his religious conception of the world as "positive-historical" Judaism in the 1840s, when he was chief rabbi in Dresden. Frankel's ideas laid the theological foundation for a moderate trend, which he held to be a party midway between orthodoxy and reform, which aimed to preserve the social unity of the Jewish community despite the religious differences. Like Hirsch, Frankel kept to the concept of Judaism as a "religion of deeds". Whereas he wanted the Bible, and above all the Pentateuch, as a holy document of divine revelation, to be preserved from critical research, he considered the oral tradition embedded above all in the Mishnah and the Talmud as a product and mirror of historical development. Influenced by the historical school of law, Frankel wanted the exegetic texts to be accepted as documents of collective piety with special authority, yet he tried to understand religious law as modified by men in its time and within its social context. This opened possibilities of cautious changes of the normatively regulated religious practice inside and outside the synagogue.18
The Geiger reform offered considerably more explicit statements with regard to religious innovations. Abraham Geiger (1810–1874), who grew up in Frankfurt am Main and was a rabbi in several of the largest Jewish communities in Germany, is generally considered the real father of the reform movement, whose works and impact were held in high esteem abroad. Even though he was inspired by the Protestant theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), he was far from being a plagiarist of Christian doctrine. Geiger's theology focused on his interpretation of the event of revelation, which he interpreted not so much as divine self-communication, but rather as human insight into eternal truths. Geiger ascribed the position of Judaism in world history to the religious genius of the Jews, who as a people were characterised by a special ability to gain new intellectual views in the sense of such a revelation. The individual supporters and proclaimers of such perceptions were the prophets, whose clarified religious consciousness went along with a clearer moral outlook and which, concentrated in the teaching of Judaism, gradually began to gain popular approval. Even though Geiger had already placed the revelation as a dynamic, human-spiritual work of creation in a historical framework, the spirit was still noticeable and remained effective with regard to tradition. According to Geiger, the critical Jewish scholarship of the time was confronted not only with the task of identifying religious truth as to its respective historical setting and development within the framework of tradition, but also of gaining knowledge and insight into religious awareness of the present, to enable conclusions to be drawn for further developments within Judaism. From this standpoint, history also had the power to take the subjectivity of each era caused by changes in religious form into account. True obedience to God did not require an unreserved declaration of belief in religious laws, but rather described a mindset that raised moral consciousness, as the divine element in man, to being the measure of actions.19
Rabbi Samuel Holdheim (1806–1860) of Kempen (Poznan) considered himself the spearhead of an even more uncompromising avant-garde, yet his impact in Germany, outside the Berlin Jewish reform community, remained limited. In view of a growing radicalisation, Holdheim questioned large sections of Jewish ritual law which he considered to be an obsolete expression of a national understanding of Judaism and as such to have lost their value inasmuch as the religious awareness of the believers was not expressed in individual ceremonies. His commitment to the inwardness of religion left little room for the practice of everyday worship, especially as Holdheim conceded the most important regulative powers to the modern state, including marital and family law. In the end, Holdheim kept Judaism as a monotheistic and moral law which in its contemporary religious awareness did not claim to differ from bourgeois ethics.20
As long as the parochial principle was applied in the German states that obliged Jews to belong to the Jewish community where they resided, advocates and opponents of reform competed under its umbrella for the power to form publicly practised faith, as well as to wield power over controlling religious institutions. But not all community members identified themselves with the religious beliefs presented by Jewish clerics as to their drafts and modernisation agenda. On the periphery of the religious community, small individual groups of intellectual laymen formed in the 1840s who totally rejected theological arguments and advocated a religious life style on the basis of democratic decision processes. In 1842 in Frankfurt am Main, the Jewish Friends of Reform (Jüdische Reformfreunde) antagonised both the orthodox and moderate reformers with their demands to abolish circumcision. But the Coooperative for Reform in Judaism (Genossenschaft für Reform im Judenthum), founded in Berlin in 1845, was long- lasting, and led to the founding of the private Jewish Reform Community in 1850.21
The most far-reaching religious alienation was found in those who had turned away from Judaism as a religion and also no longer participated in public forms of worship, but without converting to Christianity. It is hard today to estimate the size of this group, yet contemporary Jewish literature and the press frequently focussed on so-called indifferentism as an existential problem. They commented even more sharply on conversion, which could have taken place on religious grounds but often took place to avoid social, political and professional discrimination. Estimates assume that some 22,500 Jews, both male and female, converted to either the Protestant or Catholic faith during the 19th century.22
From Reform to Liberal Judaism
From the 1840s on, the reform established itself as a movement by means of its own opinion press as well as through attempts at self-organisation. At the rabbinical conferences held between 1844 and 1846 in Brunswick, Frankfurt am Main and Breslau, which sparked off massive Orthodox protest, the theologians attending these meetings debated such subjects as aspects of marital and divorce law, the act of circumcision, the position of women, the form of Sabbath sanctification, the importance of the Hebrew language in prayers and other questions concerning the course and content of the religious service.23 But Reform Judaism was unable to agree on a uniform progressive liturgy. Whereas organs were installed during the second half of the 19th century in numerous synagogues, thereby presenting a clear commitment to religious progress, the communities increasingly published their own Reform prayer books, which clearly displayed the diversity of new local traditions.24 Even when the reformers at the time of the founding of the German Reich renewed their attempts to overcome this disunity, they were unable to make decisions on a joint path to the future. No further meetings took place after the synods of 1869 and 1871, held in Leipzig and Augsburg.25
After the founding of the Reich, the term "Liberal Judaism" established itself. This included, along with the reformers, also the positive-historical school, to which by far the majority of the Jewish believers were committed. In most of the cities, orthodoxy in the long run lost out in the inner-community competition for religious interpretation over organised religious practice, in which no radical innovation took place, but rather moderate cult reforms prevailed.26 When the transformation of the Jewish religion in the 19th century was accompanied by a change in gender roles which could also be described as the feminisation of Judaism, this referred to the growing importance of middle-class women as the keepers of tradition in private homes. Liberal Judaism increasingly took women as a target group of religious instruction in schools and synagogues, but it was never interested in having the female sex on an equal footing with the structuring of public religious ritual. It continued to be exclusively reserved for Jewish men to say prayers and play active roles as religious functionaries in the synagogue.27
Development in Other European Territories
That religious Judaism in Germany presented itself in such a manifold fashion had a great deal to do with the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of the time. It was also an outcome of contradictory political and cultural framework conditions such as openly accessible public educational institutions. It also offered opportunities for advancement which were, in view of an emancipation process full of tedious, often protracted setbacks, still limited. In neighbouring European countries, not least under the influence of developments in the German territories, the Jewish faith and traditional religious practice were scrutinised and made the object of debates, which, however, for the most part did not lead to a veritable reform movement.
Religious modernisation in the Habsburg monarchy emanated from Vienna, where preacher Isaak Noah Mannheimer (1793–1865), who first gained experience as a religious reformer in Copenhagen, created the so-called "Viennese Minhag" (Rite) in 1821. With his moderate cult renewal, which then found imitators elsewhere in Austria, he fulfilled the aesthetic expectations of an acculturated bourgeoisie without jeopardizing the overall cohesion of the community, in which emigrants from the east of the monarchy formed a conservative counterbalance. The willingness to compromise prevented a separation within the orthodox during the last third of the century; they nevertheless organised their religious services in their own places of worship.28 In Prague too, a centre of a moderate version of the Haskala, the Jewish community was spared a split. Even though the Verein zur Verbesserung des israelitischen Kultus (Association to Improve the Israelite Cult), founded in 1832, tried to express radical ideas of modernisation, the association organisationally remained part of the greater community. A proper reform movement developed neither in Prague nor in the crown lands of Bohemia and Moravia, where Jewish communities nevertheless became increasingly open to liturgical changes and often oriented themselves to Prague or Viennese models.29
Whereas Galicia, as a haven of tradition, defied religious change, so-called "Neology" as the Magyar variation of Reform Judaism, gained influence during the second half of the century. At the same time, Hungary remained a bulwark of law-abiding Judaism. Those orthodox rabbis – especially the followers of Chassidism – who opposed cultural and political integration and rejected even such changes as had gained the approval of German Neo-Orthodoxy, created a further hardening of the fronts. In 1868, during the Hungarian Jewish Congress, the attempt to gather the Magyar synagogue communities under a joint organisational umbrella failed. Supported by German rabbis, the Neo-Orthodoxy movement secured the right to organise their communities in its own corporate body. The religious split thus came about, and was accompanied by extensive social segregation.30
While parts of the New Orthodoxy movement in Germany and Hungary advocated schism, developments of similar significance did not take place in other countries in Europe. In Russia, reform – not least due to the difficult political situation – long remained a marginal phenomenon. Taking part in general cultural life, the Jews of Italy were aware that they did not need to catch up with a modernisation backlog from either a religious point of view or in the field of education. As they had long provided attractive services, the vast majority seemed to consider further-reaching reforms superfluous.
In France, the system of religious representation impeded Jewish internal pluralism. Napoleon imposed an Israelite consistory on French Jews in 1808, with a centralistic structure clearly oriented to the Catholic church hierarchy. Moderate reforms were carried out, whereas radical ideas hardly met with a positive response among worshippers. In 1900, Paris Jews founded the Union Libérale Israélite, which did not organise its own services until 1907, after France had implemented the separation of state and church two years earlier. This progressive association attracted few worshippers. Being for the most part isolated, it never succeeded in recruiting more members in the following decades.31
In England, the path to religious modernisation followed a pattern of its own, above all with regard to ideas imported from Germany. As in France, the success of the reform was limited for many decades to local initiatives, even though the local Jews – like their Christian compatriots – turned away from traditional forms of individual piety and frequently adhered to a marked faith in the Bible. When Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews jointly founded the West London Synagogue of British Jews in the 1840s, the new Reform house of worship had to combat the conservative resistance of the Chief Rabbinate along with the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The reform movement acquired a new stimulus in the early 20th century, when Claude G. Montefiore (1858–1938) was elected president of the newly-founded Jewish Religious Union, renamed Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism in 1909. The majority of London Jews, however, remained loyal to Orthodox Judaism, as associated with the United Synagogue. In view of the consolidated structures, the reform remained a minority project and apart from the establishment.32
The Self-Organisation of Religious Trends
While the conflict between the New Orthodoxy and the Reform Movement in Germany on the legitimacy of religious changes abated in the long run, the differences of modern theological world views remained unchanged, as could be observed in Jewish educational institutions. At the time of the founding of the Reich in 1871, six Jewish teachers' seminaries existed in Germany which not only qualified their young students from a professional standpoint but also guided them in various religious directions.33 Not to be underestimated was the impact of modern rabbinical seminaries, which not only reflected the religious spectrum of German Judaism, but also helped to consolidate it. The Jewish-Theological Seminary in Breslau opened in 1854, and under its director Zacharias Frankel propagated a modern conservative religious ideal. A more progressive line was taken by the "Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums" (College for the Science of Judaism), which, with the significant involvement of Abraham Geiger, provided training to rabbinate candidates from 1872 on. With the founding of a rabbinical seminary in Berlin in 1873, the New Orthodoxy created its own rabbinical training institute under Esriel Hildesheimer (1820–1899), thus taking into account contemporary expectations of professionalisation.34
In Prussia, where roughly two-thirds of German Jews lived, the fiercely disputed "Secession Bill" (Austrittsgesetz), for which especially Samson Raphael Hirsch had come out strongly, set limits to parochial pressure. In 1876, the kingdom allowed "every Jew, without leaving the Jewish religious community for religious reasons, to withdraw from the Jewish community to which he belongs by law, legal custom or an administrative regulation"35. In Frankfurt am Main, Berlin and other cities, Orthodox separatist congregations were founded apart from the established communities. The law created divided reactions within Orthodox Judaism: along with the secessionists (Austrittsorthodoxie), another, less militant, fraction was formed that voted in favour of united communities as long as these made the necessary concessions to the religious institutions (Gemeindeorthodoxie). Thus in the end, even the New Orthodoxy itself did not remain free of divisive tendencies.36
In the German Empire, above all, both Liberal Judaism as well as the New Orthodoxy made efforts to create their own organisational networks, which were designed to advocate their own religious interests both internally and externally. Originally founded in 1884, the association of rabbis (Rabbinerverband) reconstituted itself in 1896 as the General Association of Rabbis in Germany (Allgemeiner Rabbinerverband in Deutschland), in which orthodox and liberal Jewish theologians could jointly promote their professional interests. Gemeindeorthodoxie founded its own society in 1897 - the association of traditional law-abiding rabbis (Vereinigung traditionell-gesetzestreuer Rabbiner). This was followed the next year by the Union of Liberal Rabbis in Germany (Vereinigung der liberalen Rabbiner Deutschlands) and in 1906 by the Association of Orthodox Rabbis (Verband der orthodoxen Rabbiner), which only accepted members who had not joined the General Association of Rabbis.
As early as 1885, Samson Raphael Hirsch had initiated the Freie Vereinigung für die Interessen des orthodoxen Judentums (The Free Association for the Interests of Orthodox Judaism), which was primarily dedicated to fighting reform. When the Vereinigung für das liberale Judentum (Association for Liberal Judaism) was founded in 1908 as a joint organisation of rabbis and laymen, it not only positioned itself as a counterweight to Orthodoxy but also saw its task as being in the confrontation with Zionism. Its national ideology had increasingly grown since the end of the 19th century, and become a provocation of religious identities in Judaism. The Guidelines for a Programme for Liberal Judaism (Richtlinien zu einem Programm für das liberale Judentum), passed at its general assembly in 1912, was above all directed inwards to the growing indifference noted among its own members. When the guidelines formulated that "understanding must be kept alive that Judaism has its necessary place in the present day and its irreplaceable importance for the future, and that religious indifference and alienation from Judaism must be overcome and the herewith proven allegiance passed on to future generations", then liberal Judaism argued from a defensive position, irrespective of a seemingly demographic hegemony. The liberal rabbis in particular wanted to keep a critical distance from religious rationalism, to which many laymen still adhered.37
Across national borders, efforts were taken to combine the efforts of religious trends of modern Judaism in alliances. The New Orthodoxy in Germany, Hungary, Poland and Lithuania united in 1912 to form the Agudat Israel, whereas World War One prevented at first the founding of an international association of Liberals. The founding of the World Union for Progressive Judaism did not take place until 1926. Along with smaller territorial associations, it united above all English and German Liberals as well as American Reform Judaism.38
The National Socialist genocide of European Jews marked a break that was also characterised by the destruction of Jewish religious communities and all forms of organised Jewish life. A true revival of liberal traditions in Jewish communities in Germany since 1945 has so far only been partially achieved. But in the recent past, not least under the impression of Jews immigrating from the former Soviet Union, the principle of local unified communities (Einheitsgemeinden) that for decades resulted in an orthodox form of services and religious institutions, is giving way to a pluralistic approach to practised worship. The founding of egalitarian prayer circles and liberal congregations, but also the opening of rabbinical seminaries of varying theological orientations in Berlin and Potsdam, reveal the wish to permanently establish religious positions beyond Orthodoxy. On the other hand, the ultra-orthodox Chassidic Chabad Lubavitch organisation has founded branches in many places in Germany. Nonetheless, present-day German Judaism is still far removed from the religious diversity of former times.