The Jews and the Anabaptists–there are so many similarities and fascinating connections. As a Mennonite myself, I have found many points of connection when conversing and interacting with my Jewish friends. Comparisons range from family life, to cooking, to dress, and even language and schooling. In this post I want to explore very briefly some of the parallels between the most basic strains of Anabaptism and Judaism.
Throughout the branches of Judaism, the most conservative are the Orthodox, while in the strains of Anabaptism, one of the most conservative groups would be the Old Order Amish. To compare on a very basic level we see that both groups are highly bound by strict codes of rules and regulations. In both cases, many of these rules are extra-biblical and consist of guidelines set by specific Jewish Rabbis or Amish Bishops. Many of these rules are made obvious by distinctive manners of dress, or, in the case of the Amish, transportation and electricity usage.
The second and less conservative strands of the two religions would be Conservative Jews and Conservative Mennonites. These two groups would vary widely on a spectrum of how obvious their religious observance is to the world’s eye. Some examples of this on the Mennonite side would be the size of the woman’s prayer veiling or the type of attire that is to be worn. On the Jewish side, it might be the style or size of the man’s kippa (the skull cap Jewish men wear), or how strictly they observe Shabbat or the dietary laws of Kashrut. Basically, these groups have fewer rules and restrictions to follow.
The third group would be called Reformed Jews which would be compared with so termed “Liberal Mennonites.” The level of assimilation into mainstream society and culture is very high among these groups, and while they still attempt to hold on to their basic heritage and remain associated with their roots, they are seeking to participate fully and completely in mainstream culture. These groups often challenge many of the basic Scriptural tenants that the more conservative groups would hold to be sacred. In many cases the more conservative or fundamental groups consider these branches to be completely out of line with their respective faiths and are looked on as being apostate.
These few paragraphs don’t begin to do justice to the many strains, branches, and small pockets of groups which encompass both Judaism and Anabaptist Christianity, but on the most basic level fascinating correlations can be made. These can be helpful when attempting to quickly describe the broad spectrum. I look forward to exploring more deeply the different nuances and intricacies of these fascinating cultures. Be looking for more in-depth information coming soon!