Jewish Diversity: The Chart
Paths to One God
Compiled by Leah Finkelshteyn from Gilbert Rosenthal's Contemporary Judaism: Patterns of Survival (Human Sciences)
  Orthodox  Conservative  Reform  Reconstructionist 
God  A perosnal diety whose providence is reality.  Varied interpretations ranging from supernaturalism to naturalistic humanism.  Varied interpretations with latitude for naturalists, supernaturalists or religious humanists.  Power that makes for human salvation; source of highest human values and transcendent feelings. 
Torah  Of Divine origin, handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The revealed, but no the literal, word of God, as refracted through human transmission.  Written by human hands, with Divine inspiration; other viewpoints acceptable.  The attempt to strive for salvation, self-fulfillment. Collection of writings by different people. Belief in Divine inspiration, not revelation. 
Jewish Law 
Eternal, binding and irrevocable, it is Orthodoxy's guide and can be interpreted and applied to new situations only by rabbinical sages.  In favor of tradition, but can change in response to modern needs. Rabbinic rulings are binding.  Ethical aspects are God's revalation and binding. Ritual Mitzvot are means of infusing spirituality. Individuals decide halakha for themselves.  Considered custom or tradition. Commitment to tradition and search for contemporary meaning. Communities adapt their own in democratic procedures. Rabbis work as teachers with lay people to make guidelines. 
Women  Different roles and obligations from men. Sit separately in synagogue. Rabbi and cantor are male positions. Minyan not relevant to women's worship.  Accorded the same role as men in most rituals and practices. May be part of a minyan, sit with men in synagogue, serve as cantor and rabbi.  Egalitarian in rituals and practices. May be part of a minyan, sit with men in synagogue, serve as cantor, rabbi. Symbolic brit mila-equivalent ceremony.  Supports a fully egalitarian approach to religious life and liturgy. Women sit with men, are counted in a minyan and become rabbis and cantors. 
Kashrut  An obligation per Orthodox rulings.  An obligation per Conservative rulings.  Encourages study of laws and observances that increase the sancity of life and relationship with God.  Considered custom and is encouraged as a way of enhancing Jewish involvement and identification. 
Brit Mila  An obligation.  An obligation.  Required of all born-Jewish men.  An obligation. 
Divorce  Get, divorce document, required.  Get required.  Get not required.  Husband and wife give each other an egalitarian version of the get
Conversion  Requires instruction on Jewish life, and agreement to fulfill the commandments, brit mila and tevila (immersion in a ritual bath). Procedure is supervised by beit din (court) of three.  Requires instruction on Jewish life, an agreement to fulfill the commandments, brit mila and tevila. Procedure is supervised by a beit din of three.  Requires study, an oral and written declaration of acceptance of Judaism with intention to comply with tenets, before a rabbi and two lay leaders. Brit mila and tevila not required in U.S.  Requires brit mila and tevila. Process is supervised by a beit din of three. 
Intermarriage  Prohibited.  Prohibited.  Generally opposed; there are some rabbis who perform ceremonies. Intermarrieds welcomed into congregations.  Rabbis participate in civil marriage if couple will stay connected to community; some only with condition that family maintains Jewish home and raises children only as Jews. Communities extend themselves to intermarrieds. 
Who is a Jew?  Matrilineal descent or Orthodox conversion.  Matrilineal descent or conversion that includes brit mila and tevila One Jewish parent and formal, public identification with faith and people.  One Jewish parent and must be raised as a Jew.