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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Section - Question 2.6: What about other movements?

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
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                                  Answer:
   
    Reconstructionism
    
   Philosophically, Reconstructionism has its roots in the work of
   Mordechai Kaplan, who argued for a naturalistic conception of G-d and
   a functionalist view of Judaism as a religious civilization. He
   acknowledged that Jewish communities have always evolved to adapt to
   their historical circumstances, and was particularly interested in the
   ways in which American Judaism could construct communities that would
   permit its members to live in two civilizations (American and Jewish)
   at once, participating fully in each of them.
   
   Kaplan's conception of G-d was a transnatural one -- he spoke of "the
   power in the Universe that makes for salvation", rather than an
   anthropomorphic G-d intervening to reward and punish. As a result, the
   tradition we have inherited (e.g. keeping shabbat and kashrut, the
   text of our liturgy, etc.) is our cultural inheritance of how our
   ancestors related to this power in the universe -- it is not an
   unchanging divine mandate. Our tradition should, indeed must, be
   reconstructed in each generation to reflect our own understanding of
   this relationship -- as Kaplan said, "The past has a vote, not a
   veto."
   
      Reconstructionist Theology
      
   Kaplan's conception of G-d spoke of "the power in the Universe that
   makes for salvation", rather than an anthropomorphic G-d intervening
   to reward and punish. By salvation, he meant the power to improve
   oneself, not any sort of religious salvation.
   
   The philosophy of the movement contains a principle called
   "Transvaluation". This means that any person (at least the leaders of
   the movement) have the right to re-define a word to make it mean what
   they want. Kaplan did not believe in G-d, but he did believe that
   nature existed; he also believed that the universe was open to the
   possibility that people could better themselves. Kaplan "transvalued"
   the word "G-d" to mean the nature of the world. As a result, people
   who no longer believed in the traditional Jewish conception of G-d
   could now call themselves "religious" and could say that they "believe
   in G-d". This system proved quite appealing to a large number of
   people who had a deep love for the Jewish way of life, but who were
   not religious in the traditional sense.
   
      Reconstructionism Today
      
   Kaplan's personal theology was extremely rationalistic, but in forming
   his movement's seminary he probably did not realize the long term
   effects. He set up a seminary in which people could train to be
   Reconstructionist rabbis. In doing so he encouraged the study of
   religious texts, even if he himself discouraged what most people would
   call "religion". What eventually began to happen was obvious in
   hindsight: Hundreds of committed Jews studied for years in a religious
   environment, and they began to do what Kaplan rejected his whole life:
   They began to believe in the traditional Jewish G-d, especially as G-d
   was envisioned by the Medieval Kabbalists. As a result, many people in
   the Reconstructionist community now have a traditional Jewish belief
   in G-d!
   
   One hallmark of the Reconstructionist community has been its
   flourishing creativity. It has been at the forefront of many modern
   trends in Judaism, especially in the egalitarian approach to religious
   life and liturgy.
   
   In terms of size, the Reconstructionist movement is smaller than the
   Reform or Conservative movements. Reconstructionist communities are
   generally quite spiritually open, and quite accepting of
   experimentation.
   
      Where to Get More Information
      
   The organization of Reconstructionist Congregations is called the
   [5]Jewish Reconstruction Federation <http://www.jrf.org>.
   
   Additional information may be found in the [6]Reconstructionist
   Reading List, available at http://www.scjfaq.org/rl/jrc-index.html..
   
    Traditional Judaism (formerly "Conservadox")
    
   This is a primarily North American movement that has nothing in common
   with "traditional" Jews in Israel. It is a relatively new offshoot
   from Conservative, but philosophically closer to Orthodox. They
   attempt to be as lenient as possible within an Orthodox framework,
   although many Orthodox would not accept their leniencies, such as
   using microphones on shabbat. It has yet to be determined if
   conversions and divorces under Traditional auspices are acceptable
   within the Orthodox world.
   
   There is an umbrella organization for the organized "Traditional"
   movement (please contrast this usage with the generic term
   "traditional"). This organization is the Union for Traditional
   Judaism. More information can be found on their [7]home page,
   http://www.utj.org/home.
   
    Humanistic Judaism
    
   Humanistic Judaism practices a non-theistic form of Judaism. For those
   involved in Humanistic Judaism, Judaism is the culture and the
   historical experience of the Jewish people. Jewish history has taught
   us to rely on human power to discover truth. It is a break from both
   Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism because it does not use theistic
   language in its liturgy.
   
   Humanistic Judaism acknowledges that it is possible to integrate
   knowledge of and respect for other beliefs into the education of a
   child being raised in Humanistic Judaism, without confusing or
   intermingling distinct and different religious traditions, and without
   mixing or compromising the child's identification with Judaism.
   Specifically, the Jewish members of a mixed family may participate in
   the cultural observances of the non-Jewish members as guests of the
   latter, not as celebrants. Humanistic Judaism does not approve of the
   concept of mixing or joining religious identities with other faiths.
   Additional information may be found in the [8]Humanistic Reading List,
   available at www.scjfaq.org/rl/jsh-index.html. A web page of [9]links
   and information about Humanistic Judaism is available at URL:
   <http://www.teleport.com/~hellman>.
   
   You can also contact:
     * Society for Humanistic Judaism
       28611 W. Twelve Mile Road
       Farmington Hills MI 48334
       +1 810 478-7610
       
   or drop a note to [10]info@shj.org (Society for Humanistic Judaism).
   Home page: [11]www.shj.org. There is an electronic mailing list for
   those with an interest in exploring and/or furthering the development
   of Humanistic Judaism. The list is hjmail, it is available through
   [12]yahoogroups.com.
   
   Readers interested in Humanistic Judaism might also want to contact
   the sister organization to SHJ, the [13]Congress of Secular Jewish
   Organizations (www.csjo.org). Written inquiries may be sent to:
     * Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations
       19657 Villa Drive North
       Southfield, MI 48076
       +1 248 569-8127
       [14]csjo@csjo.org

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Who We Are (2/12)
Previous Document: Question 2.5: What is Reform/Progressive Judaism?
Next Document: Question 2.7: What are some of the Orthodox sub-groups?

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