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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)

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	   Frequently Asked Questions on Reform/Progressive Judaism
         [Last Change: $Date: 1995/10/19 15:24:31 $ $Revision: 1.6 $]
                    [Last Post: Fri Feb  6 11:07:21 US/Pacific 2004]

   The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer
   questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family
   of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the
   various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to
   accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In
   all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your
   local rabbi is a good place to start.
   
   [2][Got Questions?] Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your
   questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to
   [3]questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct
   your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you
   would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs
   questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at
   [4]maintainer@scjfaq.org.
   
   The deceased sages described within are of blessed memory, (assume a
   Z"L or ZT"L after their names) and the sages alive today should live
   to see long and good days (assume SHLITA). May Hashem grant complete
   recovery to the ill. Individual honorifics are omitted.
   
   The FAQ was produced by a committee and is a cooperative work. The
   contributors never standardized on transliteration scheme from Hebrew,
   Aramaic, Yiddish, or Ladino to English. As a result, the same original
   word might appear with a variety of spellings. This is complicated by
   the fact that there are regional variations in the pronunciation of
   Hebrew. In some places, the common spelling variations are mentioned;
   in others--not. We hope that this is not too confusing.
   
   In general, throughout this FAQ, North American (US/Canada) terms are
   used to refer to the movements of Judaism. Outside of North American,
   Reform is Progressive or Liberal Judaism; Conservative is Masorti or
   Neolog, and Orthodoxy is often just "Judaism". Even with this, there
   are differences in practice, position, and ritual between US/Canada
   Reform and other progressive/liberal movements (such as UK
   Progressive/ Liberal), and between US/Canada Conservative and the
   conservative/Masorti movement elsewhere. Where appropriate, these
   differences will be highlighted.
   
   The goal of the FAQ is to present a balanced view of Judaism; where a
   response is applicable to a particular movement only, this will be
   noted. Unless otherwise noted or implied by the text, all responses
   reflect the traditional viewpoint.
   
   This list should be used in conjunction with the Soc.Culture.Jewish
   [5]reading lists. Similar questions can be found in the books
   referenced in those lists.
   
   There are also numerous other Jewish FAQs available on the Internet
   that are not part of the SCJ FAQ/RL suite. An index to these may be
   found at [6]www.scjfaq.org/otherfaqs.html
   
   This FAQ is a volunteer effort. If you wish to support the maintenance
   of the FAQ, please see [7]Section 20, Question 99 for more
   information.


     Special Introduction to the Reform/Progressive Portion of the FAQ
                                      
   This portion of the FAQ is drawn primarily from published positions of
   the [2]Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the [3]Central Conference of
   American Rabbis (CCAR) -- the primary organizations for Reform Judaism
   in North American. As such, the positions represented here are
   collectively those of [4]the Reform movement, as canonized by its
   leadership. Individuals in the movement have personal positions that
   differ, some more traditional, some more liberal. Note: In November
   2003, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) voted to
   change its name to the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ): Serving Reform
   Judaism in North America. You will like be seeing references to UAHC
   for a long time; mentally translate them to URJ.
   
   The positions in this part of the FAQ primarily reflect those of North
   American Reform Jewry. Where appropriate and when it differs,
   clarifications about Reform/Progressive practice outside of North
   America is provided. Additional clarifications of this sort are always
   welcome.
   
   Again, as with any group, there are individuals who do not follow the
   recommendations of the movement, and yet associate themselves with the
   movement. This occurs in all aspects of Judaism. Remember to
   distinguish the individual from the movement, and strive to encourage
   those living with a less-than-serious commitment to their movement to
   strengthen that commitment. Throughout the remainder of this posting,
   unless otherwise qualified, the phrase "Reform Jew" refers to an
   individual committed to Reform Judaism and acting in accordance with
   the recommendations of Reform Judaism.
   
   This list should be used in conjunction with the Soc.Culture.Jewish
   [5]Reform Reading List. Similar questions can be found in the books
   referenced in those lists.

   Reproduction of this posting for commercial use is subject to
   restriction. See Part 1 for more details.


Subject: ORGANIZATION This portion of the FAQ contains answers to the following questions: Section 18. Reform/Progressive Judaism * [8]Introduction to the Reform/Progressive FAQ 1. General Questions 1. [9]What is Reform Judaism? 2. [10]What, if any, are the fundamental principles of Reform? 3. [11]Is a Jew affiliated with Reform Judaism less "religious" than one affiliated with another movement? 4. [12]How is Reform Judaism structured in the North America? 5. [13]How is Reform Judaism structured in the rest of the world? 6. [14]How big is Reform Judaism? 2. History 1. [15]How did Reform Judaism start? 2. [16]Why did Reform Judaism start? 3. [17]I've heard reference to "Classic German Reform". What is it? 4. [18]What is Reform Judaism today? 3. What is Reform Judaism's position on... 1. [19]The authority of Torah? 2. [20]The authority of Talmud? 3. [21]What is acceptable practice? 4. [22]What is unacceptable practice? 5. [23]The necessity of belief in G-d? 6. [24]The role of Israel? 7. [25]Other Jewish movements? 8. [26]Homosexuality 9. [27]Intermarriage 10. [28]Abortion 11. [29]Mixed (Interfaith) Marriages 12. [30]The role of women 13. [31]Outreach 14. [32]How an individual's Jewish status is determined 15. [33]The Messiah 4. Stereotypes: The fallacy verses reality 1. [34]Fallacy: Reform Jews choose practice based solely on convenience 2. [35]Fallacy: Either patrilineal or matrilineal descent is accepted 3. [36]Fallacy: Reform Conversions take no study, and are for convenience only 4. [37]Fallacy: Reform Judaism encourages intermarriage 5. [38]Fallacy: Intermarried couples have exactly the same rights as non-intermarried couples in Reform Congregations 6. [39]Fallacy: Reform Judaism has Rabbis and congregations that don't believe in G-d 7. [40]Fallacy: There are no 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews. 8. [41]Fallacy: An atheist could be considered a "good" Reform Jew 9. [42]Fallacy: Reform Jews don't have Bar Mitzvahs 10. [43]Fallacy: Reform totally ignores "Jewish" divorce (i.e., gets) 11. [44]Fallacy: All Reform Congregations Are Rich 12. [45]Fallacy: Reform Rabbis do not study Halacha 13. [46]Fallacy: Reform Jews don't care about Jewish ideals and principles. 14. [47]Fallacy: Reform Jews don't need to attend synagogue. 15. [48]Fallacy: Reform Jews don't believe in Zionism and don't support Israel. 16. [49]Fallacy: Reform Jews have no concept of the Messiah. 17. [50]Fallacy: Reform Jews do not observe Shabbat 18. [51]Fallacy: Reform Jews ignore the laws of Kashrut 19. [52]Fallacy: Reform rejects most of Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith 5. Differences from Traditional Judaism 1. [53]Why does Reform liturgy say "m'chayey hakol" [who gives life to all] instead of m'chayey meytim" [who gives life to the dead] ? 2. [54]What other changes to liturgy reflect Reform ideals? 3. [55]Why does Reform generally celebrate Rosh Hashanah for one day? 4. [56]How does a Reform conversion differ from an Orthodox conversion? 6. The Rabbinate 1. [57]How does one become a Reform Rabbi? 2. [58]What is the course of study for the Rabbinate? 3. [59]How does one become a Reform Cantor? 4. [60]What is the course of study for cantors? 5. [61]What other courses of study are available? 6. [62]Can Reform Rabbis be sanctioned for their beliefs 7. For Further Information 1. [63]How do I contact the main organizations in Reform Judaism? 2. [64]How do I find a Reform congregation? 3. [65]Are there any Reform Rabbis on the network who will answer questions? 4. [66]How do I start the conversion process? 5. [67]I'd like to do some further reading. Where do I start? * [68]Special Credits for the Reform/Progressive FAQ
Subject: Question 18.1.1: What is Reform Judaism? Answer: Reform is the most liberal of the major movements within Judaism today. It started in the 1800s in Germany during the emancipation, and encouraged examination of religion with an eye towards rationality and egalitarianism. Reform differs from the other major movements in that it views both the Oral and Written laws as a product of human hands (specifically, it views the Torah as Divinely inspired, but written in the language of the time in which it was given). The laws reflect their times, but contain many timeless truths. The Reform movement stresses retention of the key principles of Judaism (as it sees them; for details, consult the [5]Reform Reading List). As for practice, it strongly recommends individual study of the traditional practices; however, the adherent is free to follow only those practices that increase the sanctity of their relationship to G-d. Reform also stresses equality between the sexes. Reform Judaism shares the universal Jewish emphasis on learning, duty, and obligation rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life. Reform stresses that ethical responsibilities, personal and social, are enjoined by G-d. Reform also believes that our ethical obligations are but a beginning; they extend to many other aspects of Jewish living, including: creating a Jewish home centered on family devotion; life-long study; private prayer and public worship; daily religious observance; keeping the Sabbath and the holy days; celebrating the major events of life; involvement with the synagogue and community; and other activities that promote the survival of the Jewish people and enhance its existence. Within each aspect of observance Reform Judaism demands Jews confront the claims of Jewish tradition, however differently perceived, and to exercise their individual autonomy--based, as the Sh'ma says, upon reason, heart, and strength--choosing and creating their holiness as people and as community. The requirement for commitment and knowledge is repeatedly emphasized. A Reform Jew who determines their practice based on convenience alone is not acting in accordance with the recommended position of Reform Judaism. Reform also rejects the faith tenets of other religions as a matter of first principles. It should be noted that many of the paths taken by the Reform movement differ from those of traditional Judaism. These differences result in many of the discussions you will see on S.C.J. Here are some references to some other statements about "What is Reform Judaism?": * "What is Reform Judaism": [6]http://rj.org/rj.html. Statement on the UAHC Web Page * "A Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism": [7]http://ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html. Statement adopted by the CCAR in 1999 * "Why Be Reform?": [8]http://uahc.org/yoffie/whyref.html. A statement by UAHC President Eric H. Yoffie * A New Era For Reform: [9]http://rj.org/uahc/rjmag/397dr.html. A letter that appeared in Reform Judaism magazine In terms of size, the [10]UAHC 1993-1994 annual report notes that there were a total of 853 UAHC-affiliated congregations, with a total reported congregational membership of 302,193 member units (families, singles, etc.). This can be contrasted with the 1983-1984 period, where there were 773 congregations with a total of 269,406 member units. Congregations range in size from a 2-member-unit congregation in Port Gibson, Mississippi, to "mega"-shuls such as Wilshire Blvd Temple in Los Angeles (2,123 member units), Anshe Chesed in Cleveland Ohio (2,151), Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto Ontario (2,043), Temple Israel in Minneapolis Minnesota (2,075), Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington DC (2,783), Congregation Emanu-El in New York City (2,650), Temple Israel in W. Bloomfield Michigan (2,659), Temple Emanu-El in Dallas Texas (2,526), and Cong. Beth Israel in Houston Texas (2,011).
Subject: Question 18.1.2: What, if any, are the fundamental principles of Reform? Answer: The fundamental principles of today's Reform movement are captured in the [5]Statement of Principles ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html) adopted by the CCAR in May 1999. The following are some excepts from that statement, modified slightly for FAQ presentation (e.g., "We" was changed to "Reform Jews", etc.). Note that the principles of Reform have changed over time, from the 1855 [7]Pittsburgh Platform ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/pittsburgh.html) to the 1937 [9]Columbus Platform ([10]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html), to the 1976 [11]Centenary Perspective ([12]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html), to the 1999 Statement of Principles. G-d * Reform Jews affirm the reality and oneness of G-d, even as we may differ in our understanding of the Divine presence. * Reform Jews affirm that the Jewish people is bound to G-d by an eternal b'rit, covenant, as reflected in our varied understandings of Creation, Revelation and Redemption. * Reform Jews affirm that every human being is created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of G-d, and that therefore every human life is sacred. * Reform Jews regard with reverence all of G-d's creation and recognize our human responsibility for its preservation and protection. * Reform Jews encounter G-d's presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of justice and compassion, in loving relationships and in the experiences of everyday life. * Reform Jews respond to G-d daily: through public and private prayer, through study and through the performance of other mitzvot, sacred obligations -- bein adam la Makom, to G-d, and bein adam la-chaveiro, to other human beings. * Reform Jews strive for a faith that fortifies us through the vicissitudes of our lives -- illness and healing, transgression and repentance, bereavement and consolation, despair and hope. * Reform Jews continue to have faith that, in spite of the unspeakable evils committed against our people and the sufferings endured by others, the partnership of G-d and humanity will ultimately prevail. * Reform Jews trust in our tradition's promise that, although G-d created us as finite beings, the spirit within us is eternal. Torah * Reform Jews affirm that Torah is the foundation of Jewish life. * Reform Jews cherish the truths revealed in Torah, G-d's ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people's ongoing relationship with G-d. * Reform Jews affirm that Torah is a manifestation of ahavat olam, G-d's eternal love for the Jewish people and for all humanity. * Reform Jews affirm the importance of studying Hebrew, the language of Torah and Jewish liturgy, that we may draw closer to our people's sacred texts. * Reform Jews are called by Torah to lifelong study in the home, in the synagogue and in every place where Jews gather to learn and teach. Through Torah study Reform Jews are called to mitzvot, the means by which we make our lives holy. * Reform Jews are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of mitzvot and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and as a community. Some of these mitzvot, sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times. * Reform Jews bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and places of our lives through regular home and congregational observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with kedushah, holiness, menuchah, rest and oneg, joy. The High Holy Days call us to account for our deeds. The Festivals enable us to celebrate with joy our people's religious journey in the context of the changing seasons. The days of remembrance remind us of the tragedies and the triumphs that have shaped our people's historical experience both in ancient and modern times. And we mark the milestones of our personal journeys with traditional and creative rites that reveal the holiness in each stage of life. * Reform Jews bring Torah into the world when we strive to fulfill the highest ethical mandates in our relationships with others and with all of G-d's creation. Partners with G-d in tikkun olam, repairing the world, we are called to help bring nearer the messianic age. We seek dialogue and joint action with people of other faiths in the hope that together we can bring peace, freedom and justice to our world. We are obligated to pursue tzedek, justice and righteousness, and to narrow the gap between the affluent and the poor, to act against discrimination and oppression, to pursue peace, to welcome the stranger, to protect the earth's biodiversity and natural resources, and to redeem those in physical, economic and spiritual bondage. In so doing, we reaffirm social action and social justice as a central prophetic focus of traditional Reform Jewish belief and practice. We affirm the mitzvah of tzedakah, setting aside portions of our earnings and our time to provide for those in need. These acts bring us closer to fulfilling the prophetic call to translate the words of Torah into the works of our hands. Israel * Reform Jews are Israel, a people aspiring to holiness, singled out through our ancient covenant and our unique history among the nations to be witnesses to G-d's presence. We are linked by that covenant and that history to all Jews in every age and place. * Reform Jews are committed to the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael, love for the Jewish people, and to k'lal Yisrael, the entirety of the community of Israel. Recognizing that kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh, all Jews are responsible for one another, we reach out to all Jews across ideological and geographical boundaries. * Reform Jews embrace religious and cultural pluralism as an expression of the vitality of Jewish communal life in Israel and the Diaspora. * Reform Jews pledge to fulfill Reform Judaism's historic commitment to the complete equality of women and men in Jewish life. * Reform Jews are an inclusive community, opening doors to Jewish life to people of all ages, to varied kinds of families, to all regardless of their sexual orientation, to gerim, those who have converted to Judaism, and to all individuals and families, including the intermarried, who strive to create a Jewish home. * Reform Jews believe that we must not only open doors for those ready to enter our faith, but also to actively encourage those who are seeking a spiritual home to find it in Judaism. * Reform Jews are committed to strengthening the people Israel by supporting individuals and families in the creation of homes rich in Jewish learning and observance. * Reform Jews are committed to strengthening the people Israel by making the synagogue central to Jewish communal life, so that it may elevate the spiritual, intellectual and cultural quality of our lives. * Reform Jews are committed to Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, and rejoice in its accomplishments. We affirm the unique qualities of living in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, and encourage aliyah, immigration to Israel. * Reform Jews are committed to a vision of the State of Israel that promotes full civil, human and religious rights for all its inhabitants and that strives for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. * Reform Jews are committed to promoting and strengthening Progressive Judaism in Israel, which will enrich the spiritual life of the Jewish state and its people. * Reform Jews affirm that both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry should remain vibrant and interdependent communities. As we urge Jews who reside outside Israel to learn Hebrew as a living language and to make periodic visits to Israel in order to study and to deepen their relationship to the Land and its people, so do we affirm that Israeli Jews have much to learn from the religious life of Diaspora Jewish communities. * Reform Jews are committed to furthering Progressive Judaism throughout the world as a meaningful religious way of life for the Jewish people.
Subject: Question 18.1.3: Is a Jew affiliated with Reform Judaism less "religious" than one affiliated with another movement? Answer: Religion is a personal matter of belief, and just as there is a wide spectrum of underlying belief (regardless of outward practice) in other movements, there is in Reform Judaism. Practice is a different question. Although Reform permits a wide variety of practice--indeed, fully traditional practice could be accomodated in Reform if it was the result of honest study--the normative practice of American Reform Jewish is less ritualistic than, for example, Orthodox practice. This is a logical consequence of Reform's emphasis upon kevanah or devotion as an essential part of Jewish ritual and practice. The notion is that rituals and practices mean more if one is committed to their reason and significance, emotional, rational, and spiritual.
Subject: Question 18.1.4: How is Reform Judaism structured in the North America? Answer: In North America, the principal organization for Reform Jewry is the [5]Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) ([6]http://www.urj.org). URJ was founded in 1873 as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) by Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, and serves as the umbrella organization for Reform Synagogues throughout North America. It was renamed Union for Reform Judaism in November 2003. URJ funds a seminary system for Reform Judaism: the [7]Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute for Religion ([8]http://huc.edu). HUC was founded in 1875, and it now has [9]campuses in Cincinnati, Ohio (+1 513 221 1875); New York City, New York (+1 212 674 5300); Los Angeles, California (+1 213 749 3424); and Jerusalem ISRAEL (+972 2 232 444). See [10]http://www.huc.edu/campuses.html for specifics. URJ works with a number of professional organizations: * CCAR. The CCAR or [11]Central Conference of American Rabbis (founded in 1889) [[12]http://ccarnet.org]. Its members are the body of rabbis who consider themselves and are considered to be the organized rabbinate of Reform Judaism. Its members consist of Reform Rabbis ordained at the [13]Hebrew Union College (HUC), as well as Reform Rabbis ordained at liberal seminaries in Europe, and some rabbis who joined the Reform movement sometime subsequent to ordination (most of these were ordained either at Conservative Judaism's [14]Jewish Theological Seminary or [15]University of Judaism, or at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College). Note that not all HUC graduates are CCAR members; some leave for ideological reasons or because they have joined a different movement. The CCAR publishes a quarterly rabbinic journal called [16]CCAR Journal. * ACOC. [17]American Conference of Cantors ([18]http://rj.org/acc/). The ACC is the professional organization of over two hundred fifty invested and/or certified cantors. Responsible for raising the professional standards of synagogue musicians, the ACC offers continuing education programs in conjunction with HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music and professional development opportunities for its members. Members of the ACC have special expertise in the music of the Jewish people and serve synagogues and communities in pastoral, worship, programming, and educational roles. The ACC sponsors an annual convention and publishes Koleinu, a monthly newsletter. It also offers placement services to its members and UAHC congregations through the Joint Cantorial Placement Commission. * NATA. [19]National Association of Temple Administrators ([20]http://rj.org/nata/). The National Association of Temple Administrators is the professional organization founded in 1941 for those who serve Reform Synagogues as executives, administrators, or managers. The title does not reflect the international make up of the organization, currently there are more than 400 members from the United States, Australia, Canada and Great Britain. * NATE. [21]National Association of Temple Educators ([22]http://rj.org/nate/). NATE. is the professional organization of Educators serving congregations of the Reform Movement as Directors of Education, Principals, Department Heads, Preschool Directors and Family Educators. Many NATE. members also serve on the professional staff of Bureaus and Central Agencies of Jewish Education. A growing number of NATE. Educators direct Reform or Community Jewish Day Schools. URJ works with a number of special-interest groups: * WRJ. [23]Women of Reform Judaism (formerly National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods) [[24]http://www.rj.org/wrj/]. Women of Reform Judaism, The Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, representing 100,000 women in 600 local Sisterhoods throughout the United States, Canada, and thirteen other countries, is the women's agency of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. * NFTB. [25]National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods ([26]http://www.rj.org/nftb). NFTB is a coalition of over 250 affiliated brotherhoods with 30,000 members across North America, dedicated to tikkun olam, 'repairing the world', through the practice of Brotherhood. NFTB members are actively involved in youth education, adult education, social action, and fellowship activities which contribute to the enrichment of their synagogue community. * [27]PARDeS. The Progressive Organization of Reform Day Schools ([28]http://www.rj.org/pardes). PARDeS brings together days schools and professional and lay leaders committed to advancing the cause of full-time Reform Jewish Education. PARDeS fosters Jewish identity, literacy and continuity through Jewish education in Reform Day Schools...Promotes a life-long covenant with the heritage of Judaism...And, advocates for excellence in education, (secular and Jewish). * ARZA/World Union. Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union ([29]http://www.rj.org/arzawuna) The mission of ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America is to further the development of Progressive Judaism in Israel and throughout the world. ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America strives to strengthen Jewish communities by encouraging Jewish solidarity, promoting religious pluralism and furthering Zionism. ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America is working to strengthen the relationship of North American Reform Jews with Progressive Jewish communities in Israel and throughout the world and to educate and inform our constituency on relevant matters of Jewish importance. ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America is the representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and an affiliate of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. * NFTY. [30]North American Federation of Temple Youth ([31]http://www.rj.org/nfty/). NFTY is the youth arm of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and is comprised of over 450 Temple Youth Groups (TYGs) throughout the United States and Canada. The overall purposes of NFTY are to instill Jewish identity, foster commitment to the ideals and values of Reform Judaism, and increase synagogue participation in high school youth, pursued in a framework that emphasizes the development of personal and leadership skills in a wholesome, social, Jewish environment. * [32]KESHER. Reform Jewish Student Organization ([33]http://www.keshernet.com). KESHER is the college movement of North American Reform Judaism, an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism that connects college-aged Reform Jews, Reform college groups, and college campuses to each other and to the Reform movement, in order to promote continuous involvement in Reform Judaism. * Berit Mila Board ([34]http://www.rj.org/beritmila/). A joint project of HUC, CCAR, and URJ. An organization of Reform Judaism whose goal is to train mohelim. At the political level, Reform Judaism in the US is respresented by: * RAC. [35]Religious Action Center ([36]http://rj.org/rac/). The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in the nation's capital for over 35 years. It has educated and mobilized the American Jewish community on legislative and social concerns as an advocate in the Congress of the United States on issues ranging from Israel and Soviet Jewry to economic justice and civil rights, to international peace and religious liberty. The RAC is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 870 congregations throughout North America. In Canada, Reform Congregations are members of the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism ([37]http://www.uahcweb.org/regs/cc/). CCRJ represents approximately 9000 households in 24 affiliated congregations from Montreal to Calgary. The CCRJ is the Canadian region of the Union for Reform Judaism. The CCRJs mandates are: 1. To promote the aims and objectives of member congregations 2. To promote and assist in the formation of new liberal congregations in Canada 3. To represent the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in Canada 4. To promote and represent liberal Judaism in Canada At the International Level, Reform Judaism is represented by the following: * WUPJ. World Union for Progressive Judaism ([38]http://www.rj.org/wupj). The World Union for Progressive Judaism was founded in London in 1926 as the international organization to promote and sustain liberal Judaism, its practices and ideas. Over 1.5 million Reform, Liberal, Progressive, and Reconstructionist congregations are affiliated with the movement in over 35 countries and on six continents. From its central office in Jerusalem, the World Union brings back Judaism to countries where former Nazi and communist tyrannies sought to stamp out Jews and Judaism forever. It also introduces disaffected Jews in many parts of the world to an open and questioning expression of Judaism to which they can relate. * ARZENU. International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists ([39]http://www.irac.org/arzenu/). * IRAC. The Israel Religious Action Center ([40]http://www.irac.org/)
Subject: Question 18.1.5: How is Reform Judaism structured in the rest of the world? Answer: The world organization for Reform Judaism is the [5]World Union for Progressive Judaism ([6]http://www.rj.org/wupj/), which is headquartered in Jerusalem. Outside of North America, Reform is also known as "Progressive" or "Liberal" Judaism. A list of all the affiliates of the WUPJ may be found at [7]http://uahc.org/cgi-bin/wupjaffil.pl; this list includes members from Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Former Soviet Union, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatamala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Saint Maarten, St. Thomas, USA, Canada, and South Africa. The confusion about the terms "Reform" or "Liberal" comes from a split in England's Reform movement. In 1842 the English Reform movement split into two factions, one of which was more traditional, while the other was more liberal. The more traditional Reform Judaism faction called themselves simply 'Reform'. Their prayer services are much more traditional than the faction that split off, and their laity is in general more observant than the other faction. Thus their prayer services are much like American Conservative shuls and English Masorti shuls, but they still are what we Americans call Reform (i.e. Classical halakha is not considered binding by its rabbinate or laity.) The more liberal Reform Judasim faction seceded, and renamed their movement as "Liberal Judaism". They are are more in the mode of Classic German Reform. They generally have less Hebrew in their services, and are less observant. Progressive Jewish congregations are to be found throughout the Jewish world, from Europe to Asia, from South America to India and from Africa to Australasia. In Israel, in addition to urban congregations, there are also two Progressive kibbutzim and a Progressive village settlement. Where appropriate there are regional umbrella organizations such as the [8]Australian and New Zealand Union for Progressive Judaism ([9]http://www.anzupj.com.au); the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland; Union of Liberal Jewish Congregations in the Netherlands ([10]http://www.xs4all.nl/~ljg), etc. The following are some specific regional notes: * United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, Progressive/Reform Judaism is represented by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues ([11]http://www.ulps.org/), known generally as the Liberal movement. As part of a process of becoming part of the Progressive movement, some Liberal Synagogues changed their name from Liberal to Progressive some years back. Yet the distinctions are difficult to draw. Members of reform congregations in the UK are likely to see themselves closer in beliefs to the US Reform movement and not to the Conservative. In halachic terms, little now separates the UK Reform and Liberal movements, and *both* are affiliated to WUPJ. Indeed proposals to merge the two movements arise from time to time. The Leo Baeck College is sponsored by both movements, and its graduates officiate in both Liberal and Reform synagogues. The differences between the two are largely historical. The Reform movement developed in the UK independent of the classical German liberal trend. The West London Synagogue was established in the early 1800's as a breakaway from the Sephardi Bevis Marks synagogue in the City of London, so that wealthy jews who had moved to the affluent West End district of London had a convenient place of worship. Its liturgy adapted to cope with the desire for a degree of assimilation and less harsh observence of this class of English jewry! A number of congregations throughout the UK over time adopted the West London prayerbook. With the outbreak of the Second World War, these congregations got together to deal with issues of jewish education in the context of children being evacuated to the countryside. The [12]Reform Synagogues of Great Britain ([13]http://www.refsyn.org.uk) (the umbrella organisation for the Reform movement) dates from this time. Leo Baeck College was founded by RSGB (who were later joined by ULPS) in order to re-build the European rabbinate following the shoa - and the destruction of progressive seminaries in continental Europe. Leo Baeck College may be reached at: The Sternberg Centre For Judaism 80 East End Road London N3 2SY Tel: +44-181-349-4525 Fax: +44-181-343-0901 The Liberal movement (and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue) was founded in the early part of this century by Lily Montague as an adjunct to the then Reform synagogues - with the intention that the use of more English in services, etc would prevent some on the margins of British jewry assimilating completley and being totally lost. The Liberal movement owes more to classical German liberal jewry. Reform practices tend to be somewhat more Orthadox than the Liberal - (e.g. wearing of tallit, the form of some prayers), but when you get down to fundamentals, there is not much in it - as the sharing of a rabinnical seminary shows. The Masorti movement corresponds more closely to US conservative practice in its interpretation of halacha and the from of its services. The UK CCAR equivalent is The [14]Reform Synagogues of Great Britain ([15]http://www.refsyn.org.uk). The International Youth Movement, Netzer Olami, has active branches of Netzer (acronym: No'ar Tzioni Reformi - Reform Zionist Youth) throughout the world. In the UK, contact ULPSNYC-Netzer, <[16]R.L.Reese@sheffield.ac.uk> or <[17]Beccy@brij000.demon.co.uk>. There is also a growing Dayschool movement in a number of countries. The WUPJ is a constitutent of the World Zionist Organization, and the political Zionist arm of Progressive Judaism--ARTZENU--has active constituents in most contries.
Subject: Question 18.1.6: How big is Reform Judaism? Answer: According to the 1993-1994 yearbook of the Union for Reform Judaism, there are 853 member congregations, with a total "member unit" membership of 302,193 member units. The term "member units" refers to the unit that joins a synagogue: a family, a single individual, a gay couple. There are also numerous congregations that are Reform but are not affiliated with URJ. Some of these are quite large (such as Steven S. Wise Congregation in Los Angeles, with over 2,000 member units). The breakdown, according to the yearbook, is as follows: Region Congregations Members Canada 22 8,252 Great Lakes 57 22,785 Mid Atlantic 62 20,289 Midwest 65 23,401 New Jersey/W. Hudson 58 20,829 New York 94 36,122 Northeast 78 26,605 Northeast Lakes 69 23,660 Northern California 40 15,137 Pacific Northwest 18 5,002 Pacific Southwest 73 32,257 Pennsylvania 55 19,721 Southeast 85 28,397 Southwest 77 19,736 TOTAL 853 302,193 To give an idea of trends, in 1982-1983, the congregational membership was 269,406--that's 12% growth over ten years. There were 773 member congregations in 1982-1983, giving 10% growth in the number of Reform congregations.
Subject: Question 18.2.1: History: How did Reform Judaism start? Answer: The roots of Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism lie in Germany, where, between 1810 and 1820, congregations in Seesen, Hamburg, and Berlin instituted fundamental changes in traditional Jewish practices and beliefs, such as mixed seating, the use of German in services, single-day observance of festivals, and use of a cantor/choir. American Reform Judaism began as these German "reformers" immigrated to American in the mid-1800s. Reform rapidly became the dominant belief systems of American Jews of the time. It was a national phenomenon. The first "Reform" group was formed by a number of individuals that split from Cong. Beth Elohim in Charleston SC. According to an article in the Spring 1994 [5]CCAR Journal, the following are early American Jewish congregations, and the dates they became Reform congregations: Congregation City Date Became Reform Beth Elohim Charleston SC 1825 Har Sinai Baltimore MD 1842 Emanu-El New York NY 1845 Beth El/Anshe Emeth Albany NY 1850 Bene Yeshurun (I.M. Wise) Cincinnati OH 1854 Adath Israel (The Temple) Louisville KY 1855 Bene Israel (Rockdale) Cincinnati OH 1855 Keneseth Israel Philadelphia PA 1856 Sinai Chicago IL 1858 Reform in American benefitted from the lack of a central religious authority. It also was molded by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. Rabbi I.M. Wise came to the US in 1846 from Bohemia, spent eight years in Albany NY, and then moved to Cincinnati on the edge of the frontier. He then proceeded to... 1. Write the first siddur edited for American worshippers, Minhag American (1857) 2. Found the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1873 3. Found [6]Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1875 4. Found the [7]Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1889 Early Reform, led by Rabbis such as David Einhorn of Baltimore, Samuel Holdheim, Bernard Felsenthal, and Kaufmann Kohler, took an increasingly radical stance. Many rituals and customs were dropped, some congregations held "Shabbat" on Sunday. This early radicalism was mentioned in the [8]1855 Pittsburgh Platform ([9]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/pittsburgh.html). By 1880, over 90% of American Synagogues were Reform. This was the time of the major Eastern European immigration, which was heavily Orthodox and non-German, as contrasted with the strongly German Reform movement. Many Reform congregations of this time were difficult to distinguish from neighboring Protestant churches, with preachers in robes, pews with mixed seating, choirs, organs, and hymnals. Yet by 1935, Reform had started on the path of return to a more traditional approach to Judaism--distinctly Jewish and distinctly American, but also distinctively non-Christian. Reform pioneered a number of Jewish organizations, such as the Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side of New York, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, the American Jewish Committee, and the ADL of B'nai Brith. Although early Reform dropped quite a bit of traditional prayers and rituals, there was still a "bottom line". In 1909, the CCAR formally declared its opposition to intermarriage. And, although decried as "archaic" and "barbarian", the practice of circumcision remained a central rite. Early Reform was also anti-Zionist, believing the Diaspora was necessary for Jews to be "light unto the nations". Yet with this, a number of Reform Rabbis were pioneers in establishing Zionism in American, such as Gustav and Richard Gottheil, Rabbi Steven S Wise (founder of the American Jewish Congress), and Justice Louis Brandeis. Following the Balfour Declaration, Reform began to support Jewish settlements in Palestine, as well as institutions such as Hadassah Hospital, and the Hebrew University. In 1937, the [10]Columbus Platform ([11]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html) affirmed "the obligation of all Jewry to aid in building a Jewish homeland...". Since 1937, Reform has remained active on the social action front. It has also been moving back to tradition. This is described in more detail elsewhere in the FAQ. Reform has become a large force in America. Did it succeed in Germany, where it started? The short answer is that Reform in Germany succeeded to the extent that it legitimized the tinkering around the edges of religious tradition. For example, a mixed choir and the introduction of "modern" music in worship by way of the organ were some of the early reforms that were introduced in the first decades of the 19th century. By the 1830s and 40's some rabbis were beginning to test the limits of these changes in several conferences--Breslau being very important. But the European system was that the "official" leadership of a religious community was sanctioned and controlled by the secular government. And the secular governments, in order to maintain the status quo, recognized the conventional Jewish rabbinic leadership and these were, as they had always been, the Orthodox. Appointments to head up individual synagogues were at the discretion of the community-heads almost always Orthodox. That is why fertile ground for real change could not occur until German Reform came to America with a strong tradition of the "seperation of church and state." In the Jewish community, very few rabbis would even come to the America until after the 1840s. Here, then, each congregation was autonomous and led by lay leaders. When more liberal-minded rabbis did begin to come, they were free to innovate and change. They were free both from the hidebound system of Europe and the power was vested, not in a closed rabbinate, but in freer thinking lay leaders. So to answer the question, Reform in Germany succeeded in opening up the possibilities of change, but real change required the more fertile ground of America in which to take root and to grow. In Australia, Reform began here in 1929, and now has congregations in all the major cities in Australia, New Zealand and even in Southeast Asia and China. In Australia, about one third of the Jews describe themselves as "Progressive" (international-speak for Reform), one third " Orthodox" and one third would be secular. [Much of this adapted from "The Jewish Almanac", Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins]
Subject: Question 18.2.2: History: Why did Reform Judaism start? Answer: To answer this question, one must look at the environment in which Reform was born. This was the time of the French Revolution, a time when European Jews were (for the first time), recognized as citizens of the countries in which they lived. Ghettos were being abolished, special badges were no more, people could settle where they pleased, dress as they liked, and follow the occupations that they wanted. Many Jews settled outside of Jewish districts, and began to live like their neighbors and speak the language of the land. They went to public schools and univeristies, and began to neglect Jewish studies and to disregard the Shulchan Aruch. In 1815, after Napolean's defeat, Jews lost the rights of citizenship in many countries. Many Jews became Christian in order to retain those rights. Many thoughtful Jews were concerned about this. They relized that many of these changes took place not because of a dislike of Judaism, but in order to obtain better treatment. Many rabbis believed that the way to address this was to force Jews to keep away from Christians and give up public schools and universities. This didn't work. Leopold Zunz proposed something else. He suggested that Jews study their history, and learn of the great achievements of the past. At the same time as Zunz was implementing his ideas, a movement began to make religious services better understood, by incorporating music and the local language. However, these changes had to battle the local Rabbis, who urged the government to close the test synagogue. Shortly after the closing, Rabbi Abraham Geiger suggested that observance might also be changed to appeal to modern people. Geiger, a skilled scholar in both Tanach and German studies, investigated Jewish history. He discovered that Jewish life had continually changed. Every now and then, old practices were changed and new ones introduced, resulting in a Jewish life that was quite different than that lived 4000 or even 2000 years before. He noticed that these changes often made it easier for Jews to live in accordance with Judaism. Geiger concluded that this process of change needed to continue in order to make Judaism attractive to all Jews. He met with other Rabbis in Germany, and changes began as described in [5]Section 18.2.1.
Subject: Question 18.2.3: History: I've heard reference to "Classic German Reform". What is it? Answer: When Reform started, many of its leaders took a very "rejectionist" view of practice. Many traditional practices were decried as "barbaric", and many other practices were discarded. This "early form" of Reform had some of the following characteristics: * Circumcision was not practiced, and was decried as barbaric. * The Hebrew language was removed from the liturgy and replaced with German. * The hope for a restoration of the Jews in Israel was officially renounced, and it was officially stated that Germany was to be the new Zion. * The ceremony in which a child celebrated becoming Bar Mitzvah was removed, and replaced with a "confirmation" ceremony. * The laws of Kashrut and family purity were officially declared "repugnant" to modern thinking people, and were not observed. * Shabbat was observed on Sunday. * Traditional restrictions on Shabbat behavior were not followed. (Note that almost all of the items in the above list are not reflective of Reform thought today.) In 1885 the Reform movement held its Pittsburg Conference, which produced the original platform of Reform Judaism. This platform, called the [5]1855 Pittsburgh Platform ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/pittsburgh.html), is still followed by a few congregations today. This platform dismisses "such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity and dress" as anachronisms that only obstruct spirituality in the modern age, and stressed that Reform Jews must only be accepting of laws that they feel "elevate and sanctify our lives" and must reject those customs and laws that "not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization." In the decades following these events, a reevaluation took place in which many members of the Reform movement began to question the "reforms" that were made. This is indicative how the movement operates, and why it is called "Reform" and not "Reformed"--because the process of reform is a continual one. Starting with the [7]Columbus Platform ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html), many of the discarded practices were reincorporated into Reform, and consistute what is now called "Modern" Reform Judaism, or more succinctly, Reform Judaism.
Subject: Question 18.2.4: History: What is Reform Judaism today? Answer: [Adapted from Rabbi Eugene Borowitz's [5]Liberal Judaism...] As described elsewhere in this FAQ, Reform Jews believe that human beings are responsible for both the Written and the Oral Torah. The sacred texts and contemprorary sages have much to teach us, but do not legislate for us. Reform Jews insist on the freedom to determine for themselves the aspects of faith they will continue to observe, and what in their belief requires the creation of new forms. This freedom can be broken into two periods. The first period, sometimes called "Classic Reform", runs from the start of Reform Judaism until around the 1960s. It can be characterized by the notion of what Rabbi Borowitz calls "negative freedom". In other words, Reform Jews of this time defined themselves by their right *not to do* what traditional Jews considered mandatory. Beginning in the 1960s (although there were elements as far back as 1920) and continuing to the present day is the period of what is called Modern Reform, and Rabbi Borowitz characterizes as "positive freedom". In other words, today's Reform Jews use religious self-determination to add to their religious observance. Previously rejected or neglected traditions are readopted, and new ones are created to express growing Jewish sensibilities. This is reflected in the 1999 [6]Statement of Principles ([7]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html).
Subject: Question 18.3.1: Reform's Position On...The authority of Torah? Answer: The [5]1937 Columbus Platform of Reform Jewry ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html) expressed the position that Torah results from the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. The records of our earliest confrontations are uniquely important to us. Lawgivers and prophets, historians and poets gave us a heritage whose study is a religious imperative and whose practice is our chief means to holiness. Rabbis and teachers, philosophers and mystics, gifted Jews in every age amplified the Torah tradition. For millennia, the creation of the Torah has not ceased and Jewish creativity in our time is adding to the chain of tradition. The platform went on to say that G-d is revealed not only in the majesty, beauty and orderliness of nature, but also in the vision and moral striving of the human spirit. Revelation is a continuous process, confined to no one group and to no one age. Yet, the people of Israel, through its prophets and sages, achieved unique insight in the realm of religious truth. The Torah, both written and oral, enshrines Israel's ever-growing consciousness of G-d and of the moral law. It preserves the historical precedents, sanctions and norms of Jewish life, and seeks to mold it in the patterns of goodness and of holiness. Being products of historical processes, certain of its laws have lost their binding force with the passing of the conditions that called them forth. But as a repository of permanent spiritual ideals, the Torah remains the dynamic source of life of Israel. Each age has the obligation to adapt the teachings of the Torah to its basic needs in consonance with the genius of Judaism This position is echoed again in the current (1999) [7]statement of principles ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html), which says: * We affirm that Torah is the foundation of Jewish life. * We cherish the truths revealed in Torah, G-d's ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people's ongoing relationship with G-d. * We affirm that Torah is a manifestation of (ahavat olam), G-d's eternal love for the Jewish people and for all humanity. * We affirm the importance of studying Hebrew, the language of Torah and Jewish liturgy, that we may draw closer to our people's sacred texts. * We are called by Torah to lifelong study in the home, in the synagogue and in every place where Jews gather to learn and teach. Through Torah study we are called to (mitzvot), the means by which we make our lives holy.
Subject: Question 18.3.2: Reform's Position On...The authority of Talmud? Answer: [Based on material in [5]Contemporary American Reform Responsa by Rabbi Walter Jacob, publ. by CCAR]: Reform Judaism views the rabbinic past as a historical development. The "Oral Law" is not seen as divinely given at Sinai, but rather as a reflection of Judaism's historic development and encounter with G-d in each succeeding generation. In this, Reform follows Zunz, Geiger, Frankel, Graetz, and others in viewing G-d working through human agents. Reform believes that each generation has produced capable and religiously inspired teachers (this means that Reform rejects the often expressed view that assigns greater holiness to those who lived in the past). Some individuals of our generation may equal or exceed those of the past. Historical and sociological studies of the rabbinic literature during the last two centuries have illuminated it. Reform Judaism view this vast literature as the product of human reaction to varying needs motivated by religious thought and the divine impulse. Reform Judaism feels no necessity to justify each segment of the literature in terms of every other portion as done through hidushim and pilpul. Reform sees the differences among Talmudic and later authorities as reflections of particular points of view, different understandings of the divine mandate, as well as the needs of specific groups within their Jewish communities. When Reform Judaism analyzes each period of history, it discovers different strands in the halakhah. These appear both in the decisions and underlying philosophy. Traditional Judaism has chosen a single path and rejected the others, but we recall the existence of the other paths and the fact that they were suggested and followed by loyal Jews in the past. Reform Judaism feels that diversity has always been the hallmark of our literature and our people. Thus, when Reform finds itself facing new situations, it turns both to the mainstream of rabbinic thought as well as its divergent paths for halakhic guidance. In Reform's view, the halakhah is a vast repository whose old debates are often relevant to new situations. Sometimes the solutions of Reform Judaism may parallel those of past generations. On other occasions, Reform diverges from them. Through this effort, Reform Judaism seeks solutions for generations living in lands distant and distinct from those of the ancient Near East or medieval Europe. Reform Judaism recognizes that not every question can be resolved by reviewing the rabbinic literature; in some instances, totally new legislation is appropriate. That may be buttressed by rabbinic precedent.
Subject: Question 18.3.3: Reform's Position On...What is acceptable practice? Answer: Reform Judaism maintains the principle of individual freedom; each Jew must make a personal decision about the Judaism which has come down through the ages. Nevertheless, all Jews who acknowledge themselves to be members of their people and its tradition thereby limit their freedom to some extent. [From [5]Gates of Mitzvot] This sounds general. It is. As the [6]1976 Centenary Statement ([7]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html) says, Reform Jews are subject to both ethical responsibilities (both personal and social), as well as obligations in many other aspects of Jewish living (creating a Jewish home; life-long study; private prayer and public worship; observance of holidays, etc.) Within each area of Jewish observance Reform Jews must confront and study Jewish tradition, and exercise their individual autonomy.
Subject: Question 18.3.4: Reform's Position On...What is unacceptable practice? Answer: As one might imagine, the emphasis on freedom and autonomy in Reform Judaism could lead one to an "anything goes" position. However, anything doesn't go. The Reform Responsa literature is full of examples of unacceptable practice/practices; here are a few: * "Current medical fashions are irrelevant in this matter as we consider circumcision to be a religious rite, not a health measure. Unless ill health or serious medical problems prevent the circumcision of a male infant on the eighth day, he should be circumcised on that day. If such a child is not circumcised, he would nevertheless be considered a Jew [but] it would be incumbant upon such an individual to be circumcised later in life." [[5]American Reform Responsa #54] * "For us in the Jewish community anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate... Such individuals should not be accorded membership in the congregation or treated in any way which makes them appear as if they were affiliated with the Jewish community..." [[6]Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #68] * When asked if a Jewish lady could be a bridesmaid at a Christian wedding, the answer as "The young lady may attend as a bridesmaid but she may not kneel or do anything whicy may be considered as participation in a Christian worship service." [[7]Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #168] * [8]Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #118 implies that headstones in a Jewish cemetary must not have Christian symbols. * "Mind altering drugs... may not be used by Jews to induce a ``heightened sense of religious awareness'' or to seek a mystical experience." [[9]Contemporary American Reform Responsa, #74] However, just because an individual does something unacceptable or holds a belief different than the movement's recommendation does not, a priori, make them no longer a Reform Jew. As Rabbi Plaut wrote "Persons of varying shadings of belief or unbelief, practice or non-practice, may belong to UAHC congregations as individuals."
Subject: Question 18.3.5: Reform's Position On...The necessity of belief in G-d? Answer: [Adapted from Rabbi Eugene Borowitz's [5]Liberal Judaism] Belief in G-d is not a problem to some people. They simply know that G-d exists and nothing shakes their faith. Most of us are not like that. We'd like to believe in G-d, and sometimes think that we do, only to find ourselves questioning again. It is clear that in Judaism, belief in G-d has not usually meant complete and unwavering certainty. This is demonstrated throughout Torah. In Judaism, faith in G-d is dynamic; it is not an all-or-nothing, static state of being. So, does Reform require belief in G-d? There are no ideological tests administered; each person's belief is private. Yet in terms of the movement, Reform believes in G-d. This belief has been demonstrated from the earliest days of the movement; specifically, the [6]Pittsburgh Platform ([7]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/pittsburgh.html) in 1885 said "We hold that Judaism presents the highest concept of the G-d-idea as taught in our holy Scriptures." It was reaffirmed in 1937 in the [8]Columbus Platform ([9]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html): "The heard of Judaism and its chief contribution to religion is the doctrine of the One, living G-d, who rules the world through law and love.". It was reaffirmed yet again in [10]1976 ([11]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html): "The affirmation of G-d has always been essential to our people's will to survive.". The strength of this conviction at the level of the congregation was confirmed again recently. In 1990, a congregation in Cincinatti Ohio applied for membership in UAHC. This congregation practices "Judaism with a humanistic perspective". It had been briefly involved with the Society for Humanistic Judaism, but had found them to be too atheistic. The congregation sees itself as a Jewish group, but its liturgy deletes any and all mention of G-d, either in the Hebrew or in English. This liturgy doesn't include Kiddish or Kaddish, Barechu, Shema, Ve'ahavta, Amidah, or Aleinu. Their philosophy doesn't admit of either Covenant or commandments (as demonstrated by their haggadah, which in Echad Mi Yode'a, replaces the traditional "Two tables of the Covenant" with "two people in the Garden of Eden". The responsa committee, in response to this application, denied (although not unanimously) that this congregation was a Reform congregation. Rabbi Gunther Plaut, chair of the committee at the time, wrote: "Persons of varying shadings of belief or unbelief, practice or non-practice, may belong to UAHC congregations as individuals, and we respect their rights. But it is different when they come as a congregation whose declared principles are at fundamental variance with the historic G-d-orientation of Reform Judaism. ... But should we not open the gates wide enough to admit even such concepts into our fold? Are not diversity and inclusiveness a hallmark fo Reform? To this we would reply: yesh gevul, there are limits. Reform Judaism cannot be everything, or it will be nothing. The argument that we ourselves are excluded by the Orthodox and therefore should not keep others out who wish to join us has an attractive sound to it. Taken to its inevitable conclusion, however, we would end up with a Reform Judaism in which "Reform" determines what "Judaism" is and not the other way around." This position was reaffirmed at the UAHC Board of Trustees meeting in 1994, which voted 115-13-4 to reject the application for membership. Note that in neither case was the rejection unanamous. Interested parties issued in the details of both sides of the argument should read the articles in the Winter 1994, Volume 23 Number 2, issue of "[12]Reform Judaism" ([13]http://www.uahcweb.org/rjmag/) published by UAHC.
Subject: Question 18.3.6: Reform's Position On...The role of Israel? Answer: The position of Reform on the state of Israel is made clear in the [5]1999 Statement of Principles ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html): * We are committed to (Medinat Yisrael), the State of Israel, and rejoice in its accomplishments. * We affirm the unique qualities of living in (Eretz Yisrael), the land of Israel, and encourage (aliyah), immigration to Israel. * We are committed to a vision of the State of Israel that promotes full civil, human and religious rights for all its inhabitants and that strives for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. * We are committed to promoting and strengthening Progressive Judaism in Israel, which will enrich the spiritual life of the Jewish state and its people. * We affirm that both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry should remain vibrant and interdependent communities. As we urge Jews who reside outside Israel to learn Hebrew as a living language and to make periodic visits to Israel in order to study and to deepen their relationship to the Land and its people, so do we affirm that Israeli Jews have much to learn from the religious life of Diaspora Jewish communities.
Subject: Question 18.3.7: Reform's Position On...Other Jewish movements? Answer: As can be seen by Reform's philosophy, as long as the participants in other Jewish movements feel their practice and beliefs bring them closer to G-d, there are no conflicts with Reform considering them Jewish movements.
Subject: Question 18.3.8: Reform's Position On...Homosexuality Answer: The position of North American Reform Jewry with respect to homosexuals, homosexuality, and the acknowledgement of homosexual relationships can be seen in the statements of the two key bodies of North American Reform Jewry, the CCAR and UAHC. These statements also show how the positions have both changed (in some aspects) and stayed the same (in some aspects) over time. In 1977, the CCAR (the organization of Reform Rabbis) adopted a [5]resolution ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=rights&year=1977) calling for legislation decriminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults, and calling for an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians. The resolution called on Reform Jewish organizations to develop programs to implement this stand. The same year, UAHC (the organization of Reform Congregations) issued a resolution that supported homosexuals, but did not encourage the lifestyle: ... resolved that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection under the law. We oppose discrimination against homosexuals in areas of opportunity, including employment and housing. We call upon our society to see that such protection is provided in actuality. ... resolved that we affirm our belief that private sexual act between consenting adults are not the proper province of government and law enforcement agencies. ... resolved that we urge congregations to conduct appropriate educational programming for youth and adults so as to provide greater understanding of relation of Jewish values to the range of human sexuality. In response to this, in 1987, UAHC resolved that it would: 1. Urge its congregations and affiliates to: a. Encourage lesbian and gay Jews to share and participate in worship, leadership, and general congregational life of all synagogues. b. Continue to develop educational programs in the synagogue and community which promote understanding and respect for lesbians and gays. c. Employ people without regard to sexual orientation. 2. Urge the Commission on Social Action to bring its recommendations to the next General Assembly after considering the report of the CCAR committee and any action of the CCAR pursuant to it. 3. Urge the Committee on Liturgy to formulate liturgically inclusive language. Then, in 1989, UAHC resolved to: 1. Reaffirm its 1987 resolution and call upon all departments of the UAHC and our member congregations to fully implement its provisions. 2. Embark upon a movement-wide program of heightened awareness and education to achieve the fuller acceptance of gay and lesbian Jews in our midst. 3. Urge our member congregations to welcome gay and lesbian Jews to membership, as singles, couples, and families. 4. Commend the CCAR for its sensitive and thorough efforts to raise the consciousness of the rabbinate regarding homosexuality. We urge the CCAR to pursue its own mandate with vigor and complete its tasks as soon as possible in order to respond to the communal and spiritual aspirations of gay and lesbian Jews. In 1990, the CCAR endorsed the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Homosexuality and the Rabbinate. This position paper urged that "all rabbis, regardless of sexual orientation, be accorded the opportunity to fulfill the sacred vocation that they have chosen." The committee endorsed the view that "all Jews are religiously equal regardless of their sexual orientation." The committee expressed its agreement with changes in the admissions policies of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which stated that the "sexual orientation of an applicant [be considered] only within the context of a candidate's overall suitability for the rabbinate," and reaffirmed that all rabbinic graduates of the HUC-JIR would be admitted into CCAR membership upon application. The report described differing views within the committee as to the nature of kiddushin, and deferred the matter of rabbinic officiation. A 1996 resolution resolved that the CCAR "support the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage," and voiced opposition to governmental efforts to ban gay and lesbian marriages. The resolution also said: Judaism places great emphasis on family, children, and the future, which is assured by a family. However we may understand homosexuality, whether as an illness, as a genetically based dysfunction or as a sexual preference and lifestyle - we cannot accommodate the relationship of two homosexuals as a "marriage" within the context of Judaism, for none of the elements of qiddushin (sanctification) normally associated with marriage can be invoked for this relationship. In addition to these resolutions, two CCAR committees have addressed the question of same-gender officiation. The CCAR Committee on Responsa addressed the question of whether homosexual relationships can qualify as kiddushin (which it defined as "Jewish marriage"). By a committee majority of 7 to 2, the committee concluded that "homosexual relationships, however exclusive and committed they may be, do not fit within this legal category; they cannot be called kiddushin. We do not understand Jewish marriage apart from the concept of kiddushin." The committee acknowledged its lack of consensus on this question. In 1998, The Ad Hoc Committee on Human Sexuality issued a report that included its conclusion, by a committee majority of 11 with 1 abstention, that "kedushah may be present in committed same gender relationships between two Jews and that these relationships can serve as the foundation of stable Jewish families, thus adding strength to the Jewish community." The report called upon the CCAR to support all colleagues in their choices in this matter, and to develop educational programs. Note this change of position, from "cannot be" to "may be present". However, the report implied it is not present in all. More recently (March 2000), CCAR issued a new resolution addressing officiation of same-sex committment ceremonies. This resolution says: WHEREAS justice and human dignity are cherished Jewish values, and WHEREAS, in March of 1999 the Women's Rabbinic Network passed a resolution urging the Central Conference of American Rabbis to bring the issue of honoring ceremonies between two Jews of the same gender to the floor of the convention plenum, and WHEREAS, the institutions of Reform Judaism have a long history of support for civil and equal rights for gays and lesbians, and WHEREAS, North American organizations of the Reform Movement have passed resolutions in support of civil marriage for gays and lesbians, therefore WE DO HEREBY RESOLVE, that the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual, and FURTHER RESOLVED, that we recognize the diversity of opinions within our ranks on this issue. We support the decision of those who choose to officiate at rituals of union for same-gender couples, and we support the decision of those who do not, and FURTHER RESOLVED, that we call upon the CCAR to support all colleagues in their choices in this matter, and FURTHER RESOLVED, that we also call upon the CCAR to develop both educational and liturgical resources in this area. Rabbi Eric Yoffee of UAHC, on March 29, 2000, released the following statement in response to the March 2000 resolution: This afternoon the Central Conference of American Rabbis, meeting in Greensboro, NC, adopted a resolution by an overwhelming vote stating, in part, that "the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual." It is important to note what the resolution on same gender unions does and does not say. It does not compel any rabbi to officiate at such a ritual, and indeed supports the right of a rabbi not to officiate. It does not specify what ritual is appropriate for such a ceremony. It does not say that the ceremony performed should be called a "marriage." Nonetheless, the historical and religious significance of this resolution is indisputable. For the first time in history, a major rabbinical body has affirmed the Jewish validity of committed, same gender relationships. What do the members of UAHC congregations think about this resolution? It is impossible to know for certain. Some have told me of their strong support, while others have indicated their opposition. Still others have said that they are sympathetic to the ideas expressed but felt no resolution was necessary at this time. Over the last quarter century, the UAHC Biennial Assembly has spoken out strongly in support of human and civil rights for gays and lesbians. We have admitted to membership a number of congregations that offer special outreach to gay and lesbian Jews, and called upon Reform synagogues to welcome gay and lesbian Jews as singles, couples, and families, and not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in matters related to employment and volunteer leadership. And the UAHC has initiated vigorous education programs to heighten awareness of discrimination and to achieve fuller acceptance of gay and lesbian Jews in our midst. The Union, however, has always refrained from addressing the issue of rabbinic participation in same gender weddings or commitment ceremonies. As a congregational body, it is our task to provide guidance on issues of congregational policy that are normally decided by synagogue boards. But performance or non-performance of a same gender commitment ceremony is a rabbinical matter, to be determined by each rabbi according to his or her conscience and understanding of Jewish tradition. Therefore, while our synagogue members have felt free to present their views to their own rabbis, and many have done so vigorously, the Union as an organization has appropriately remained silent on the CCAR resolution, and took no part in the many months of debate prior to the convention. But I too am a rabbi, of course, and I was present at Greensboro. And I would like you to know that, voting as an individual, I cast my ballot in favor the resolution. I did so because of my belief that our gay and lesbian children, relatives, and friends are in great need of spiritual support; that the Torah's prohibition of homosexuality can reasonably be understood as a general condemnation of ancient cultic practice; that loving, permanent homosexual relationships, once difficult to conceive, are now recognized as an indisputable reality; and that in these relationships, whether or not we see them as "marriages" it is surely true that G-d and holiness can be present. I know that many disagree. But whatever one thinks on the commitment ceremony question, I assume that we will respect those who believe otherwise, and remember what unites us in this debate: our responsibility to welcome gays and lesbians into our synagogues. Because this I know: if there is anything at all that Reform Jews do, it is to create an inclusive spiritual home for all those who seek the solace of our sanctuaries. And if this Movement does not extend support to all who have been victims of discrimination, including gays and lesbians, then we have no right to call ourselves Reform Jews.
Subject: Question 18.3.9: Reform's Position On...Intermarriage Answer: In 1909 the CCAR held that intermarriage (interfaith marriage) is ``contrary to the traditions of the Jewish religion.'' The same position was restated in 1947, and amplified in 1973, when a substantial majority at the CCAR Convention in Atlanta ... declared its opposition to participation by its members ``in any ceremony which solemnizes a mixed marriage.'' Outgoing UAHC president Alexander Schindler supports the stance because of the threat he believes intermarriage poses to the future of Judaism." Most rabbis justify their refusal to officiate at interfaith weddings by arguing that the Jewish conception of marriage is that of a covenant between two Jews. However, in the United States, there are a number of Reform rabbis (one estimate is about one-third) that do perform such ceremonies, under the belief that it is better to not create an atmosphere of rejection, which can only serve to turn away and alienate the Jewish partner. If the Judaism of the Jewish partner is strong, the non-Jewish partner is often turned towards Judaism and the children are raised Jewish. Note even if a Reform Rabbi does not perform an intermarriage, they will usually accept the marriage as valid, and regard the children of those marriages as Jewish as long as they are raised as Jews. It should be noted that few, if any, Reform/Progressive rabbis will perform an intermarriage in either Canada or the United Kingdom.
Subject: Question 18.3.10: Reform's Position On...Abortion Answer: [Based on material in [5]Contemporary American Reform Responsa by Rabbi Walter Jacob, publ. by CCAR]: The Reform Movement has had a long history of liberalism on many social and family matters. Reform feels that the pattern of tradition, until the most recent generation, has demonstrated a liberal approach to abortion and has definitely permitted it in case of any danger to the life of the mother. That danger may be physical or psychological. When this occurs at any time during the pregnancy, Reform Judaism would not hesitate to permit an abortion. This would also include cases of incest and rape if the mother wishes to have an abortion. Twentieth century medicine has brought a greater understanding of the fetus, and it is now possible to discover major problems in the fetus quite early in the pregnancy. Some genetic defects can be discovered shortly after conception and more research will make such techniques widely available. It is, of course, equally true that modern medicine has presented ways of keeping babies with very serious problems alive, frequently in a vegetative state, which brings great misery to the family involved. Such problems, as those caused by Tay Sachs and other degenerative or permanent conditions which seriously endanger the life of the child and potentially the mental health of the mother, are indications for permitting an abortion. Reform Judaism agrees with the traditional authorities that abortions should be approached cautiously throughout the life of the fetus. Most authorities would be least hesitant during the first forty days of the fetus' life (Yeb. 69b; Nid. 30b; M. Ker. 1.1; Shulhan Arukah Hoshen Mishpat 210.2; Solomon Skola, Bet Shelomo, Hoshen Mishpat 132; Joseph Trani, Responsa Maharit 1.99, Noam 9 pp 213ff, etc.). Even the strict Rabbi Unterman permits non-Jews to perform abortions within the forty day periods (Rabbi Unterman, op. cit., pp 8ff). From forty days until twenty-seven weeks, the fetus possesses some status, but its future remains doubtful (goses biydei adam; San. 78a; Nid 44b and commentaries) as we are not sure of this viability. Reform Judaism must, therefore, be more certain of the grounds for abortion, but would still permit it. It is clear from all of this that the traditional authorities would be most lenient with abortions within the first forty days. After that time, there is a difference of opinion. Those who are within the broadest range of permissibility permit abortion at any time before birth, if there is serious danger to the health of the mother or child. Reform Judaism is in agreement with that liberal stance. Reform Judaism does not encourage abortion, nor favor it for trivial reasons, or sanction it "on demand".
Subject: Question 18.3.11: Reform's Position On...Mixed (Interfaith) Marriages Answer: [Adapted from [5]American Reform Responsa, #146] Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis has opposed mixed marriages. Reform Judaism recognizes the problem as significant in every period of Jewish history. It has become more severe in 20th-century American, and therefore, Reform Judaism has made provisions for families of mixed marriages and their children. Such families are welcomed in Reform congregations, and Reform Judaism continues to urge them to convert to Judaism. The conference resolution of 1973 succinctly summarizes the position of Reform Judaism: The Central Conference of American Rabbis, recalling its stand adopted in 1909 that "mixed marriage is contrary to the Jewish tradition and should be discouraged," now declares its opposition to participation by its members in any ceremony which solemnizes a mixed marriage. The Central Conference of American Rabbis recognizes that historically its members have held and continue to hold divergent interpretations of Jewish tradition. In order to keep open every channel to Judaism and K'lal Yisrael for those who ahve already entered into mixed marriage, the CCAR calls upon its members: 1. To assist fully in educating children of such mixed marriages as Jews 2. To provide the opportunity for conversion of the non-Jewish spouse; and 3. To encourage a creative and consistent cultivation of involvement in the Jewish community and the synagogue. Most Reform Rabbis will not preform mixed marriages. There are some that do, based on the notion that to reject the non-Jewish partner can only serve to take the Jewish partner away from Judaism. However, if they perform the marriage, the both partners receive a positive impression of Judaism, and the option remains of educating the non-Jewish partner as to the meaning of Judaism (so that they choose to convert on their own). Further, couples with positive feelings towards Judaism often raise the children as Jews.
Subject: Question 18.3.12: Reform's Position On...The role of women Answer: The position of Reform on this issue is best characterized in Rabbi Alexander Schindler's letter in the UAHC 1993-1994 Yearbook, in which he says: Our long-standing commitment to openness and diversity is based on our tradition. When Moses gathered the elders to help him govern, two who were not included nonetheless received G-d's inspiration and "spoke in ecstasy." Although Joshua asked Moses to jail them, Moses replied: "Would that all G-d's people were prophets." As Reform Jews, we say: * All G-d's people--including women. * All G-d's people--including families in all their new constellations * All G-d's people--including lesbian and gay Jews * All G-d's people--including the intermarried and the unaffiliated * All G-d's people--including the hearing impaired and the wheelchair bound, and the disabled in body and spirit.
Subject: Question 18.3.13: Reform's Position On...Outreach Answer: Reform Jewish Outreach is a program that aims to: * Welcome those who seek to investigate Judaism. * Integrate Jews-by-Choice fully into the Jewish community. * Encourage intermarried couples to affiliate with a congregation and to meet the needs of those already in the congregation. Outreach seeks to enable intermarried couples to explore, study, and understand Judaism, thereby providing an atmosphere of support in which a comfortable relationship with Judaism can be fostered. * Educate and sensitize the Jewish community to be receiptive to new Jews-by-Choice and intermarried couples. * Encourage people to make Jewish choice in their lives through special discussion groups, community support, adult education and availablity of Jewish resources. * Assist young people in strengthening their Jewish identify and in examining the implications of interdating and intermarriage for themselves. For those conemplating conversion to Judaism (as well as those interested in learning more about Judaism), Outreach offers the following: * Introduction to Judaism classes on both the community and congregational levels. The class focuses on basic Judaism, including holidays, life-cycle events, history, theology, and Hebrew. Students learn what is means to live a Jewish life and how to begin to practice Judaism. The program may include a psycho-social component that deals with the personal implications of choosing Judaism. * Post-introduction programs and various workshops and discussion groups. For intermarried couples and couples contemplating intermarriage, Outreach offers the following: * An 8-week discussion group designed to clarify the Jewish partner's feelings about Judaism and to provide the non-Jewish partner with a greater understanding of Judaism and the Jewish community. Relevant personal issues discussed include: religious involvement while growing up, the religious and cultural differences each partner confronts in the relationship with each other and with extended family, holiday celebrations, and each couple's concerns about the religious upbringing and identity of their children. Although the program is from a Jewish perspective, there is no attempt to convert the non-Jewish partner. The program helps participants to articulate the differences between Judaism and Christianity. For Jewish parents of intermarried couples, Outreach offers discussion groups to provide parents with a non-judgmental supportive setting where they can talk with others with similar concerns. This provides the opportunity to discuss the impact of the relationship on the family, and to develop constructive responses. For Jewish youth, Outreach has a number of programs that assist young people in examining the implications of interdating and intermarriage for themselves as well as for the future of the Jewish people. Outreach encourages youth to explore and strengthen their Jewish identity so that they will be advocates for Judaism in all their relationships. The ultimate goal of Outreach is to strengthen Judaism by helping individuals build their personal connectedness to Reform Judaism. If you want to find more information about the Outreach program, visit [5]Reform Jewish Outreach at [6]http://www.uahcweb.org/outreach/.
Subject: Question 18.3.14: Reform's Position On...How an individual's Jewish status is determined Answer: Reform's position is that the same requirements must be applied to establish the status of the child of a mixed (interfaith) marriage, regardless of whether the mother or the father is Jewish. Therefore, in 1983, the CCAR issued the following resolution: The Central Conference of American Rabbis declares that the child of one Jewish parent is under the presumption of Jewish descent. This presumption of the Jewish status of the offspring of any mixed marriage is to be established through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people. The performance of these mitzvot serves to commit those who participate in them, both parent and child, to Jewish life. Depending on circumstances(1), mitzvot leading toward a positive and exclusive Jewish identity will include entry into the covenant, acquisition of a Hebrew name, Torah study, bar/bat mitzvah, and Kabbalat Torah (Confirmation)(2). For those beyond childhood claiming Jewish identity, other public acts or declarations may be added or substituted after consultation with their rabbi. (1) According to the age or setting, parents should consult a rabbi to determine the specific mitzvot which are necessary. (2) A full description of these and other mitzvot can be found in Shaarei Mitzvah (Gates of Mitzvah), A Guide to the Jewish Life Cycle, CCAR, New York, 1979. ISBN 0-916694-37-2. Note that this decision is sometimes called the "Patrilineal Descent" decision, although it does not say that Patrilineal Descent, as opposed to the more traditional Matrilineal Descent, is used. Rather, it says that a child of an interfaith couple must be raised with a continuing and positive association with Judaism to be Jewish.
Subject: Question 18.3.15: Reform's Position On...The Messiah Answer: Although Reform does not believe in the concept of a personal messiah, it does believe in the concept of a messianic age.
Subject: Question 18.4.1: Fallacy: Reform Jews (RJs) choose practice based solely on convenience Answer: The [5]1976 Centenary Statement ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html), adopted in 1976 stated: "Judaism emphasizes action rather than creed as the primary expression of a religious life, the means by which we strive to achieve universal justice and peace. Reform Judaism shares this emphasis on duty and obligation. Our founders stressed that the Jew's ethical responsibilities, personal and social, are enjoined by G-d. The past century has taught us that the claims made upon us may begin with our ethical obligations but they extend to many other aspects of Jewish living, including: creating a Jewish home centered on family devotion; life-long study; private prayer and public worship; daily religious observance; keeping the Sabbath and the holy days; celebrating the major events of life; involvement with the synagogue and community; and other activities which promote the survival of the Jewish people and enhance its existence. Within each area of Jewish observance Reform Jews are called upon to confront the claims of Jewish tradition, however, differently perceived, and to exercise their individual autonomy, choosing and creating on the basis of commitment and knowledge." The [7]1999 Statement of Principles ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html) says: We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of (mitzvot) and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and as a community [Emph. added by editor]. Some of these (mitzvot), sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times.
Subject: Question 18.4.2: Fallacy: Either patrilineal or matrilineal descent is accepted Answer: If you examine the [5]Report of the Committee on Patrilineal Descent on the Status of Children of Mixed Marriages ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=mm&year=1983), you will see that, for the child of an interfaith marriage, merely having a Jewish parent is insufficient to make the child Jewish. Rather, the decision states that having only one Jewish parent gives the child a "presumption" of Jewish descent. The Jewish status, however, must be established through "appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith and people."
Subject: Question 18.4.3: Fallacy: Reform Conversions take no study, and are for convenience only Answer: Reform Judaism welcomes all sincere converts without regard to racial or national origin or to their former religious faith. In Reform Judaism, it is sufficient for the prospective convert (ger) to declare, orally and in writing, in the presence of a rabbi and no less than two lay leaders of the congregation and community, acceptance of the Jewish faith and the intention to live in accordance with its mitzvot. This declaration takes place after a preparatory period of study. The length of the period of preparation is determined by the rabbi, taking into consideration the time needed by the candidate for conversion to obtain the necessary understanding and appreciation of Judaism in order to make a free-will decision with respect to his/her acceptance of the Jewish faith and identification with the Jewish people. Reform recommends that the period of study be reinforced by requiring and assisting the prospective convert's active participation in the various celebrations, observances, and worship services of Judaism and the Jewish people. It recommends that regular attendance at synagogue worship, as well as evidence of concern for Jewish values and causes in the home and community, should be required. The intent of this is to enable the rabbi and his/her associates to satisfy themselves not only that the candidate has a sufficient knowledge of Judaism, but of even greater importance, that the candidate is a person of sincere and responsible character, who is genuinely desirous of making a wholehearted commitment to synagogue affiliation and to the Jewish faith and people. Note that the above items (study, attendance at services) are only recommendations. While the authors of the Reform teshuva affirm that such items should theoretically be considered a necessity, this is not necessary in practice if one claims to already have been living a Jewish life. The Reform rabbinate may presume that if such a claim is made, then the person doesn't need such a course. Reform does not require male converts to undergo b'rit milah (circumcision) or hatafat dam b'rit (the drawing of blood); nor does it require converts to have tevilah (ritual immersion). However, it recognizes that there are social, psychological, and religious values associated with these rituals, and it recommends that the rabbi acquaint prospective gerim with the halachic background and rationale for b'rit milah, hatafat dam b'rit, and tevilah, and offer them the opportunity, if they so desire, to observe these additional rites. In the UK, the ULPS requires circumcision for male converts, but does accept a pre-existing medical circumcision. Reform does not require kabbalaot al mitvot (accepting Jewish law as normative), especially as "Jewish law" is interpreted by the traditional communities. Reform does require an understanding of the ten commandments, the ethical mitvot, and a general understanding of other Jewish religious obligations. Note that, outside of the US, procedures may be even stricter. For example, in Vancouver CANADA, students study for a year before being considered for conversion. Converts undergo the mikvah, in the presence of three (3) rabbis. Men are required to to be circumsized, and are also required to undergo the ritual circumcision (letting of the blood).
Subject: Question 18.4.4: Fallacy: Reform Judaism encourages intermarriage Answer: Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis has repeatedly opposed mixed (interfaith) marriages. However, it does not feel that once the marriage has occurred, the couple should be shunned, for this serves only to drive them further away from Judaism. This is best illustrated by a [5]resolution ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=mm&year=1973) issued in 1973 by the CCAR: The Central Conference of American Rabbis, recalling its stand adopted in 1909 that mixed marriage is contrary to the Jewish tradition and should be discouraged, now declared its opposition to participation by its members in any ceremony which solemnizes a mixed marriage. The Central Conference of American Rabbis recognizes that historically its members have held and continue to hold divergent interpretations of Jewish tradition. In order to keep open every channel to Judaism and K'lal Yisrael for those who have already entered into mixed marriage, the CCAR calls upon its members: 1. to assist fully in educating children of such mixed marriage as Jews; 2. to provide the opportunity for conversion of the non-Jewish spouse, and 3. to encourage a creative and consistent cultivation of involvement in the Jewish community and the synagogue.
Subject: Question 18.4.5: Fallacy: Intermarried couples have exactly the same rights as non-intermarried couples in Reform Congregations Answer: Although congregational policies may differ by congregation, there are a number of Reform responses that address this question: * In [5]American Reform Responsa #10 (1982) [[6]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=10&year=arr], it is asked if congregational membership can be extended to the non-Jewish member of an interfaith marriage. The conclusion of that responsa is that it should not; only the Jewish member should be considered a member for purposes of being a congregational leader, for it is inappropriate for non-Jews to lead the congregation. Some Reform congregations include non-Jewish spouses in family memberships (i.e., the non-Jewish spouse may be a member if the Jewish spouse is a member). Some congregations, as part of the overall autonomy of Reform, do permit the non-Jewish spouse to participate in some rituals. Most congregations reserve some religious roles for only Jewish members, and most congregations reserve the leadership roles, such as election to the board of trustees, or the holding of other offices for the member who is Jewish. * A [7]1979 Responsa ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=6&year=arr) says: From Babylonian times onward, public prayers for rulers of the country, parallel to those for scholars and students in the academies, were included in the liturgy and have remained there ever since. These rulers, of course, were pagans, Moslems, or Christians. We, in modern times, have gone a number of steps further than this. For example, we regularly recite the names of non-Jewish dead in the lists of deceased read before the Kaddish. In most cases, these are relatives of converts; although the convert is not duty-bound to mourn for his parents, he should be encouraged to do so out of respect (Yad, Hil. Evel 2.3; Radbaz to Yad; Sh.A., Y.D. 374.5; and many subsequent authorities). We have, however, also added the names of notable Christians from time to time. In addition, we have participated frequently in interfaith services, which have generally been associated with national holidays or events; these have usually been non-liturgical in character, i.e., consisted of Biblical readings and various prayers without following the strict order of the service. Furthermore, we have invited non-Jews, including ministers and priests, to address our congregations during our public services. This practice has been widespread in the Reform and Conservative movements. Thus, there is no doubt that we have included priests, ministers, and non-Jewish participants in our services in a manner not known heretofore. In addition, nowadays, because of intermarriage we find the non-Jewish parent involved in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It would be appropriate to have that parent participate in some way in the service, but not in the same way as a Jewish parent. For example, he or she should not recite the traditional blessing over the Torah which includes the words "asher bachar banu." It would be well if he/she recite a special blessing, perhaps akin to the words suggested by Solomon B. Freehof: "Praised be Thou, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has given His sacred law unto all His children that we may learn, observe, and serve Him in righteousness" (Current Reform Responsa, p. 91). We have, therefore, gone much further than any generation before our time by permitting non-Jews a larger role in our public services; this is part of a more open and friendly interreligious attitude which the Reform Movement has encouraged and led. Yet, these steps have remained within definite limits. We have not included non-Jews, no matter how friendly, in the essential elements of the service. If we follow the line of reasoning which divides between the essential service and supplemental prayers and statements, we may conclude that Christians, Moslems, and other non-Jews who fall into the category of Benei Noach may participate in a public service in any of the following ways: (1) through anything which does not require specific statement from them, i.e., by standing and silently witnessing whatever is taking place (e.g., as a member of a wedding party or as a pallbearer); (2) through the recitation of special prayers added to the service at non-liturgical community wide services, commemorations, and celebrations (Thanksgiving, etc.); (3) through the recitation of prayers for special family occasions (Bar/Bat Mitzvah of children raised as Jews, at a wedding or funeral, etc.). All such prayers and statements should reflect the mood of the service and be non-Christological in nature. In many Reform congregations, intermarried couples now have more or less the same rights as non-intermarried couples in terms of congregational membership. The key element is "couples"; membership is based on the family unit, not the individual. Often, the non-Jewish partner serves on temple committees, but usually those committees do not include those related to religious practice and ritual (for example, a finance or employment practices committee). A survery conducted by the Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach shows that 88% of Reform Temples allow gentiles to count as Reform Jews by being synagogue members if they are married to Reform Jews; 87% of Reform Temples allow gentiles to serve on synagogue committees, but only 22% of Reform Temples allow gentiles to have an aliyah to the Torah.
Subject: Question 18.4.6: Fallacy: Reform Judaism has Rabbis and congregations that don't believe in G-d Answer: Individual beliefs of Rabbis and congregations are personal, and not subject to scrutiny by the movement. However, there has been a case where a congregation was refused membership in UAHC because they removed all references to G-d from their liturgy, and refused to allow prayers mentioning G-d to be said in their santuary. Note that there are rabbis and laypeople in all of the Jewish denominations who go through a crisis of faith, have uncertainties about the nature of G-d, or who are agnostic or atheist. Faith can not be forced. An atheist or agnostic is not someone who thinks "There really is a G-d, but I shall not admit it". Rather an atheist or agnostic is someone who thinks "I see no evidence for G-d's existence, and am certain (or fairly sure) that G-d does not exist." By definition, one can never force someone to change their beliefs; that can only come about from something internal to that person. Does Judaism demand that such a person be considered as if they are in contempt of Judaism? No. They are only held accountable for their actions, for while beliefs are not a matter of choice, actions are. The Talmud of the Land of Israel (Talmud Yerushalmi) posits that G-d says about them "Would they were to forsake Me, providing that they keep My law, for as a result of occupying themselves with it, its light will bring them back to the right path" (Tractate Hagigah 1:7, 76c).
Subject: Question 18.4.7: Fallacy: There are no 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews Answer: Certainly, assimilation has been a problem for Judaism. Reform Judaism is especially subject to that problem because many assimilated Americans who want to identify as Jews, choose a Reform synagogue, not because they are Reform Jews, but because the Reform temple is the least judgmental of their assimilated practices (or in some cases, non-practices). Many of the children of these families do not remain Jewish, but in fact assimilation was already a generation old. To actually be a 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jew would require that one's ancestors, living in the 1800s, be Reform Jews. The major growth of Reform Judaism has been in the 20th century. So while it is true there are few 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews numerically, they are not a large number primarily due to the heavy immegration in the early 1900s. The majority of today's Reform Jews have ancestors who were O or C, but primarily because there was a limited pool of R on whom to draw. Yet there are 3rd, 4th, and even 5th generation Reform Jews (just look at the FAQ Maintainer's daughter). There is a different question, however: For those that were Reform in the 1800s, how many of their children are still Jewish, and still Reform, today. Anecdotal evidence suggests that number is large. Note that Reform has invented and reinvented itself (and will undoubtedly continue to do so) in response to a changing world. By the 1930s, it became clear that "classical Reform" wasn't speaking to the majority of RJs. As a result, the evolutionary changes that began in the 20s were formalized with the "[5]Columbus Platform" ([6]http://ccarnet.org/platforms/columbus.html) of the 30's that led to Traditional (or Modern) Reform.
Subject: Question 18.4.8: Fallacy: An atheist could be considered a "good" Reform Jew Answer: A person's individual beliefs with respect to G-d are personal, and are not inspected by Reform. Even in traditional Judaism, there have been times when the greatest Jewish thinkers have questioned the existance of G-d. Judaism, in general, does not question one's belief; rather, it looks at one's adherance to the yoke of Mitzvah, as interpreted by the appropriate movement. However, the position of Reform with respect to Atheism is shown in its policy relating to accepting atheists for conversion. A [5]responsa in Jewish Year 5754 ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=15&year=5754) stated: The important qualifying phrase is commitment to this religion. Reform Judaism is a religious movement, a community of faith dedicated to G-d. A ger must show a readiness to accept that faith in order to join our community. [...] [...]for Reform Judaism, a prospective convert had both to embrace the Jewish people and make a solemn declaration of faith in G-d, the G-d of our ancestors, as the one and only G-d. While many rabbis then and now insist on certain rituals and other obligations as incumbent upon the prospective convert (e.g. immersion, circumcision, a course of study, examinations, etc.), the sine qua non of conversion for Reform Judaism, as it is for all branches of Judaism, has always been faith in G-d. The centrality of G-d in the Reform conversion ceremony is verified by examination of the succession of rabbinic manuals published by the CCAR. [...] Some contend that since we find among the members of Reform congregations certain Jews who are avowed atheists or agnostics, we should not hesitate to accept a convert who falls into either category. It is true that some Jews experience crises of faith. We acknowledge the reality of the spiritual journey and struggle our brothers and sisters endure, and they remain part of us as long as they do not abandon our people or join another religion. However, that flexibility is reserved for those who are already "citizens," who already belong. It is the nature of the conversion process that the convert must meet standards which, in practice, are not demanded of the already-Jewish: a program of Jewish study, required synagogue attendance, participation in synagogue and communal activities, and the like. [...] Reform Judaism is a religious movement of Jews dedicated to the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. If we do not insist that the ger meet this fundamental standard and find herself ready to affirm the reality of G-d in Jewish religious life and experience, it would be a legitimate question whether we have any standards at all.
Subject: Question 18.4.9: Fallacy: Reform Jews don't have Bar Mitzvahs Answer: They don't? Tell that to the person trying to schedule the social hall. Although Bar/Bat Mitzvah was originally rejected by the Reform movement, it has returned with a vengeance, with many congreagations having three or more Bar/Bat Mitzvah's per Shabbat.
Subject: Question 18.4.10: Fallacy: Reform totally ignores "Jewish" divorce (i.e., gets) Answer: The Central Conference of American Rabbis makes no provision for a religious divorce, and civil divorce is recognized as dissolving a marriage by most Reform Rabbis. Note that even if Reform were to introduce its own get, it would likely not be recognized by traditional Judaism as valid. However, many Reform Rabbis, if asked, would advise the couple regarding obtaining a get, and would likely direct them to the appropriate community organizations that could help them.
Subject: Question 18.4.11: Fallacy: All Reform Congregations Are Rich Answer: Reform congregations vary in size from a two member congregation in Port Gibson MS and a 3 member congregation in Laredo TX, to congregations with almost 2,000 members. Some have grandiose buildings; some meet in houses or rent space from organizations. Some have volunteer rabbis and volunteer staff, others have generous staff and rabbinic salaries. There is no universal characterization possible.
Subject: Question 18.4.12: Fallacy: Reform Rabbis do not study Halacha Answer: If you look at the course of study for the Reform Rabbinate, it does include Torah, Talmud, and other aspects of halacha. Of course, the depth of this study is not to the level of traditional Judaism, although some Reform Rabbis out of personal interest do intensive halachic studies.
Subject: Question 18.4.13: Fallacy: Reform Jews don't care about Jewish ideals & principles Answer: As was noted in the [5]Centenary Perspective ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html) in 1976, "the claims made upon [Reform Jews] may begin with our ethical obligations but they extend to many other aspects of Jewish living, including: creating a Jewish home centered on family devotion; life-long study; private prayer and public worship; daily religious observance; keeping the Sabbath and the holy days; celebrating the major events of life; involvement with the synagogue and community; and other activities which promote the survival of the Jewish people and enhance its existence." This is echoed in the [7]1999 Statement of Principles ([8]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html), which says: * We are called by Torah to lifelong study in the home, in the synagogue and in every place where Jews gather to learn and teach. Through Torah study we are called to (mitzvot), the means by which we make our lives holy. * We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of (mitzvot) and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and as a community. Some of these (mitzvot), sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times. * We bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and places of our lives through regular home and congregational observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with (kedushah), holiness, (menuchah), rest and (oneg), joy. The High Holy Days call us to account for our deeds. The Festivals enable us to celebrate with joy our people's religious journey in the context of the changing seasons. The days of remembrance remind us of the tragedies and the triumphs that have shaped our people's historical experience both in ancient and modern times. And we mark the milestones of our personal journeys with traditional and creative rites that reveal the holiness in each stage of life.
Subject: Question 18.4.14: Fallacy: Reform Jews don't need to attend synagogue Answer: As was noted in the [5]Centenary Perspective ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/centenary.html) in 1976, the obligations of Reform Jews include "public worship; ...; involvement with the synagogue and community..."
Subject: Question 18.4.15: Fallacy: Reform Jews don't believe in Zionism and don't support Israel Answer: This couldn't be further from the truth. Reform Judaism has its own Zionist organization, [5]ARZA/World Union, and is working strongly to support religious pluralism for all Jewish movements in Israel. Although Classical Reform was opposed to Zionism, modern Reform is very strong in its support of the State of Israel. This is made clear in the [6]1999 Statement of Principles ([7]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html), which says: * We are committed to (Medinat Yisrael), the State of Israel, and rejoice in its accomplishments. We affirm the unique qualities of living in (Eretz Yisrael), the land of Israel, and encourage (aliyah), immigration to Israel. * We are committed to a vision of the State of Israel that promotes full civil, human and religious rights for all its inhabitants and that strives for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. * We are committed to promoting and strengthening Progressive Judaism in Israel, which will enrich the spiritual life of the Jewish state and its people.
Subject: Question 18.4.16: Fallacy: Reform Jews have no concept of the Messiah Answer: Although Reform does not hold with the concept of a personal messiah, it does hold with the concept of a messianic age.
Subject: Question 18.4.17: Fallacy: Reform Jews do not observe Shabbat Answer: Gates of the Seasons, the American Reform Movement's guide to the Jewish Year, views Shabbat as a unique Jewish contribution to civilization, and a central activity to surviving the forces of assimilation and corruption. As such, it calls out the following mitzvot for Reform Jews: A-1 The Mitzvah of Shabbat Observance It is a mitzvah for every Jew, single or married, young or old, to observe Shabbat. The unique status of Shabbat is demonstrated by its being the only one of the holy days to be mentioned in the Ten Commandments. ... Shabbat observance involves both positive and negative mitzvot, i.e., doing and refraining from doing. A-2 The Mitzvah of Joy IT is a mitzvah to take delight in Shabbat observance, as Isaiah said, "You shall call Shabbat a deligh". Oneg implies celebration and relaxation, sharing time with loved ones, enjoying the beauty of nature, eating a leisurely meal made special with conviviality and song, visiting with friends and relatives, taking a leisurely stroll, reading, and listening to music. A-3 The Mitzvah of Sanctification It is a mitzvah to hallow Shabbat by setting it apart from the other days of the week. ... Shabbat must be distinguished from the other days of the week so that those who observe it may be transformed by its holiness. A-4 The Mitzvah of Rest It is a mitzvah to rest on Shabbat. However, Shabbat rest (menuchah) implies much more than refraining from work. The concept of Shabbat rest includes both physical relaxation and tranquility of mind and spirit. On Shabbat, one deliverately turns away from weekday pressures and activities. A-5 The Mitzvah of refraining from work It is a mitzvah to refrain from work on Shabbat...Abstinence from work is a major expression of Shabbat observance; however, it is no simple matter to define work today. Certain activities that some do to earn a living, others do for relaxation or to express their creativity. Clearly, though, one should avoid one's normal occupation or profession on Shabbat whenever possible and engage only in those types of activities that enhance the joy, rest, and holiness of the day. See Gates of the Seasons for additional details. Note support for Shabbat is also in the [5]1999 Statement of Principles ([6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/principles.html), which says: We bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and places of our lives through regular home and congregational observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with (kedushah), holiness, (menuchah), rest and (oneg), joy.
Subject: Question 18.4.18: Fallacy: Reform Jews ignore the laws of Kashrut Answer: [The following is based on Kashrut: A Reform Point of View in Gates of Mitzvah] Gates of Mitzvah, a guide to mitzvot in a Reform context, states regarding Kashrut: Many Reform Jews observe certain traditional disciplines as part of their attempt to establish a Jewish home and life style. For some, traditional Kashrut will enhance the sanctity of the home and be observed as a mitzvah; for some, a degreee of kashrut (e.g., the avoidance of pork products and/or shellfish) may be meaningful; and sill others may find nothing of value in kashrut. However, the fact that kashrut was an essential feature of Jewish life for som any centuries should motivate the Jewish family to study it and to consider whether or not it may enhance the sanctity of their home. The basic Reform philosophy is that it is a Reform Jew's responsibility to study and consider kashrut so as to develop a valid personal position. For although "classic" Reform Judaism did reject kashrut (as noted in the [5]Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, [6]http://www.ccarnet.org/platforms/pittsburgh.html), it did not prevent Reform Jews and Reform congregations from adopting and observing the dietary laws. The reasons for observing the laws by Reform Jews varied, from a desire to allow a wide variety of Jews to share in celebrations, to deeper meanings. In attempting to evolve a position on Kashrut, a Reform Jew has several options, for example, abstention from pork/shellfish products, not mixing meat and milk, etc. They might observe the laws at home, but not when eating out, or they might observe them all the time. They might eat only Kosher meat, or might become vegetarians in consonance with the principle of tzaar baalei chayim--prevention of pain or cruelty to animals. The range of options is from full observance to total nonobservance. The Torah commands Jews to observe the dietary laws as a means of making it kadosh--holy. Holiness has the dual sense of inner hallowing and outer separateness. There are many reasons that Reform Jews adopt some form of Kashrut: 1. Identification and solidarity with worldwide Judaism 2. The ethical discipline of avoiding certain foods or limiting one's appetite because of the growing scarcity of food in parts of the world. 3. The avoidance of certain foods traditionally obnoxious to Jews, providing a sense of identification with past generations and their struggle to remain Jews. 4. The authority of ancient biblical and rabbinic injunctions. 5. The desire to have a home in which any Jew can eat. One or more of these reasons (or perhaps another reason) might lead a Reform Jew to adopt some form of Kashrut. Others might still choose to not observe Kashrut. But given the central nature of Kashrut to traditional practice, Reform Jews are encouraged to study it and consider carefully whether it would add kedushah, sanctity, to their home and their lives.
Subject: Question 18.4.19: Fallacy: Reform rejects most of Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith Answer: A common claim is the Reform rejects most of Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith. The real answer is: "It depends how you look at it". In some interpretations, Reform accepts many of the articles. In other interpretations, Reform does not. Part of this is due to the freedom of belief and practice that characterizes Reform Judaism. In examining this question, it is worth exploring why the question is relevant at all. According to "The Jewish Encylopedia", Judaism cannot be said to possess "Articles of Faith", as is found in Christianity or Islam. The encylopedia notes that: Many attempts have indeed been made at systematizing and reducing to a fixed phraseology and sequence the contents of the Jewish religion. But these have always lacked the one essential element: authoritative sanction on the part of a supreme ecclesiastical body. And for this reason they have not been recognized as final or regarded as of universally binding force. Though to a certain extent incorporated in the liturgy and utilized for purposes of instruction, these formulations of the cardinal tenets of Judaism carried no greater weight than that imparted to them by the fame and scholarship of their respective authors. Acceptance of Maimonides's Thirteen Principles of Faith is not required by halakha, and in fact prominent Jewish authorities both before and after Maimonides have offered a number of different formulations of the principles of Jewish faith. The successors of Maimonides, from the thirteenth to the fifteeneth century--Nahmanides , Abba Mari ben Moses, Simon ben Zemah, Du ran, Isaac Arama, and Joseph Jaabez--reduced his thirteen articles to three: Belief in G-d; Creation (or revelation); and in providence/retribution. Others, like Crescas and David ben Samuel Estella, spoke of seven fundmental articles, laying stress on free-will. David ben Yom-Tob ibn Bilia, in his "Yesodot ha- Maskil" (Fundamentals of the Thinking Man), adds to the thirteen of Maimonides thirteen of his own. Yedaiah Penini, in the last chapter of his "Behinat ha-Dat," enumerated no less than thirty-five cardinal principles. In the fourteenth century Asher ben Jehiel of Toledo raised his voice against the Maimonidean Articles of Faith, declaring them to be only temporary, and suggested that another be added to recognize that the Exile is a punishment for the sins of Israel. Isaac Abravanel, his "Rosh Amanah," took the same attitude towards Maimonides' creed. While defending Maimonides against Hasdai and Albo, he refused to accept dogmatic articles for Judaism, holding, with all the cabalists, that the 613 commandments of the Law are all tantamount to Articles of Faith. However, note that while no one formulation of a creed is accepted by all, certain elements of faith are accepted by all traditional sources and considered binding by traditional movements: the existence of one G-d, divine revelation of Torah on Sinai and others. That said, here is one interpretation of how Reform addresses the "Articles of Faith": 1. G-d exists and the existance transcends time. Reform agrees with this. The 1999 Statement of Principles says: "We affirm the reality and oneness of G-d, even as we may differ in our understanding of the Divine presence." 2. G-d is one and there is nothing like G-d. Reform agrees with this. As the previous quote from the statement of principles said: "We affirm the ...oneness of G-d". 3. G-d has no semblance and is bodiless. Reform does not dictate a form for G-d, noting (as in the previous quote from the Statement of Principles): "[We] may differ in our understanding of the Divine presence." For almost all Reform Jews, G-d is treated as without semblance or body. 4. The existance of G-d preceeded creation. Reform doctrine does not contradict this statement. 5. G-d is eternal and prayer should be directed to G-d Reform agrees with this. The fact that prayer should be directed to G-d is captured in the 1999 Statement of Principles in the line "We respond to G-d daily: through public and private prayer...". The statement makes no statements, but does not contradict, the eternal nature of G-d. It does state: "We trust in our tradition's promise that, although G-d created us as finite beings, the spirit within us is eternal." 6. G-d communicated with prophets Reform agrees with this, as it holds with divine inspiration. 7. The prophecy of Moses was true, and that he was the chief of all prophets, both those before him and those after him. Reform agrees (in some sense) with the first clause, but has replaced the second clause ("chief of all the prophets") with the theory of Progressive Revelation. For Reform Jews, the prophecy of Moses was not the highest degree of prophecy; rather his was the first in a long chain of progressive revelations in which mankind gradually began to understand the will of G-d better and better. As such, the laws of Moses are held as strongly binding as they are in traditional movements, and it is today's generation that must assess what G-d wants of them. This view has been affirmed from classic Reform to the present (Gunther Plaut, Eugene Borowitz, Walter Jacobs, etc.) 8. The entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses. Whereas traditional Jews view the Written Torah as the same that Moses taught, for practical purposes, plus or minus scribal errors, Reform (as well as Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews) take a different approach. These liberal movements accept the results of biblical scholarship, and archeological and linguistic research. They accept that the core of the Torah may indeed have come from Moses, but that the document that we have to today has been edited together from several documents, and assumed the final form that we know in the time of Ezra (about 440 BCE). 9. G-d will never change Torah. Reform actually agrees with this. However, Reform believes that what was written was expressed in the language/context of its time, and must be reinterpretated for the language/context of today. Hence, Torah doesn't change, but our interpretation and understanding of it does. This is captured in the 1999 Statement of Principles in the line: "We cherish the truths revealed in Torah, G-d's ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people's ongoing relationship with G-d." 10. G-d knows humanity's thoughts and deeds Reform's High Holy Day liturgies retain these concepts. In the past, Reform has removed from the liturgy those concepts that are incompatible with Reform (such as the nature of the Messiah). Hence, this concept remains compatible with Reform. 11. G-d rewards and punishes Reform's High Holy Day liturgies retain these concepts, leading to the conclusion that this concept remains compatible with Reform. 12. G-d will send a messiah. Reform holds with a concept of a messianic age, as opposed to an individual. The traditional messianic notion is not part of Reform. 13. G-d will revive the dead. In the literalist interpretation, this is not a Reform belief. However, Reform does hold with alternate approaches to fulfilling the underlying prophesies.
Subject: Question 18.5.1: Traditional Judaism Differences: Why does Reform liturgy say "m'chayey hakol" [who gives life to all] instead of m'chayey meytim" [who gives life to the dead] ? Answer: There are individual Reform Jews who believe in resurrection "m'chayey meytim". However, the Reform movement does not have any creed which would require such a belief. By changing m'chayey meytim to the more generic m'chayey ha-kol, the prayer becomes equivocal. This allows the believer in resurrection to understand the prayer as resurrection while allowing those with the more conventional Reform belief to relate to the prayer with intellectual integrity. Note that, in the United Kingdom, the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues has produced a new prayerbook, Siddur Lev Chadash. This prayerbook has reverted to Mechayeh hamaytim. Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, who was on the editorial committee, tried to explain it as a new understanding of the Amidah prayer as covering all life, including death, and the reintroduction as a way of reverting to a tradition, having spent many years disassociating it from its traditional feelings of a prayer for the dead.
Subject: Question 18.5.2: Traditional Judaism Differences: What other changes to liturgy reflect Reform ideals? Answer: The Reform Movement has repeatedly revised the traditional liturgy, in order to shorten the service by dispensing with some of the repetitions (for example, there is only one reader's Kaddish), and to bring the doctrinal content of the liturgy into accord with Reform thought by omitting or recasting passages expressive of beliefs that are not part of Reform (e.g., a personal Messiah as distinct from a messianic age, ressurection of the dead, restoration of the sacrificial cult, and the existance of angels). As an example of this, consider the Shema and Tefillah. Traditionally, the Shema consists of three Scriptural passages: Deut. 6.4-9, Deut. 11.13-21, and Num. 15:37-41. In Reform siddurs, the second paragraph is often omitted because of the doctrine of retribution, and the third because of the commandment regarding fringes. Reform does include Num. 15.40f. With respect to the Tefillah, there are more significant changes. The Tefillah traditionally consists of 18 benedictions, to which, perhaps in the 2nd or 3rd century CE, a 19th was added. It can be broken into three parts: the first three benedictions, an intermediate thirteen benedictions, and a final three benedictions. These are traditionally said three times daily, and appear (in a modified form) in the weekday service in the Reform siddur (although most Reform congregations do not hold weekday services, there are congregations and study groups that do, and hence, a service is provided for them). On Shabbat and on festivals, only the first three and the last three are said; the intermediate benedictions are replaced by ones peculiar to the appropriate day. First Grouping: 1. The first benediction, Ancestors/Avot, is retained mostly unchanged, except for referring to our fathers and our mothers. Most Reform siddurs change the text to read "redemption" instead of "a redeemer.". A recent trend has been to include Sarah, Leah, Rachel, and Rebecca in addition to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This goes with the egalitarian nature of Reform. 2. The second benediction, Powers/Gevurot, is amended to affirm that God is the source of all life, and that God has implanted within us eternal life. Traditionally, the main theme of this benediction was resurrection of the dead, a doctrine not accepted by Reform Judaism. These words were expressed in the traditional siddur as "...and revivest the dead with great mercy..". In the Reform prayerbook, this is changed to "...with great compassion give life to all." 3. The third benediction, Holiness of God/Kedushat Hashem, has also been changed slightly. The Hebrew that might more literally be rendered as "holy beings" (angels) has been changed to "those who strive to be holy". Intermediate Benedictions: 1-4. The first (Understanding/Binah), second (Repentence/Teshuvah), third (Forgiveness/Selichah), and fourth (Redemption/Ge-u-lah) of the thirteen intermediate benedictions are retained, although they are rendered in a gender-neutral language (that is, God is referred to as a Soverign or a Ruler, as contrasted to a Father or a King). 5. The fifth intermediate benediction, Healing/Refuah, is changed slightly. The traditional "who heals the sick of His people Israel" is changed to "Healer of the sick", a potentially older version found in J. Ber. 2.4 and Sifrei to Deut. 33.2. The change was made because the older version is more comprehensive. 6. The sixth intermediate benediction, Blessing of the Years (Abundance)/Birkat Hashanim, is also changed slightly: one phrase ("Bless our year like other years") is omitted. 7. The seventh intermediate benediction, Ingathering of the Exiles/Kibbuts Galuyot, is rewritten. The Reform version begins the same way as the traditional text, but in place of the petition for the ingathering of the exiles goes on to emphasize the hope for universal freedom. Thus, "...bring our exiles together and assemble us from the four courners of the earth..." becomes "...inspire us to strive for the liberation of the oppressed, and let the song of liberty be heard in the four corners of the earth..." 8. The eight intermediate benediction, Justice/Birkat Mishpat, is also rewritten. The first half, which traditionally voices the hope for the restoration of Israel's judges, is reworded to express the hope for universal justice (based on passages such as Isa 40.23; Ps. 148.11; Joel 3.1; Zech 12.10, and so on). The second half is almost identical with the traditional. 9. The ninth intermediate benediction, a malediction against slanderers or informers (originally heretics), is omitted. 10. The tenth (traditional, ninth in Reform) intermediate benediction, Blessing for the Righteous/Birkat Hatsadikim, is abridged (i.e., "...upon the righteous and faithful of all peoples, and upon all of us.") 11. The eleventh (traditional, tenth in Reform) intermediate benediction, Builder of Jerusalem/Bonei Yerushalayim, is rewritten. Traditionally, this benediction beseeches God to rebuild Jerusalem and to reestablish the Davidic monarchy. Partly for doctrinal reasons, and partly because the traditional theme is repeated by the subsequent benediction, the Reform version is altered to be a prayer for the present and continuing welfare of the land and people of Israel. The Reform version also contains an allusion to the connection between Zion and the messianic hope, expressed by a reference to Zion and Jerusalem as the source of enlightenment to all humanity. 12. The twelfth (traditional, eleventh in Reform) intermediate benediction, Blessing concerning David, Birkat David, is also rewritten. In the Reform version, the hope for restoration of the Davidic commonwealth is broadened into a concept of a Messianic Age. 13. The thirteenth (traditional, twelfth in Reform) intermediate benediction, Who Harkens to Prayer/Shomei-a Tefillah, is abridged. Final three benedictions: 1. The first of the last three benedictions, Worship/Avodah, is modified. The traditional references to sacrificial worship are omitted; instead, a throught on the theme of God's nearness to all who seek God with sincerity is used. 2. The second of the last three benedictions, Thanksgiving/Hoda-ah, uses the complete text, but is rendered in a gender-neutral fashion. 3. The last of the three benedictions, the Priestly Benediction/Birkat Kohanim, is retained relatively unchanged from the traditional version, although some of the translations are more freely done.
Subject: Question 18.5.3: Traditional Judaism Differences: Why does Reform generally celebrate Rosh Hashanah for one day? Answer: In North America, some Reform congregations do observe two days; but the general trend is to only observe one. Two days was the custom in the diaspora, where it was difficult to determine with accuracy the first day. Given current time determination techniques, most congregations today observe only one day. A detailed explanation may be found in Gates of Understanding II, page 26. In Israel, the Progressive Movement observes two days, based on the fact that the holiday is referred to as yamim nora'im, the days of awe.
Subject: Question 18.5.4: Traditional Judaism Differences: How does a Reform conversion differ from an Orthodox conversion? Answer: The biggest difference is implicit. Both conversions require acceptance of the "yoke of the mitzvot"; that is, an agreement to live as Jews in accordance with Torah (whether or not the specific phrase is used). However, the interpretation of that phrase differs substantially from Orthodoxy (where it implies acceptance of the authority of Rabbinic law as well as all 613 commandments as written) to Reform (where it is autonomy and choice based on study). The book Conversion According to Reform Halakhah, published in 1990, says "[The phrase] 'According to halakhah' means according to our Reform Jewish tradition. Over the last two centuries we have developed a considerable body of halakhah of our own. Some of it in the form of books of guidance (S. B. Freehof Reform Jewish Practice; P. Knobel Gates of Mitzvah among others); through statements made at synods and conferences (W. G. Plaut The Rise of Reform Judaism; M. Meyer Response to Modernity), and through more than a thousand responsa written by Solomon B. Freehof and [others]. There is therefore a Reform tradition which has been expressed in an expanding halakhah." Other than that, Reform has different requirements for witnesses. Reform in the United States does not require ritual immersion, and does not mandate b'rit mila for males (although it is strongly recommended); Reform outside of the United States requires both milah/hatafah and tevilah, and tends to be more traditional in general.
Subject: Question 18.6.1: The Rabbinate: How does one become a Reform Rabbi? Answer: While there are several small seminaries whose rabbis claim to be Reform, the following applies only to becoming a part of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). Study for the Reform Rabbinate is typically done at the [5]Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) ([6]http://huc.edu), although one could also become a Conservative or Reconstructionist Rabbi and then petition to join the Reform Rabbinate. There are also foreign Reform Seminaries, such as Leo Baeck, whose ordinations are acceptable to the CCAR. HUC-JIR was founded in 1875 in Cincinnati Ohio, and is the oldest rabbinical seminary in the United States ordaining rabbis to serve the Reform movement and the Jewish community. It was founded by Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, who also established UAHC (1873) and CCAR (1889). In 1922, Rabbi Stephen S Wise founded the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, which merged with HUC in 1950. The Los Angeles campus (located next to USC) was opened in 1954, and the Jerusalem ISRAEL branch was established in 1963. The Jerusalem branch serves as the center for study of Biblical Archaeology. Thus, there are now [7]four campuses (see [8]http://huc.edu/campuses.html for specific addresses). HUC-JIR's Rabbinic School has a five-year program of full-time graduate study leading to the degree of Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters (MAHL) and ordination. The sequence is as follows: 1. Have an accredited bachelor's degree from a quality school, with a B to B+ average and high GRE scores. Apply to HUC-JIR; 34 to 45 students over all 3 US campuses are admitted annually. The admissions process also includes interviews and psychological evaluation. All candidates seeking admission to the College-Institute's Rabbinic School, School of Sacred Music and Rhea Hirsch School of Education, will be expected to have successfully completed a minimum of one academic year of college-level Hebrew or its equivalent. 2. If accepted at HUC-JIR, the path to ordination is as follows: 1. One year in Israel in which one attends the Jerusalem campus. Study includes Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, archeology, and immersion in Israeli culture. [This year is occasionally waived for those who can demonstrate fluency in the language and texts.] 2. Four years at one of the USA campuses in NYC, LA, or Cincinnati. Note: LA does not ordain. Those attending the LA campus must transfer after two years either to NYC or Cincinnati. [Occasionally, the 4 years can be compressed to 3 years if the person can exempt enough courses.] This course of study includes Bible, Midrash, Talmud, Codes, Homiletics, History, Education, Liturgy, Philosophy, Human Relations, Hebrew, and Aramaic. 3. Internship: Serve a congregation (usually small solo pulpits that can't afford full-time rabbis) for at least one year. 3. Degree awarded: Master of Hebrew Letters (usually after the 4th year) and ordination after the 5th year. For more information, you can write directly to HUC-JIR at one of the following addresses: National Office of Admission Office of Admissions HUC-JIR HUC-JIR, Brookdale Center 3101 Clifton Avenue One West 4th Street Cincinnati OH 45220 New York NY 10012 USA USA Office of Admissions Office of Admissions HUC-JIR HUC-JIR 3077 University Avenue 13 King David Street Los Angeles CA 90007 Jerusalem USA ISRAEL
Subject: Question 18.6.2: The Rabbinate: What is the course of study for the Rabbinate? Answer: Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, archeology, Israeli culture, Bible, Midrash, Talmud, Codes, Homiletics, History, Education, Liturgy, Philosophy, Human Relations, Hebrew, Aramaic. There are also courses in professional development: working in a professional setting, education principles and techniques, the principles of counseling, making hospital calls, helping people with crisis. Specific information on the rabbinic program and admissions can be found at [5]http://www.huc.edu/catalog/rab.html,
Subject: Question 18.6.3: The Rabbinate: How does one become a Reform Cantor? Answer: Cantors in the Reform Movement are trained by [5]HUC-JIR's School of Sacred Music (SSM), established in New York in 1948. SSM's campus is adjacent to NYU, and offers the degree of Master of Sacred Music (MSM) to students who, upon graduation, receive formal investiture as Cantor and are eligible for membership in the [6]American Conference of Cantors. In order to be accepted to the SSM, applicants must demonstrate: Musical Competence: A trained singing voice, an undergraduate degree (preferrably a BA with a major in music), competency in sight reading, ear training, keyboard harmony, and music theory. Hebrew Competence. All cantorial students are expected to have completed at least one year of college Hebrew. All candidates participate in the first-year Hebrew immersion program at the HUC-JIR campus in Jerusalem. Personal characteristics. Candidates for admission are expected to be committted Jews and to possses the necessary character and personality traits. They should enjoy public performance, engaging others in the act of worship, teaching adults and children, and dedicated to a life of learning and discovery. To apply, applicants require a autobiographical perspective on their life and the reasons for selecting the cantorate in addition to the usual transcripts, references, and medical forms. The process also includes an audition and a formal interview, as well as a psychological assessment. Information on the program can be found at [7]http://www.huc.edu/catalog/smny.html
Subject: Question 18.6.4: The Rabbinate: What is the course of study for cantors? Answer: The course of study is four years. The first year is in Jerusalem, and involves 18 hours per week of Hebrew instruction. There are also classes that introduce classical texts. Students also study cantillation, the Jewish Choral literature, and the liturgical modes on which traditional Nusach is based. In years two through four, there is indepth study of the year and life cycle musical liturgy, as well as the history, structure, and theology of the liturgy. The Reform musical heritage is studied, as well as study of art music in Ladino, Yiddish, and Hebrew; the art and content of Jewish concert programming; music for all ages in the religious school. There is also study of Judaica: the traditional Jewish texts in light of the scientific investigation of modern times. There is study of theology: Buber, Kaplan, Heschel, Rosenzweig, and others. There is study of history: talmudic, medieval, or modernity. There are also coures in professional development: working in a professional setting, education principles and techniques, teaching and integration of music, organizing and directing volunteer choirs, the principles of counseling, making hospital calls, helping people with crisis. In the second and third years, students also have fieldwork opportunities. For more information, write: HUC-JIR Brookdale Center School of Sacred Music Office of the Director One West 4th Street New York NY 10012 USA Information on the program may be found on the web at [5]http://www.huc.edu/catalog/smny.html.
Subject: Question 18.6.5: The Rabbinate: What other courses of study are available? Answer: In Los Angeles, the HUC-JIR Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service offers the following programs: 1. DOUBLE MASTERS + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Master of Social Work (24 months, 90 credits). Joint with USC or Washington Univ, St. Louis) + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Master of Public Admin. (24 months, 82 credits) + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Master of Science in Gerontology (24 months, 86 credits) + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Communications Management (24 months, 82 credits) 2. SINGLE MASTERS + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service (54 credits). A concentration in synagogue management is also available. 3. JOINT MASTERS + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Master of Arts in Jewish Education (24 months, 110 credits) + Master of Arts in Jewish Communal Service and Master of Arts in Judaic Studies (24 months, 110 credits) The two programs above also require a year's residency in Israel. Courses in these programs include the Jewish Family and Jewish Community; Jewish Communal Institutes; Biblical and Rabbinic Sources; Jewish History; Fund Raising and Financial Resource Development; Trends in Modern Judaism; Contemporary Jewish Isuses; the Development of the American Synagogue; Management Information Systems; Organizing and Facilitating Support Groups; Understanding Communal Themes Through Traditional Sources; Leadership and Organizational Management; Planning, Allocating, and Decision Making in the Jewish Community; Fiscal Management; Jewish Components of Community Practics; Jewish Social and Political Policy; Boundaries of Normative Jewish Behavior; and other similar courses. Graduates of these programs work in federations, centers, Jewish family services, camps, Bureaus of Jewish education, congragations, etc. For those interested in education, the HUC-JIR Rhea Hirsch School of Education offers a course of study designed for those interested in careers in Jewish education. For information on either of these programs, write to: HUC-JIR 3077 University Avenue Los Angeles CA 90007-3796 In addition, the Cincinatti branch of HUC-JIR is home for the School of Graduate Stuides, which is a leading center for study and research in the areas of the Bible, ancient Near Eastern languages, Hellenistic studies, Jewish religious thought, philosophy and history. For more information, write: HUC-JIR 3101 Clifton Avenue Cincinnati OH 45220 USA Information on all of HUCs programs can be found at [5]http://www.huc.edu/catalog/progs.html
Subject: Question 18.6.6: The Rabbinate: Can Reform Rabbis be sanctioned for their beliefs? Answer: No. There is no ideological sanction process in the CCAR, although some in the CCAR would like to institute one for rabbis who co-officiate with Christian clergy at weddings. Of course, there is always the community. Rabbis usually have beliefs in congruence with the congregation or community that continues to pay their contract. In congregations, belief differences often lead to heated temple board meetings, and potentially, the Rabbi moving to a different community.
Subject: Question 18.7.1: For Further Information: How do I contact the main organizations in Reform Judaism? Answer: In North America: [5]Union of American Hebrew Congregations [6]Central Conference of American Rabbis 838 Fifth Street New York NY 10021-7064 +1 212 249 0100 A list of regional offices may be found at [7]http://uahc.org/offices.html. [8]World Union for Progressive Judaism 838 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021 phone: (212)650-4090 fax: (212)650-4099 [9]Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion HUC-JIR HUC-JIR, Brookdale Center 3101 Clifton Avenue One West 4th Street Cincinnati OH 45220 New York NY 10012 USA USA +1 513 221-1875 +1 212 674 5300 HUC-JIR HUC-JIR 3077 University Avenue 13 King David Street Los Angeles CA 90007 94101 Jerusalem USA ISRAEL +1 213 749 3424 +972 2 232 444 In the United Kingdom: [10]Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (ULPS) The Montague Centre 21 Maple Street London, W1P 6DS ENGLAND +1 0171-580-1663 (Voice) +1 0171-436-4184 (FAX) [11]http://www.ulps.org/ [12]Reform Synagogues of Great Britain ([13]http://www.refsyn.org.uk) In Australia and New Zealand: The [14]Australian and New Zealand Union for Progressive Judaism ([15]http://www.anzupj.com.au).
Subject: Question 18.7.2: For Further Information: How do I find a Reform congregation? Answer: If you are in Northern America and have web access, visit the UAHC web page, where you will find a [5]congregation list at [6]http://www.uahcweb.org/conglist.html. Otherwise, contact your local [7]regional council ([8]http://www.uahcweb.org/offices.html). Outside of North America, contact the [9]World Union for Progressive Judaism ([10]http://rj.org/wupj). They will be happy to provide the names and addresses of synagogues anywhere in the world in response to inquiries. In those places where there may be no liberal synagogue, they will be happy to send whatever information they have, from other sources. Please contact their office, preferably by mail, fax or e-mail, at: World Union for Progressive Judaism 838 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021 phone: (212)650-4090 fax: (212)650-4099
Subject: Question 18.7.3: For Further Information: Are there any Reform Rabbis on the network who will answer questions? Answer: Yes. First, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations operates a service called "Ask the Rabbi". It invites visitors to the [5]UAHC website to pose questions about Judaism and Jewish life to be answered by a rabbi, or cantor or Jewish educator. It was initiated by the UAHC-CCAR Joint Commission on Synagogue Affiliation, and its realization was coordinated by Jonah Pesner, and is administered by Larry Raphael of the UAHC Department of Adult Jewish Growth. Additionally, here is a list of Rabbis willing to answer questions: Rabbi Herbert Brockman <[6]Ravtzvi@aol.com> Congregation Mishkan Israel, Hamden CT, USA Rabbi Michael Feshbach <[7]RABBIF@Aol.Com> Temple Shalom, Chevy Chase, MD, USA Rabbi Mark Glickman <[8]mglickman@foxinternet.net> Temple Israel, Dayton, Ohio, USA Rabbi Mark Aaron Kline <[9]RabbiMarc@aol.com> Beth Israel Congregation, Florence, South Carolina, USA Rabbi Howard Jaffe <[10]HLJaffe@Aol.Com> Mtn. Jewish Comm. Ctr., Warren, New Jersey, USA Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff <[11]rabbi@templeisrael.org> Temple Israel of Columbus, Columbus, Ohio, USA Rabbi Kerry Olitzky <[12]olitzky@huc.edu> [13]Hebrew Union College Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld <[14]JSHLR@Acad1.Alaska.Edu> Cong. Beth Shalom, Anchorage, Alaska, USA Rabbi John Sherwood <[15]rabjms@earthlink.net> Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Emet, Woodland Hills, California, USA Rabbi Don Weber <[16]75065.263@Compuserve.Com> Temple Rodeph Torah, West Monmouth, New Jersey, USA Rabbi Stephen Weisman <[17]sweisman@s850.mwc.edu> Fredricksburg, Virginia, USA Rabb Jim Egolf <[18]RavJim@aol.com> Congregation Beth Shalom of the Woodlands, Texas, USA Reform rabbis who want to be added to this list should contact the FAQ maintainer at [19]maintainer@scjfaq.org.
Subject: Question 18.7.4: For Further Information: How do I start the conversion process? Answer: This varies from place to place and rabbi to rabbi. Most larger cities have a community class. Smaller cities rely on the rabbi. In any case, contact the rabbi at your congregation or a local congregation. If there is no rabbi contact the local congregation and they will put you in touch with someone. If you need help, or are unsure about walking into the synagogue, there are some rabbis on the net who will be glad to talk to you about this important step. You can contact any of the rabbis listed in [5]18.7.3 above; in particular, you might want to contact Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff <[6]apn@shore.net>. Rabbi Nemitoff is the immediate past chair of the CCAR Committee on Conversion and a member of the UAHC/CCAR Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach. He can also be reached at: Temple Ohabei Shalom 1187 Beacon Street Brookline, Massachusetts, 02146 USA 617-277-6610 Voice-synagogue 617-277-7881 FAX Another rabbi who has expressed interested in talking to individuals interested in conversion is Rabbi John Sherwood <[7]rabjms@earthlink.net>. Rabbi Sherwood is Past President of the San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, and has been an adjunct professor at St. John's Roman Catholic Seminary teaching a graduate course on Judaism to men studying for the priesthood. He is also the author of a curriculum for Introduction to Judaism. Another resource is Rabbi Don Weber <[8]75065.263@compuserve.com>, +1 908 972-2595. Rabbi Weber is on the UAHC Regional Outreach Committee, and has spoken on conversion at HUC and at meetings of the Reform Rabbinate. He is a member of the NJARR beit din, and says that he follows quite traditional practices regarding conversion.
Subject: Question 18.7.5: For Further Information: I'd like to do some further reading. Where do I start? Answer: The best place to start is with the [5]Reform Reading List, available at [6]http://www.scjfaq.org/rl/jlu-index.html
Subject: How do I obtain copies of the FAQ? Answer: There are a number of different ways to obtain copies of the FAQ: * WWW. If you are reading this on Usenet, and would like to see an online, hyperlinked version, go visit [2]http://www.scjfaq.org/. This is the "web" version of the FAQ; the version posted to Usenet is generated from the web version. Note that the www.scjfaq.org version is a copy of the actual master version; if you want to access the master, visit [3]http://master.scjfaq.org/. * Email. Scjfaq.org also provides an autoretriever that allows one to obtain a copy of the FAQ by return Email. To use the autoretriever, you send a retrieval request to [4]archives@scjfaq.org with the request in the body of the message. A more reliable way to retrieve these files is through the [5]FAQ autoretriever ([6]http://www.mljewish.org/bin/autoresp.cgi). For the FAQ, the request has the form: send faq partname For the reading list, the request has the form: send rl partname "Partname" is replaced by the name of the part, as shown in the general index. The following is a short summary of the mapping to partnames for the FAQ: + [7]01-FAQ-intro: Section [8]1: Network and Newsgroup Information. + [9]02-Who-We-Are: Section [10]2: Who We Are + [11]03-Torah-Halacha: Sections [12]3, [13]4: Torah; Halachic Authority + [14]04-Observance: Sections [15]5, [16]6, [17]7, [18]8: Jewish Holidays; Jewish Dietary Law and Kashrut; Sabbath and Holiday Observance; Woman and Marriage + [19]05-Worship: Sections [20]9, [21]10, [22]11: Jewish Worship; Conversion, Intermarriage, and "Who is a Jew?"; Miscellaneous Practice Questions + [23]06-Jewish-Thought: Section [24]12: Jewish Thought + [25]07-Jews-As-Nation: Section [26]13: Jews as a Nation + [27]08-Israel: Section [28]14: Jews and Israel + [29]09-Antisemitism: Sections [30]15, [31]16, [32]17: Churban Europa (The Holocaust); Antisemitism and Rumors about Jews; Countering Missionaries + [33]10-Reform: Section [34]18: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [35]11-Miscellaneous: Sections [36]19, [37]20: Miscellaneous; References and Getting Connected + [38]12-Kids: Section [39]21: Jewish Childrearing Related Questions + [40]mail-order: Mail Order Judaica The following is a short summary of the mapping of partnames for the Reading Lists: + [41]general: Introduction and General. Includes book sources, starting points for beginners, starting points for non-Jewish readers, General Judaism, General Jewish Thought, General Jewish History, Contemporary Judaism, Noachide Laws, Torah and Torah Commentary, Talmud and Talmudic Commentary, Mishnah, Midrash, Halachic Codes, Becoming An Observant Jew, Women and Judaism, and Science and Judaism. + [42]traditional: Traditional Liturgy, Practice, Lifestyle, Holidays. Includes Traditional Liturgy; Traditional Philosophy and Ethics; Prayer; Traditional Practice; The Household; Life, Death, and In-Between; and The Cycle Of Holidays. + [43]mysticism: Kabbalah, Mysticism, and Messianism. Includes Academic and Religious treatments of Kabbalah, Sprituality, and the Jewish notion of the Messiah. + [44]reform: Reform/Progressive Judaism + [45]conservative: Conservative Judaism + [46]reconstructionist: Reconstructionist Judaism + [47]humanistic: Humanistic Judaism (Society for Humanistic Judaism) + [48]chasidism: Chassidism. Includes general information on historical chassidism, as well as specific information on Lubavitch (Chabad), Satmar, Breslaw (Breslov), and other approaches. + [49]zionism: Zionism. Includes Zionism and The Development Of Israel, The Founders, Zionistic Movements, and Judaism in Israel. + [50]antisemitism: Antisemitism. Includes sections on Antisemitism, What Led to The Holocaust, Medieval Oppression, Antisemitism Today (Including Dealing with Hate Groups), Judaism and Christianity, and Judaism, Freemasonry and other rumors. + [51]intermarriage: Intermarriage. Includes sections on "So You're Considering Intermarriage?", The Traditional Viewpoint, Conversion, and Coping With Life As An Intermarried. + [52]childrens: Books for Jewish Children. Includes sections on Birth and Naming, Raising a Child, Family Guidebooks, Upsheren, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, Holiday Books for Children, Liturgy for Children, Bible and Torah for Children, Jewish History for Children, Jewish Theology for Children, Israel, Learning Hebrew, and Jewish Stories. Alternatively, you may send a message to [53]mail-server@rtfm.mit.edu with the following line in the body of the message: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/(portionname) Where (portionname) is replaced by the appropriate subdirectory and filenames; for example, to get the first part of the reading list, one would say: send usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists/general * Anonymous FTP: All portions of the FAQ and of the reading lists are archived on [54]rtfm.mit.edu and are available for anonymous FTP from the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ directory (URL [55]ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/FAQ/). Similarly, the parts of the reading lists are stored in the pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lists directory (URL: [56]ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/judaism/reading-lis ts). Note that the archived versions of the FAQ and reading lists are the posted versions; that is, they are each one large ASCII file.
Subject: Credits for the Reform/Progressive FAQ The Reform FAQ portion of the S.C.J FAQ was developed and is maintained by Daniel Faigin ([2]maintainer@scjfaq.org). Other contributors include Nicholas Aleksander, J. T. Galkowski, Ruth Heiges, Chris Newport, Tony Reese, Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, Rabbi Ian Morris, Rabbi Josh Segal, and Rabbi John Sherwood. This posting is dedicated to Rabbi Mordecai Soloff ZT"L and Rabbi Alfred Wolf: two men responsible for my committment to serious Reform Jewish. Comments and corrections are welcome. Please send them to the maintainer, [3]maintainer@scjfaq.org or [4]faigin@acm.org; do not post them. Unlike other portions of the S.C.J FAQ, this posting does not reflect the traditional viewpoint; it specifically reflects the viewpoint of the Reform Movement of Judaism. However, to the best of the maintainer's knowledge, the posting does not contain any "bashing" of other Jewish movements. A special thank you... Special thanks for her patience and understanding go to my wife, Karen, who put up with me hiding at the computer for the two months it took to complete the July/August 2000 remodel of the entire soc.culture.jewish FAQ and Reading Lists. If you think the effort was worth it, drop her a note c/o [5]maintainer@scjfaq.org. ------------------------------------------------------------ -- Please mail additions or corrections to me at faigin@pacificnet.net. End of SCJ FAQ Part 10 (Reform) Digest ************************** -------

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