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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Section - Question 18.1.1: What is Reform Judaism?

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   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
   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] Statement on
       the UAHC Web Page
     * "A Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism":
       [7] Statement adopted
       by the CCAR in 1999
     * "Why Be Reform?": [8] A
       statement by UAHC President Eric H. Yoffie
     * A New Era For Reform: [9] 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).

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