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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Section - Question 18.2.2: History: Why did Reform Judaism start?

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Previous Document: Question 18.2.1: History: How did Reform Judaism start?
Next Document: Question 18.2.3: History: I've heard reference to "Classic German Reform". What is it?
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                                  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.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Previous Document: Question 18.2.1: History: How did Reform Judaism start?
Next Document: Question 18.2.3: History: I've heard reference to "Classic German Reform". What is it?

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