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The Society for Classical Reform Judaism recommends the following resources for those interested in our commitments:

Announcing the Release of the Second in a New Series of Recordings by the SCRJ

Highlights of the Music of the High Holy Days

In the midst of the many textures of the worship of these Holy Days – it is the beloved melodies and the soaring harmonies of the most famous musical elements of these Services that leave some of the most lasting impressions. Indeed, two of the most important highlights of these observances are the sounding of the Shofar, accompanied by the grand choral responses on Rosh Hashanah, and the haunting strains of the Kol Nidre chant that inaugurate the solemnity of Yom Kippur. And for many people, the echoes of the lyrical setting of Max Janowskl's beloved Avinu Malkeynu, define the deep emotional impact and spiritual power of this season.

Announcing the release of the first in a new series
of Compact Disc recordings by the SCRJ

Sabbath Eve Worship in the Tradition of Classical Reform Judaism


This first production in our new series of CD's features a Sabbath Service from the Union Prayer Book - Sinai Edition, conducted by Rabbi Howard A. Berman, with music performed by Cantor Erik Contzius accompanied by choir and organ. The beautiful musical selections include both great historic masterpieces of the Reform repertoire, as well as newly composed choral works by today’s leading synagogue composers. A specially prepared booklet with the complete Prayer Book text of the program enables listeners to follow the Service as a personal worship experience. We know that you will find this program meaningful and that it will enable many people to experience the beauty and inspiration of the historic Reform worship traditions that we  cherish.

The CD and booklet are being sent as our gift to all individuals who contribute to the Society at the Friends level ($50) or above. We hope that our supporters will want to share this unique spiritual resource with their family and friends!

Listen to Selections from Come O Sabbath Day!

To order your copy, contact us at
or call the Society Office at 877-326-1400.

Worship Materials
  • To order and for more information, please contact:
  • Chicago Sinai Congregation



    The Society for

    Classical Reform Judaism


General Studies
  • Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism. Michael A. Meyer, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988.
  • The Reform Judaism Reader: North American Documents. Michael A. Meyer & W. Gunther Plaut, New York: UAHC Press, 2001.
  • Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide. Jacques Cukierkorn, Kansas City,, 2004.
Music Resources
  • The Majesty of Holiness: Masterworks from the Great Nineteenth-Century Synagogues of Berlin, Paris, and Vienna. (CD Recording).

    The Zamir Chorale, Boston, MA — The Zamir Chorale, one of America’s preeminent Jewish Choral groups, has released a number of recordings of historic Synagogue Music that include the great tradition of Reform music.
  • Jewish Masterworks of the Synagogue Liturgy: A Concert in honor of the restablishment of Liberal Judaism in Germany. Cantor Steven Berke and Cantor Elizabeth Burke — RCA Recordings (CD).
General Resources

The websites of the international institutions of Reform Judaism include a variety of resources, programs and publications of interest to those committed to the Classical Reform position. While the SCRJ is independent of these organizations, and embraces a number of important alternative perspectives, we are part of the world-wide Reform Movement and share many of the commitments of the broader progressive Jewish community.



The Rabbis of the following congregations serve on the Board of Trustees of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism;

  • Central Reform Temple of Boston, Boston, MA
    Rabbi Howard A. Berman
  • Temple Sinai New Orleans, LA
    Rabbi Edward P. Cohn
  • In addition, the following major American Reform Congregations are historic centers of Classical Reform Judaism:


The following congregations are connected to the SCRJ through their Rabbi's membership in the Society, or otherwise offer opportunities for worship or learning in the Classical Reform tradition, as part of their commitment to affirming the diversity within our Movement

The SCRJ also maintains cooperative relationships with individuals and congregations in other countries that affirm our progressive vision of Reform Judaism:

Resources for Interfaith Couples and Families is a web-based national resource of support and spiritual growth for interfaith and multi-cultural families: This site offers educational materials as well as a national directory of Rabbis who are committed to working with interfaith couples in the celebration of their weddings. The SCRJ is a partner of

SCRJ Institute Prize Essays

Messages of Hope Spiritual Resources in Response to the Holocaust in the Union Prayer Book (1922) and the Sermons of Rabbi David Philipson

Maura Linzer (Class of 2012) (Presented at the Annual SCRJ Institute in Cincinnati, 2012)

My rabbinical thesis examined homilies delivered by four Reform rabbis in the United States —David Philipson, Julian Feibelman, Max Nussbaum, and Harold Saperstein—from 1933 through 1942. It documented how their definitions of hope and their calls to action changed in relation to the deteriorating circumstances of European Jewry with the approach of the Holocaust. Additionally, these four rabbis represent different generations, locales, backgrounds, and ideologies that influenced the messages they delivered to their congregants. They struggled to preach sermons that both met the needs of their members and maintained the integrity of their own beliefs.

This excerpt from my research will focus on the writings and preaching of Rabbi David Philipson ( 1862-1949), of Cincinnati's historic Rockdale Avenue Temple - a member of the first Ordination Class of Hebrew Union College in 1883, and a leading voice in the Classical Reform wing of the Movement. I will concentrate on the years 1933 and 1938 as he struggled to cope with news of the worsening situation in Germany.

Hope and optimism has always been central tenets of Classical Reform Judaism. According to its self-definition, Classical Reform Judaism has always affirmed the "prophetic vision that grounds our personal decision-making and ethical action in the teachings of our faith, as central expressions of our religious commitment as Reform Jews – inspiring each of us in our broader commitments to community service and our hope for peace and justice for all people." Messages of a hope for peace were found in many of Philipson's sermons. As my thesis argued that the individual interests and ideologies of the rabbis were one of the most influential elements in determining the messages delivered in their sermons, one may wonder the influence that Classical Reform tenets of hope had upon the optimistic messages that these rabbis delivered.

In addition to sermons, prayer books provide another entry point to a given moment in history. Historian Marc Saperstein writes that contemporary primary sources, such as the sermon and prayer book, are unique windows into history because they "take us back to a unique moment in the past with all its ambiguities and uncertainties, when the future was as opaque to everyone as the future is to us today." Comparing messages found in one's sermons and to those contained in their prayer book is a worthwhile endeavor because it allows two different views of the same person. Whereas a sermon was intended to respond to the needs of a specific group of people at a discrete moment in time, a prayer book aims to meet the spiritual needs of a larger group of people over a broader period of time. A consistent thematic message contained in both would be particularly significant as its presence would demonstrate that a value espoused in a few sermons was not an isolated event, elicited by a given moment in history or the needs of a specific congregation, but rather that its presence could be attributed to the broader ideological orientation of an individual contributing to both and/or his or her movement.

David Philipson played a central role in the publication of the Revised Edition of The Union Prayerbook for Jewish Worship (1922). Evening Services for the Sabbath in this prayer book will be evaluated for their reflections on the theme of "hope". The presence or absence of messages of hope in this prayer book, revised with Philipson's participation during World War One, will serve as a worthwhile point of comparison to messages of hope his sermons during the rise of Nazism (1933), as both were periods of turmoil It will be argued that similar messages of hope were found in Philipson's prayer book and his sermons and therefore its presence in both primary sources may have resulted from the optimistic orientation of Classical Reform Judaism.

David Philipson was born in Wabash, Indiana in 1862, but his family later moved to Columbus, Ohio. In 1883, Philipson graduated in the first class of Hebrew Union College, while he simultaneously earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduation, Philipson taught briefly at Hebrew Union College before accepting a congregational position at Har Sinai Congregation of Baltimore, where he served for four years. After this brief experience as a congregational rabbi, Philipson returned to the world of academia, serving for two years at Johns Hopkins University, where he did post-graduate work in the field of Assyriology and Semitic languages. In 1888, Philipson took a position as the rabbi at Bene Israel, now Rockdale Temple of Cincinnati, where he served for fifty years until his retirement in 1938. While serving as a rabbi, he also taught at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and served on its board of governors.

Outside of congregational life and the classroom, Philipson was a leader, distinguished author, and passionate advocate. In 1885 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Philipson participated in the formulation of the Principles of Reform Judaism, known as the Pittsburgh Platform that represented the values espoused by Classical Reform Judaism. According to Michael Meyer, noted historian of Reform Judaism, this gathering of nineteen rabbis that occurred in Pittsburgh, "must be understood as an attempt to lay down a set of defining and definitive principles which would distinguish Reform Judaism from a wholly nonsectarian universalism on the one hand and from more traditional expressions of Judaism on the other." The document itself suggested the supremacy of Judaism and the need to continue Judaism as a separate religion, not to be consumed by ethical culture in general. "At the same time it established Reform Judaism, not on the basis of biblical or rabbinical law, but on a conception of God and morality anchored in, but also departing from, the text which first reflected it." Additionally, within the Reform movement, Philipson was instrumental in the founding of the Central Conference of American Reform Rabbis (CCAR) in 1889.

Philipson's ideological position reflected his commitment to the values of Classical Reform Judaism. He was passionate about his identitiy as an American and was deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and activity - sentiments whose roots lay in Philipson's strong sense of universalism. Hand in hand with this love of his homeland and its culture came a rejection of Jewish nationalism; political Zionism was viewed as an obstacle to this universalism.

In 1914 the CCAR decided that there was a need to make revisions to the Union Prayer Book that originally appeared in its completed two volume form in 1895. They believed that "the revision should be more than verbal, but should retain, as far as possible, the structure and framework of the present book." Philipson served as the chairperson of the Revision Committee. The first revision of Volume One appeared in 1918 and the revision of the Second Volume was completed in 1922.The Evening Services for the Sabbath in The Union Prayer Book revision demonstrate that hope is achieved and sustained through two different venues: hope and faith in God as the guarantor of the future, and the ultimate source of strength and hope in the message of the weekly observance of the Sabbath. God is viewed as the source of hope in the face of all suffering. One Silent Devotion reads, "and when, in Thy wisdom, Thou sendest trials and sorrows, grant me strength to bear them patiently, and courage to trust in Thy help." God's back is never turned on the suffering of people and human suffering is not without purpose. "When we are tried by sorrow and days of anguish are allotted to us, it is not that Thou hast forsaken us. Thine eye is ever upon us and Thine arm still guides us. In Thine own time, O God, we shall surely say with the ancient seer: I thank Thee, that Thou has tried me; for now that Thy visitation is past, Thou comfortest me, and I draw waters of joy from the wells of salvation." God provides the ultimate hope. And to all those who continue to suffer from "tribulation, in sickness, in want, in danger of body or soul…let them see Thy help and grant them a blessed release from their trials." In this way God is perceived of as the ultimate source of hope.

The inspiration of Sabbath worship provides the other source of hope and comfort for those in need. This can be seen most clearly in the text "Heavenly Father, we rejoice that amid the ceaseless cares and anxieties, the vain desires and wearisome struggles of our earthly life, Thy holy Sabbath has been [to] us as a day of rest and refreshment of the soul. It takes the burden from our shoulders, calls us to restfulness of Thy house and the joy of Thy worship, and comforts us by Thy gracious message: Peace, peace be to those that are far and to those that are near." The figurative light of the Sabbath is described as a means to sustain the Jewish people throughout history in the following poetic way, "the Sabbath light shone into the life of our fathers as a beacon across a storm-tossed sea. It sent rays of comfort into Judah's tents when the darkness of persecution had enveloped them, and the iron had entered the soul of a martyred people." Therefore Shabbat is characterized in the prayer book as another source of hope to people in need.

Similarly, faith in God features prominently as a source of hope in Philipson's sermons in 1933, but Shabbat is not mentioned. In one sermon, "The Song of Hope," immediately after speaking about optimism and pessimism, Philipson turns to the historical suffering of the Jewish people. Philipson stated:

Possibly no more striking in the instance of the tremendous influence exercised by the quality of hope is furnished anywhere than by what is known as the Passover hope among the Jews. No people has passed through more gruesome experiences than did the Jews for centuries. Driven from pillar to post, persecuted, mobbed, pogromed and murdered during decades and centuries in all European lands they were enabled to endure because of the hope instilled by the faith which found constant expression in the words of the Psalmist, "the Lord is with me, I shall not fear."

God, in this sermon, is depicted as the ultimate sustaining force of hope and life. Another sermon delivered on Passover morning of 1933, "Can We Still Hope?" also featured God prominently as a source of optimism. Philipson then raised the question that he most likely believed was on everyone's mind, "Can our German co-religionists sound that note of hope in these darkest days that possibly have ever befallen them?" Philipson responded with a sense of urgency by tracing the chapters of suffering of Jews in Germany and the irony that suffering in Germany seemed a thing of the past for the Jewish community, who were free and loyal citizens. Philipson argued that Hitler's systematic cruelty cannot really be compared to any previous suffering of the Jewish people. He said that German Jewry face ruin and annihilation. He spoke of the harsh reality that Passover for them [German Jews] was a mournful period and that their future depended upon rallying the indignant public for help. Philipson ended his address with a practical suggestion—if the world expressed dissatisfaction with the suffering of the Jews and their treatment at the hands of the Nazis, then "…even Hitler and his minions will have to pay heed. An isolated Germany is a ruined Germany. God grant that these madmen who are controlling the destiny of the Reich may soon be brought to their sense. That is our present Passover hope." In this way, Philipson's hope was bound up in a call to action—that the world (he mentions the United States and England, specifically) need to hold Hitler accountable for his actions. Philipson hoped that the world would intercede. This and God was the source of his hope.

Although both Philipson's sermons and the prayer book feature God as the source of hope, the sermons also include calls to action. In the case of Philipson's latter sermon, his charge is to call on foreign nations to intercede in Germany on behalf of German Jewry. Philipson's emphasis on God as a source of hope in both the sermons and the prayer book are not a coincidence and are symptomatic of the centrality of God within Classical Reform thinking, expressed best in the Principles of the Society. "We believe that Judaism is a religious faith with a universal message for all people. While the search for faith and encounter with God is at the triheart of this commitment, we recognize the many different ways in which individuals define and experience their religious belief as Jews." Therefore, one may argue that the messages of hope in the face of the impending horror of the Holocaust, found in both David Philipson's sermons and the texts of the 1922 Union Prayer Book are part and parcel of the spiritual tradition of Classical Reform Judaism.