What is Classical Reform Judaism?

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Excerpts from “A Concise Profile,” by Rabbi Howard Berman


Classical Reform Judaism is one expression of Reform Judaism that is resonating with the spiritual needs of a growing number of Reform Jews, interfaith families, and spiritual seekers from many different faith and cultural backgrounds.

The fundamental principle of Classical Reform is that the eternal Jewish Covenant with God is at the heart of our identity and history as Jews. While our faith engenders and empowers many different understandings and interpretations of the Divine, it is the religious quest for faith and meaning that is at the core of our Jewish identity. We believe that:

  • Judaism is primarily a universal religious faith, rather than an ethnic, cultural or nationalist identity. As a spiritual community, we cherish the unique ties of history and destiny that link us to our fellow Jews throughout the ages and around the world today.
  • We understand the Jewish People as a community of faith, bound together by our shared experience, and grounded in the distinctive teachings of the Jewish Religion. The rich and varied ethnic and cultural traditions of the Jewish experience throughout the ages offer meaningful dimensions for our religious identity, but our faith is timeless and universal in its aspirations.
  • We believe that as Jews, we are called to be witnesses to the Unity of God and the unity of all humanity, and that we must work as individuals and as a community to bring justice and peace to the world. We affirm this broad, universalistic and humanistic spiritual vision.
  • We cherish the distinctive worship traditions of historic Reform – a meaningful, participatory liturgy that appeals to both mind and heart. This commitment has always embraced a primarily English language (in the US) worship Service, enriched by the timeless elements of Hebrew texts and songs that symbolically link us to our past and to our fellow Jews throughout the world.
  • Classical Reform worship affirms the importance of challenging preaching that offers the wisdom of our Jewish tradition in addressing both the pressing moral and social issues of our day, as well as our personal spiritual growth and the deeper meaning of our human experience.
  • We particularly affirm and celebrate the unique experience and heritage of the Jewish experience in America. Our Torah’s principles of liberty, justice, and the equality of all people, have shaped American democracy from its earliest colonial beginnings. Inspired by the promise of the American values of freedom and opportunity, Jews have played a vital role in the founding and building of this nation.
  • The question of our relationship as American Jews to the State of Israel, is one of great importance and has a complex history in the development of the Classical Reform perspective, which embraces a broad diversity of opinion. we affirm that our link to the land of Israel is a deep and historic one and that the State of Israel has profound significance for the Jewish experience. We share with all Jews – and with many other people of good will – the hope and prayer for a secure, prosperous Israel, living in peace and justice with its neighbors.

Our hope and commitment is that the historic tradition of Classical Reform, which embodies its own integrity and enduring significance amid the many rich streams of Jewish experience through the ages, is recognized and honored for its continuing vitality and potential to speak to a new generation of Jews today.

Read more detail in A Concise Profile of Classical Reform Judaism” by Rabbi Howard Berman


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