What Is Reform Judaism?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of the Reform Movement in North America, provided the following definition on its website (accessed Dec. 5, 2007):
“Throughout history, Jews have remained firmly rooted in Jewish tradition, even as we learned much from our encounters with other cultures. Nevertheless, since its earliest days, Reform Judaism has asserted that a Judaism frozen in time is an heirloom, not a living fountain. The great contribution of Reform Judaism is that it has enabled the Jewish people to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, to embrace diversity while asserting commonality, to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt, and to bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship.
Reform Judaism affirms the central tenets of Judaism – God, Torah and Israel – even as it acknowledges the diversity of Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. We believe that all human beings are created in the image of God, and that we are God’s partners in improving the world. Tikkun olam — repairing the world — is a hallmark of Reform Judaism as we strive to bring peace, freedom, and justice to all people.
Reform Jews accept the Torah as the foundation of Jewish life containing God’s ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people’s ongoing relationship with God. We see the Torah as God inspired, a living document that enables us to confront the timeless and timely challenges of our everyday lives.”Dec. 5, 2007 - Union for Reform Judaism
Judaism 101, an online encyclopedia of Judaism, in a section on its website (accessed July 17, 2006), offered the following description:
“Reform Judaism does not believe that the Torah was written by G-d. The movement accepts the critical theory of Biblical authorship: that the Bible was written by separate sources and redacted together. Reform Jews do not believe in observance of commandments as such, but they retain much of the values and ethics of Judaism, along with some of the practices and the culture. The original, basic tenets of American Reform Judaism were set down in the Pittsburgh Platform. Many non-observant, nominal, and/or agnostic Jews identify themselves as Reform simply because Reform is the most liberal movement, but that is not really a fair reflection on the movement as a whole.
The 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) found that 35% of American Jews identify themselves as Reform, including 39% of those who belong to a synagogue. There are approximately 900 Reform synagogues in the United States and Canada.”July 17, 2006 - Judaism 101 (Online Encyclopedia of Judaism)
The Jewish Virtual Library, in a July 17, 2006 reference from its website, contained the following explanation:
“Reform Judaism is the most liberal of the major movements within Judaism today. It started in the 1800s in Germany during the emancipation and encouraged the examination of religion with an eye toward rationality and egalitarianism.
Reform Judaism 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 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 God. Reform Judaism 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 God.”July 17, 2006 - Jewish Virtual Library