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MazorGuide Home > Living Jewish > Denominations> Reform Platform

Jewish Denominations: Reform
Orthodox Judaism: One Torah, Many Paths

Reform Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut writes "there is no such thing as a Jewish theological principle, policy, or doctrine." This is because Reform Judaism affirms "the fundamental principle of Liberalism: that the individual will approach this body of mitzvot and minhagim in the spirit of freedom and choice. Traditionally Israel started with harut, the commandment engraved upon the Tablets, which then became freedom. The Reform Jew starts with herut, the freedom to decide what will be harut - engraved upon the personal Tablets of his life." [Bernard Martin, Ed., Contemporary Reform Jewish Thought, Quadrangle Books 1968.]

What do Reform Jews believe?
What do Reform Jews do?

If anyone were to attempt to answer these two questions authoritatively for all Reform Jews, that person's answers would have to be false. Why? Because one of the guiding principles of Reform Judaism is the autonomy of the individual. A Reform Jew has the right to decide whether to subscribe to this particular belief or to that particular practice.

But there is a historic body of beliefs and practices that is recognized as Jewish. We Jews have survived centuries of exile and persecution as well as centuries of unparalleled spiritual and intellectual creativity because we have always thought of ourselves as a people created "in the image of God," dedicated to tikkun olam -- the improvement of the world. And the particular beliefs and practices that have traditionally identified us as Jews have enabled us not only to survive creatively but to connect with the God "who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment."

We Reform Jews are heirs to a vast body of beliefs and practices embodied in TORAH and the other Jewish sacred writings. We differ from more ritually observant Jews because we recognize that our sacred heritage has evolved and adapted over the centuries and that it must continue to do so. And we also recognize that if Judaism were not capable of evolution, of REFORM, it could not survive.

Reform Judaism accepts and encourages pluralism. Judaism has never demanded uniformity of belief or practice. But we must never forget that whether we are Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, or Orthodox, we are all an essential part of K'lal Yisrael -- the worldwide community of Jewry.

All Jews have an obligation to study the traditions that have been entrusted to us and to observe those mitzvot -- those sacred and time-hallowed acts -- that have meaning for us today and that can ennoble our lives, as well as those of our families and communities. It is our mitzvot that put us in touch with Abraham and Sarah; with Moses, Hillel, and the Jews of fifth-century Babylonia, twelfth-century Spain, and eighteenth-century Poland; and with the Jews of twentieth-century Auschwitz, Israel, the former Soviet Union, and our neighboring town.

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This statement was adapted from the pamphlet entitled "What We Believe... What We Do..." prepared in 1993 by CCAR President Rabbi Simeon J. Maslin.
 

Read more about the different denominations by clicking below.

 

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