Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism
at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention, Central Conference of American
Rabbis. May 1999 - Sivan 5759
Torah - Israel
On three occasions during the last century and a half, the
Reform rabbinate has adopted comprehensive statements to help guide
the thought and practice of our movement. In 1885, fifteen rabbis
issued the Pittsburgh Platform, a set of guidelines that defined
Reform Judaism for the next fifty years. A revised statement of
principles, the Columbus Platform, was adopted by the Central
Conference of American Rabbis in 1937. A third set of rabbinic
guidelines, the Centenary Perspective, appeared in 1976 on the
occasion of the centenary of the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of
Religion. Today, when so many individuals are striving for religious
meaning, moral purpose and a sense of community, we believe it is
our obligation as rabbis once again to state a set of principles
that define Reform Judaism in our own time.
Throughout our history, we Jews have remained firmly rooted in
Jewish tradition, even as we have learned much from our encounters
with other cultures. 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
This "Statement of Principles" affirms the central tenets of Judaism
- God, Torah and Israel - even as it acknowledges the diversity of
Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. It also invites all Reform Jews
to engage in a dialogue with the sources of our tradition,
responding out of our knowledge, our experience and our faith. Thus
we hope to transform our lives through (kedushah), holiness.
We affirm the reality and oneness of God, even as we may differ in
our understanding of the Divine presence.
We affirm that the Jewish people is bound to God by an eternal (b'rit),
covenant, as reflected in our varied understandings of Creation,
Revelation and Redemption.
We affirm that every human being is created (b'tzelem Elohim), in
the image of God, and that therefore every human life is sacred.
We regard with reverence all of God's creation and recognize our
human responsibility for its preservation and protection.
We encounter God's presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of
justice and compassion, in loving relationships and in the
experiences of everyday life.
We respond to God daily: through public and private prayer, through
study and through the performance of other (mitzvot), sacred
obligations -- (bein adam la Makom), to God, and (bein adam la-chaveiro),
to other human beings.
We strive for a faith that fortifies us through the vicissitudes of
our lives -- illness and healing, transgression and repentance,
bereavement and consolation, despair and hope.
We continue to have faith that, in spite of the unspeakable evils
committed against our people and the sufferings endured by others,
the partnership of God and humanity will ultimately prevail.
We trust in our tradition's promise that, although God created us as
finite beings, the spirit within us is eternal.
In all these ways and more, God gives meaning and purpose to our
We affirm that Torah is the foundation of Jewish life.
We cherish the truths revealed in Torah, God's ongoing revelation to
our people and the record of our people's ongoing relationship with
We affirm that Torah is a manifestation of (ahavat olam), God's
eternal love for the Jewish people and for all humanity.
We affirm the importance of studying Hebrew, the language of Torah
and Jewish liturgy, that we may draw closer to our people's sacred
We are called by Torah to lifelong study in the home, in the
synagogue and in every place where Jews gather to learn and teach.
Through Torah study we are called to (mitzvot), the means by which
we make our lives holy.
We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of (mitzvot)
and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and
as a community. Some of these (mitzvot), sacred obligations, have
long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern,
demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our
We bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and
places of our lives through regular home and congregational
observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to
our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with (kedushah),
holiness, (menuchah), rest and (oneg), joy. The High Holy Days call
us to account for our deeds. The Festivals enable us to celebrate
with joy our people's religious journey in the context of the
changing seasons. The days of remembrance remind us of the tragedies
and the triumphs that have shaped our people's historical experience
both in ancient and modern times. And we mark the milestones of our
personal journeys with traditional and creative rites that reveal
the holiness in each stage of life.
We bring Torah into the world when we strive to fulfill the highest
ethical mandates in our relationships with others and with all of
God's creation. Partners with God in ( tikkun olam), repairing the
world, we are called to help bring nearer the messianic age. We seek
dialogue and joint action with people of other faiths in the hope
that together we can bring peace, freedom and justice to our world.
We are obligated to pursue (tzedek), justice and righteousness, and
to narrow the gap between the affluent and the poor, to act against
discrimination and oppression, to pursue peace, to welcome the
stranger, to protect the earth's biodiversity and natural resources,
and to redeem those in physical, economic and spiritual bondage. In
so doing, we reaffirm social action and social justice as a central
prophetic focus of traditional Reform Jewish belief and practice. We
affirm the (mitzvah) of (tzedakah), setting aside portions of our
earnings and our time to provide for those in need. These acts bring
us closer to fulfilling the prophetic call to translate the words of
Torah into the works of our hands.
In all these ways and more, Torah gives meaning and purpose to our
We are Israel, a people aspiring to holiness, singled out through
our ancient covenant and our unique history among the nations to be
witnesses to God's presence. We are linked by that covenant and that
history to all Jews in every age and place.
We are committed to the (mitzvah) of (ahavat Yisrael), love for the
Jewish people, and to (k'lal Yisrael), the entirety of the community
of Israel. Recognizing that (kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh), all
Jews are responsible for one another, we reach out to all Jews
across ideological and geographical boundaries.
We embrace religious and cultural pluralism as an expression of the
vitality of Jewish communal life in Israel and the Diaspora.
We pledge to fulfill Reform Judaism's historic commitment to the
complete equality of women and men in Jewish life.
We are an inclusive community, opening doors to Jewish life to
people of all ages, to varied kinds of families, to all regardless
of their sexual orientation, to (gerim), those who have converted to
Judaism, and to all individuals and families, including the
intermarried, who strive to create a Jewish home.
We believe that we must not only open doors for those ready to enter
our faith, but also to actively encourage those who are seeking a
spiritual home to find it in Judaism.
We are committed to strengthening the people Israel by supporting
individuals and families in the creation of homes rich in Jewish
learning and observance.
We are committed to strengthening the people Israel by making the
synagogue central to Jewish communal life, so that it may elevate
the spiritual, intellectual and cultural quality of our lives.
We are committed to (Medinat Yisrael), the State of Israel, and
rejoice in its accomplishments. We affirm the unique qualities of
living in (Eretz Yisrael), the land of Israel, and encourage (aliyah),
immigration to Israel.
We are committed to a vision of the State of Israel that promotes
full civil, human and religious rights for all its inhabitants and
that strives for a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors.
We are committed to promoting and strengthening Progressive Judaism
in Israel, which will enrich the spiritual life of the Jewish state
and its people.
We affirm that both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry should remain vibrant
and interdependent communities. As we urge Jews who reside outside
Israel to learn Hebrew as a living language and to make periodic
visits to Israel in order to study and to deepen their relationship
to the Land and its people, so do we affirm that Israeli Jews have
much to learn from the religious life of Diaspora Jewish
We are committed to furthering Progressive Judaism throughout the
world as a meaningful religious way of life for the Jewish people.
In all these ways and more, Israel gives meaning and purpose to our
(Baruch she-amar ve-haya ha-olam).
Praised be the One through whose word all things came to be.
May our words find expression in holy actions.
May they raise us up to a life of meaning devoted to God's service
And to the redemption of our world.