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04/04/2023 02:22:27 PM


The birth of Reform Judaism

Last week we spoke of the increasing alienation of German Jews from their tradition. Emancipation meant Jews need not be tied to their Jewish community. Enlightenment led to their questioning the foundation of their traditional beliefs. Someone like the poet Heinrich Heine converted to Christianity not out of belief but to make his way in German intellectual society. Into this crisis stepped lay people and later rabbis in Germany who offered a way to be part of the modern world and observe Jewish practice. Hence, Reform Judaism was born.
The changes at first were based on proof texts from tradition. After some time, the proof texts were dropped—the traditional Jews would not be swayed in any case—but the changes stuck. They included: mixed seating of men and women at worship; organ accompaniment; omission of Israel as a desired destination; omission of praying for a personal messiah; and, gradually, an acceptance of travel on the Sabbath.
Eventually, other movements would emerge to challenge Reform Judaism, which became known as modern Orthodox and Conservative. But it started with Reform, for which we should be proud.

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784