Reform Judaism and the Judaism of Reform Jews: A Conservative Perspective

By Wertheimer, Jack | Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, Summer-Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Reform Judaism and the Judaism of Reform Jews: A Conservative Perspective


Wertheimer, Jack, Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought


A JEWISH RIP VAN WINKLE WHO HAD FALLEN ASLEEP IN 1955 and awoke half a century later would be dumbfounded by the reversal of fortune experienced by each of the major Jewish religious movements. Who could have imagined in the middle of the twentieth century that Orthodoxy, which had been written off as a fossil, would regenerate with such dynamism and increasingly come under the sway of haredi and Hassidic groups, rather than the modern Orthodox? Who could have foretold that the Conservative movement, which had occupied a broad swathe at the center of the American Jewish community and had outpaced all the other movements at mid-century, would lose significant populations to either end of the spectrum and find itself hemmed in on both sides? And who could have foreseen in the mid-fifties that the plurality of synagogue-affiliated American Jews would join Reform temples that their forebears would have regarded as alien, if not "goyish"?

Although it was not his primary intention to explain why Reform Judaism is now the largest of the religious movements, Dana Evan Kaplan provides some suggestive answers in his book, American Reform Judaism: An Introduction. His chapters on "The Outreach Campaign" trace the history of Reform's embrace of intermarried Jews and their families, a population that now constitutes approximately 30 percent of Reform synagogue members, according to the 2000 National Jewish Populations Study. By virtually cornering this particular market, the Reform movement insured its own growth.

Beyond that fateful decision, the movement embarked on a deliberate program in the 1990s (and perhaps even before) to transform Reform synagogue life. Kaplan surveys the clearly focused campaign to revolutionize religious services, led by what was then called the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Movement leaders called upon cantors to foster congregational participation rather than rely upon choirs to sing to the congregation; the organ was replaced by string and wind instruments to further encourage singing; congregations eschewed the high church formality of the Union Prayer Book and even the Gates of Prayer, replacing them with liturgical compilations of their own devising; rabbis substituted free-wheeling discussions in place of formal sermons; and congregants were drawn to a more personalized service, featuring petitionary prayers such as the mi sheberach for healing. The texture, sounds, and choreography of weekly Sabbath services, though not necessarily of High Holiday prayers, were deliberately altered.

Simultaneously, the movement has also re-thought its approaches to Jewish education: some Reform temples now aspire to become "communities of learners," involving all members in Jewish study and in the nurturing of young people. Family education occupies center-stage, bringing multiple generations together for Jewish learning. Reform temples are upgrading their adult education offerings and encouraging their members to sign up for Melton and Meah courses. And the Reform camping movement continues to produce new leaders. There is even a small movement to nurture day schools under Reform auspices, a project that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. Where once the movement trumpeted social action, it now proclaims the virtues of Jewish education.

As to religious practice, movement leaders defined their agenda as the pursuit of "change in both directions"--they continued to re-appropriate previously discarded rituals, even as they re-calibrated the movement to embrace innovation. Kashrut, Tashlich, and Sukkot were now acceptable within the Reform context, which once had explicitly rejected them as retrograde. As to innovations, Reform was the first to ordain women as rabbis and invest them as cantors; it recognized the parity of homosexual relationships with heterosexual marriages; and it downgraded the importance of marriage as a basis for family life.

Despite these bold steps, the Reform movement, in Kaplan's view, suffers from an inability to inspire its adherents. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reform Judaism and the Judaism of Reform Jews: A Conservative Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.