Would you like an “ask the rabbi” opportunity on the Temple Website? I am working with our website committee to add a section for this purpose. All you would need to do is click the section and you will be directed to write an email. I will respond to you personally. In addition, I will pick one question every few weeks and post an answer on my blog section of our website. In fact, after you read this, I encourage you to go to our temple’s website @www.temple-judea.com and find my blog section in the drop-down menu under “Rabbi”. I already wrote an answer to a question I recently received.
If you click on my blog you will see that I was recently asked, “When did Reform Judaism begin? Was it about 40 or 50 years ago?”
Reform Judaism as a movement began in Central Europe during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Reform Judaism is the largest branch of Judaism in the United States and its seminary, Hebrew Union College, is the oldest seminary in our country. It was established in 1875.
However, I believe that Judaism has always been Reform in nature: in that it has always been willing to reform and adapt with the needs of people in our ever changing world. For example, the prophets in the Bible consistently challenge the status quo of their day: specifically they speak out against established inequalities and against the emphasis on ritual over moral values. This philosophy of reforming Judaism continued with the Talmudic rabbis who faced new challenges in their day that prevented them from practicing in the ways the Torah commanded. They found ways to preserve the spirit of biblical law even if it meant circumventing its dictates
Even the Jewish communities of the world have incorporated basic Reform concepts in the ways that they have adapted local customs and traditions into their Jewish practices (i.e. which is why, depending on where your ancestors came from, will determine if you name babies after those who are living or those who are deceased, or whether or not you will eat rice on Passover.)
I believe that the beauty and wisdom of Judaism has always been is in the creativity of its people to see how Judaism can live in their world view. That being said, Judaism constantly needs your views and your interpretations.
There are many who say that Judaism is not in touch with the younger generation, or many others in our current world. I wonder, is it possible that we simply are not aware of Reform Judaism – that our views can shape and truly make Judaism our own?
In addition to an “ask the rabbi” opportunity on our website, I invite you to click on the suggestion box on our website.
Rabbi Todd Chizner