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Progressive Judaism


Progressive Judaism

Progressive Judaism is an umbrella term used by the strands of


  • Israel 1
  • Continental Europe 2
  • United Kingdom 3
  • North America 4
  • A common progressive identity 5
  • Communities developed after 1926 6
  • Communal life 7
    • Rabbis, cantors and communal leaders 7.1
    • International cooperation 7.2
    • Regional organizations 7.3
  • See also 8
  • Notes 9


The way Progressive Judaism in Israel is practiced is in some ways more traditional than practice in the Diaspora. Hebrew is used exclusively in worship services. Classical Jewish texts and Rabbinic literature play a more prominent role in Reform education and synagogue life. A Progressive Beit Din (religious court) regulates procedures of conversion and offers guidance in other ritual matters. This traditional leaning embodies one of the original, classic principles of the movement: that Progressive Judaism draws upon powerful influences in the larger social context in which it lives and grows.[6]

Continental Europe

In the first half of the 19th century, reform-minded Jews in Germany identified with the name "Reform". Early rabbinic reformers, such as Abraham Geiger, had no desire to start a separate movement. They identified with the term "reform" and periodically met in synods, but did not formally organize into an independent denomination or rabbinic association. The intellectual roots of the Reform and Liberal lie in that period.

The laity was more impatient with the process of reform. When the German government authorized the establishment of officially recognized separatist congregations, radical lay people in Frankfurt and Berlin formed their own congregations. In 1842 a radical group of lay people in Frankfurt formed the Reformfreunde (Friends of Reform).[7] In the summer of 1845, a group of lay people in Berlin, led by Sigmund Stern formed the Association for Reform in Judaism and held High Holiday services using a liturgy designed by the association. In 1850 the association renamed itself the Jewish Reform Congregation of Berlin.[8] This attempt at congregational separatism, however, failed to flourish. No other official congregations were established[9] and prominent reformers, such as Abraham Geiger, refused to serve them.[10]

By the final quarter of the 19th century, the reform process slowed down to the point that younger members of the community accused their reform minded elders of being a "ham-eating orthodoxy".[11] The next generation of reformers coalesced around a new name: "liberal".[12] This time attempts at organization gathered momentum and gained rabbinic support. In 1898, German liberal rabbis organized into the Union of Liberal Rabbis in Germany. In 1908 the liberal laity organized into the Union for Liberal Judaism in Germany. Within a year had over 5000 lay and rabbinic members belonging to some 200 communities.[13] In the 20th century, the predominant terms in continental Europe are either "Liberal" or "Progressive".

United Kingdom

The term "Progressive" is used in two senses in the United Kingdom. Some synagogues affiliated to Liberal Judaism (formerly the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues) had "Progressive" rather than "Liberal" in their title. Today, however, the term "Progressive" is increasingly used as an umbrella term covering both Reform and Liberal Judaism.

North America

In North America laity, rabbis and congregations began organizing much earlier than in Europe. In 1825, lay members of Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC). Shortly after, in 1875, the Hebrew Union College was established to improve the quality of rabbis in the US.

As in Europe, there were significant disagreements among the reformers over the role of tradition. In 1883, a banquet was planned to celebrate the first graduating class of rabbis from Hebrew Union College. According to a contemporary account, radical elements among the Reform leaders ordered shrimp for the dinner's menu which are forbidden according to the Jewish laws of kashrut, leading to guests walking out in disgust. The so-called Trefa Banquet has taken on mythic status as a source of the conflict between the radical and conservative reformers, though modern accounts pin the blame on a combination of eagerness and naivete and, as an account by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise stated, “the Cincinnati Banquet Committee allowed a few dishes to be served which are forbidden according to Jewish ritual law".[14][15] The conflict further intensified in 1885 when a fierce debate broke out between Kaufmann Kohler and Alexander Kohut over the very nature of reform.

In response to debate, Kohler called a conference of reform-minded rabbis in Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In the 1930s, a third stream of non-orthodox Judaism began to develop in the USA -

  1. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Resources List
  2. ^ (Accessed November 1, 2007)
  3. ^ Meyer, Michael. Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 1988), 336-345.
  4. ^ Arzenu | Home
  5. ^ (Accessed November 1, 2007).
  6. ^
  7. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 122
  8. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 128-131
  9. ^ David Philipson, The Reform Movement in Judaism (USA:KTAV, 1967 (originally released in 1930), 257.
  10. ^ Philipson, The Reform Movement in Judaism, 268
  11. ^ Philipson, The Reform Movement in Judaism, p. 386
  12. ^ Philipson, The Reform Movement in Judaism, p. 387
  13. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 210
  14. ^ , American Jewish ArchivesThe Myth of the Trefa Banquet: American Culinary Culture and the Radicalization of Food Policy in American Reform JudaismSussman, L.J.
  15. ^ The "Trefa Banquet" and the End of a Dream in Michael Feldberg (ed.), Blessings of Freedom: Chapters in American Jewish History, The American Jewish Historical Society / KTAV, 2002. ISBN 0-88125-756-7. Chapter 5.7 (or #52 online). Accessed November 2, 2007
  16. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 268
  17. ^
  18. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 336
  19. ^ Meyer, Response to Modernity, 339
  20. ^ - affiliation with WUPJ listed at bottom of page under "Other JRF Affiliations"
  21. ^ Eugene B. Borowitz. Liberal Judaism, 341 - 349.
  22. ^ a b (Accessed November 1, 2007)
  23. ^ (Accessed November 1, 2007)
  24. ^ a b [1] (accessed November 1, 2007)
  25. ^ HUC-JIR - The Chronicle - 1999
  26. ^ (Accessed November 1, 2007)
  27. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Netzer Olami
  28. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Australia, Asia and New Zealand
  29. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Europe
  30. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Former Soviet Union
  31. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Israel
  32. ^ - number obtained by counting the congregations listed for each region in the combo box on this page
  33. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | South Africa
  34. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Latin America and The Caribbean
  35. ^ The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | North America


See also

Regional organizations that are members of the World Union for Progressive Judaism include:

Progressive congregations identify themselves by joining one of the many regional organizations. The regional organizations set common goals and work together on joint projects through the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ).

Regional organizations

International cooperation

See Category:Progressive Jewish higher education Rabbis, cantors and communal leaders for the worldwide progressive movement are trained in one of three rabbinic institutions: Leo Baeck College,[22][23] Abraham Geiger College[24] and Hebrew Union College.[25] While all three train rabbis for the worldwide progressive movement, each has a different regional focus: The Abraham Geiger College focuses on providing leadership for communities in Germany, Central and Eastern Europe.[24] Leo Baeck College, located in the UK, focuses on leadership for the UK Reform and UK Liberal.[22] Hebrew Union College, with campuses in the USA and Israel, trains rabbis and communal service leaders for work in North American Reform and Israeli Progressive congregations. It also provides a year in Israel program for students at the Leo Baeck College and Abraham Geiger Institute.[26]

Rabbis, cantors and communal leaders

Communal life

Countries whose progressive community developed post 1926, generally identify with the name "Progressive". This includes all of Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, etc.), South America, the Former Soviet Union and Israel. Many of the European communities rebuilt after World War II with the help of the WUPJ also consider "Progressive", rather than "Liberal" or "Reform" their primary identity.

Communities developed after 1926

The more conservative half of the UK reform movement, UK Reform did not participate in these initial meetings. However, it later joined the WUPJ in 1930.[19] In the USA, both Reform and Reconstructionist[20] Judaism belong to the WUPJ.[21]

Prior to World Union for Progressive Judaism.[18]

A common progressive identity


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