The SCRJ was founded in 2008, by a group of rabbis and lay leaders from congregations throughout the United States, as a national voice of advocacy for the broad, universalistic ideals of the Classical Reform tradition - the historic progressive interpretation of liberal Judaism in America. We seek to preserve and creatively renew the deep spiritual values, rich intellectual foundations and distinctive worship traditions that have historically distinguished the Reform Movement. Our mission includes:
- The fostering of a meaningful and accessible worship service, primarily in English, reflecting Reform Judaism’s inclusive spiritual ideals, enriched by the beautiful music and challenging pulpit teaching that inspires both mind and heart.
- Affirming the Prophetic vision that grounds our personal decision-making and ethical action in the teachings of our faith, as central expressions of our religious commitment as Reform Jews – inspiring each of us in our broader commitments to community service and our hope for peace and justice for all people.
- A focus on the centrality of our heritage and life as American Jews in the expression of our religious identity; celebrating the richness of the experience of our faith and people in the free, open and pluralistic society of the United States.
- Our advocacy of an active outreach and warm, unconditional support for interfaith families - including the celebration of their weddings - and a welcome to all those seeking to become part of the Jewish community, regardless of background, by fostering inclusive, accessible worship and models of Jewish identity that transcend the boundaries of ethnicity.
The Society has become a recognized and respected voice within the national Reform Movement, working with its governing institutions as a constructive, collegial voice celebrating our diversity and affirming the heritage we all share as Reform Jews - regardless of where we may stand on the contemporary spectrum on interpretation and practice. We have participated in the gatherings and contributed to the publications of the Union for Reform Judaism, sharing our message with rabbinic and lay leaders of congregations throughout the country. A primary focus of our efforts has been our deepening partnership with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary of Reform Judaism. With an initial $500,000 grant from the Edward and Wilhelmina Ackerman Foundation of Dallas, Texas, the Society has launched a broad program of scholarships, academic courses, and enrichment programs to inspire a new generation of rabbinic students in their encounter with the liberal religious tradition of which they are the heirs. The SCRJ has also presented special worship services, sermons and educational forums at Reform congregations throughout the United States, helping them to reaffirm their heritage and experience the beauty of the liturgy, music and principles of Classical Reform worship in new and creative ways.
In addition, we have developed a broad variety of programs and educational resources to spread our message:
- The Society’s website (www.renewreform.org) offers extensive resources on the philosophy and history of the liberal Jewish tradition.
- Our quarterly journal and newsletter, The Reform Advocate, reports our continuing progress, and provides a forum for essays, sermons and scholarly articles on Classical Reform Judaism and its message for our time.
- Our compact disc recording, Come O Sabbath Day, has received widespread attention and become a popular resource for hundreds of individuals around the country who wish to experience the distinctive meaning and tradition of Classical Reform worship and music. Additional recordings are being developed that will include Services for the High Holy Days, Passover, Chanukah and American holidays.
- The Society co-published a new edition (2012) of The Union Prayer Book- Sinai Edition, in cooperation with Chicago Sinai Congregation, one of the historic centers of Classical Reform in America. This contemporary language rendition of the beloved texts of the liturgy that inspired generations of Reform Jews, offers a unique supplementary alternative to other Prayer Books. The Sinai Edition features clear, flowing worship services, primarily in English, featuring prayers, meditations and hymns in modern - yet poetic - literary style, with the core Hebrew texts both translated and transliterated for ease of shared use by all worshippers.
In each of these ways, the Society seeks to inspire and challenge the Reform Movement - its national institutions, rabbis and congregations – to reaffirm the broad, progressive vision of the pioneers of modern liberal Judaism, who sought to renew the Jewish mission for modern times and to confidently and fully engage in the life of our American society. They spoke of creatively renewing the Biblical ideal of “a House of Prayer for all people…” We believe that many unaffiliated Jews, and those who are disenfranchised and marginalized by the prevailing styles of worship and models of identity in many Reform temples today, can find special meaning and empowerment in the inclusive and accessible expression of the Jewish faith and tradition offered by Classical Reform. As the nature of the Jewish community continues to undergo profound change, and countless numbers of estranged younger people, interfaith couples and multicultural families seek to find a welcoming place within Judaism, the vision of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism offers a unique alternative.
We invite you to explore our resources on this site, and to join us as a contributing member of the Society – sharing our vision of the preservation and renewal of our American Liberal Jewish heritage for the 21st century!
back to top
We are committed to the preservation and creative nurturing of the historic ideals of Classical Reform Judaism with its progressive spiritual values, rich intellectual foundations, and distinctive worship traditions. We believe that Classical Reform, which embodies its own integrity and enduring significance in the midst of the many rich streams of Jewish experience through the ages, has a continuing vitality and potential to speak to a new generation of Jews today.
We believe that Judaism is a religious faith with a universal message for all people. While the search for faith and encounter with God is at the heart of this commitment, we recognize the many different ways in which individuals define and experience their religious belief as Jews.
We share with Jews everywhere special ties of history and destiny. We understand the Jewish People as a community of faith, bound together by our shared experience, and grounded in the distinctive teachings of the Jewish religion. The rich and varied ethnic and cultural traditions of the Jewish experience throughout the ages offer meaningful dimensions for our religious identity, but our faith is timeless and universal in its aspirations.
We uphold the Prophetic vision that calls us to active engagement in the struggle for peace and social justice for all people, which has always inspired Reform Judaism. We affirm that our faith's ethical values are at the core of our religious commitment and that our worship and celebration must always reflect these ideals.
Our worship embraces an inclusive experience of prayer and celebration. In the historic spirit of Reform Judaism, we are committed to a meaningful, participatory liturgy that appeals to both mind and heart — a primarily English language worship Service, enriched by the timeless elements of Hebrew texts and song that link us to our past and to our fellow Jews throughout the world. The distinctive traditions of Reform synagogue worship, including its great repertoire of choral and instrumental music and challenging pulpit teaching, are important priorities for us. We believe that this expression of our faith offers a uniquely meaningful and accessible spiritual option for many Jews today. While preserving the best traditions of Classical Reform, we are also committed to the dynamic development of creative, new expressions of its principles and practice.
We particularly affirm and celebrate the unique experience of Judaism in the United States. Our Hebrew Bible's ideals of liberty and justice have helped shape American democracy from its earliest beginnings. Inspired by our tradition, and responding to its ethical and social values, Jews have played a vital role in the founding and building of America. We cherish this noble heritage and are committed to the exercise of our rights and responsibilities as proud and loyal citizens of this nation. These obligations include prophetic dissent, expressed in the democratic process, as well as full civic engagement in our society.
We share with all Jews an appreciation of the significance of the State of Israel in the broad context of Jewish history. We join together in the hope for the wellbeing and security of Israel and its people, living in justice and peace with its neighbors. We also embrace the broad diversity of opinion in the Jewish community on the complex political and moral issues reflected in the tragic conflicts in the Middle East today. While as American Jews, our ties to Israel are historical and spiritual, we also affirm that it is Judaism's religious and ethical ideals that are at the core of our Jewish identity and commitment.
We affirm a broad, inclusive pluralism, which reflects the full diversity within today's changing Jewish community and welcome all those who share our ideals. We are particularly committed to an active outreach and warm, unconditional welcome for interfaith and multicultural families, in the belief that the universal spiritual values of Classical Reform are uniquely meaningful and empowering for this ever growing number of our young people.
Our most fervent hopes and prayers are for a strong, creative and spiritually renewed American Jewish community and for freedom and security for Jews everywhere as we fulfill our historic mission of working
together with all of God's people to build a world of justice, love and peace.
back to top