Intro

Reconstructionists define Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people.  Reconstructionist Judaism has strong commitments both to tradition and to the search for contemporary meaning. Reconstructionists encourage all Jews to enhance their own lives by reclaiming our shared heritage and becoming active participants in the building of the Jewish future.

History and development

The founder of the reconstructionist movement, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, launched the movement in the 1920's with the creation of a reconstructionist magazine and his book, Judaism as a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of American Jewish Life. It was the insight of Rabbi Kaplan that Judaism could do well by incorporating the American ideals of equality and democracy. Theological perspectives that flourished in traditional hierarchical societies needed to be reconstructed to speak in a society where authority derived from the people and where one's religious or ethnic identity was not, in principle, a barrier to full economic and political participation.

Doctrine

Unlike Orthodoxy, Reconstructionism does not view Judaism as a total and immutable revelation from God to Moses at Sinai that is essentially unchanged through all generations. Reconstructionists view Judaism as the ever-evolving product of history, an ongoing attempt to forge a society based on holy values.

Reconstructionism diverges from Conservative Judaism in terms of priorities. Concerning observance, they differ specifically on the issue of how far one may go in amending Jewish law and who has the right to be involved in that process, believing that rabbis and scholars should work together with committed lay members of the Jewish community formulating guides to Jewish practice for our time.

These guides should reflect a desire to protect and preserve tradition as well as an openness to creativity and evolution.  Reform Judaism emphasizes the centrality of the prophetic tradition and insists that standards of ethical monotheism be applied universally. Reconstructionists affirm this emphasis and share in its commitment. Reconstructionism differs from Reform Judaism, however, concerning how much of the tradition needs to be preserved. Reconstructionists encourage Jews to give honest consideration to a wider range of traditional practice believing that Judaism is more than ethical monotheism.

Judaism according to reconstructionists is the historic, unique and most satisfying way by which the Jewish people can find ongoing meaning in their history.

Reconstructionists emphasize the importance of supporting the future development of Israel as the Jewish homeland, a variety of opinion exists within the Reconstructionist movement with regard to specific policies of the Israeli government. Most reconstructionists are united in supporting efforts by the World Union for Progressive Judaism who work to strengthen religious freedom in Israel and to make Israel a religious home for all Jews.

 


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