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Religion Library: Reform Judaism

Quick Facts

Formed1810 CE
DeityGod (monotheistic)
Sacred TextsTorah, Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures), Talmud
HeadquartersNew York City, NY USA (Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis)

Reform Judaism is the most liberal branch of modern Judaism. In an attempt to adapt to the social, cultural, and political situation of the modern world, Reform Judaism has either abandoned or changed many of the traditional Jewish religious observances. At its core, the Reform movement challenged the belief that the laws and rituals taken from the Bible required strict observance in the modern world. The Reform movement began in Germany in the early 19th century when many European Jews struggled to achieve full political emancipation and social integration. They began to question their adherence to some of the traditional religious practices that made them distinct. Abraham Geiger (1810-74), considered by many to be the spiritual father of the Reform movement, based this new movement on the concept that the essence of Judaism was the universal idea of ethical monotheism and it therefore has an important role in human history. Religious innovation and creativity facilitated an evolutionary concept of Judaism. Reform services and practices soon spread throughout Germany and into other European states and eventually the United States in the mid-19th century C.E. Reform Judaism continues to break with traditional Jewish religious observance and theology by allowing the ordination of women, interfaith marriages, and full participation of gay and lesbian members.


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