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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

While allowing individual congregations great laxity in determining their standards and styles of worship, the Reform movement has maintained institutional cohesion through a network of national institutions, such as the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Hebrew Union College, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.


Reform rabbis are all trained by the Hebrew Union College where the emphasis is on education in theology and pastoral skills, rather than textual expertise in rabbinic texts. Most Reform cantors are operatically trained singers who perform musically ornate, often baroque, liturgical compositions. Today however, the trend is toward more participatory communal singing during services.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Reform Judaism has remained centrally rooted in the universal moral teachings of the Hebrew prophets, rather than in the ancient rituals of Israelite religion and medieval rabbinical law. As a result, Reform congregations are noted for their deep involvement in many forms of social activism.

Vision for Society

Reform Judaism replaces the classical Jewish belief in a personal messiah who would miraculously restore the ancient Kingdom of Israel, with the hope for universal peace and brotherhood. Salvation, in Reform theology, is defined in liberal, humanistic, rather than supernatural, terms.

Gender and Sexuality

Reform Judaism was the first Jewish denomination to ordain women rabbis and cantors. Services have been completely gender-egalitarian since the mid-20th century. Reform remains the only Jewish denomination to accept fully and unambiguously openly gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors.