people; yet each is a phenomenal opportunity to revitalize Jewish life. Only
very rarely has Jewish history known an era of so much creativity or innovation;
no previous generation has possessed our resources and potential…This moment
in Jewish history demands bold thinking with big ideas; this is not a time for
staying the course. It’s time to reinvent the architecture of Jewish life.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs (from his acceptance speech as the new president of the
Union for Reform Judaism, June 12, 2011)
A few weeks ago, I participated with other congregational presidents and URJ
leaders in a webinar with Rabbi Jacobs to discuss his transition, becoming the
new URJ President. Something that he said made a strong impression on me. He
said that Reform Judaism is not “Judaism Lite.” He went on to note, and
I am paraphrasing here, that ours is the most compelling form of Judaism in that
it incorporates rich philosophical, spiritual and social action values that
embrace autonomy, inclusiveness, creativity and relevance. This combination of
the best of tradition and of modernity is what makes Reform Judaism appealing to
religious seekers. But some of us, myself included, have not always appreciated
the richness. At times, particularly in matters spiritual we have looked to
other traditions. I offer a compelling example of this in the following.
At the recommendation of Rabbi Gerson on our OPT website, I have been reading the book,
Minyan: Ten Principles For Living A Life Of Integrity by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. The book lays out a wonderful
path of Jewish spirituality. Speaking to the dynamic of Jews looking elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment,
Rabbi Shapiro writes, “So prevalent was the presence of Jews in Eastern religions that Swami Satchidananda once remarked to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: ‘How spiritual your people are! Wherever I go,
whatever temple or ashram I visit, the place is filled with Jews.'”
We may choose to explore other traditions, but often, much of what we have been seeking has been within Reform Judaism all along. We just have to look, pay attention and learn in order to find it.
In mid-December, more than 6,700 Reform Jews from North America descended upon our nation’s capital for the Union of Reform Judaism’s Biennial. A group of eight us from Oak Park Temple heard the President of the United States addressing the largest gathering of North American Reform Jews ever assembled in one place, as
well as those who participated ‘virtually’ via webcasts. We also attended what may have been the largest Shabbat dinner ever, in one room, more than 4,000 Jews for a Shabbat dinner. Think our movement is stagnant? Think again!
These are exciting times for Reform Judaism. Be a part of it.
Happy New Year!