Reconstructionists define Judaism as more than a religion. For us, it is an ever-evolving way of life, encompassing history, literature, art and music, land and language.
Reconstructionist Judaism is a progressive, contemporary approach to Jewish life that integrates a deep respect for traditional Judaism with the insights and ideas of contemporary social, intellectual and spiritual life.
We believe that we are involved in active Judaism. We cherish the traditional spiritual foundation bequeathed to us, and we are open to new interpretations and forms of religious expression. We are responsible for shaping the spiritual legacy we will leave to future generations.
Founding of Reconstructionism
The founder of the reconstructionist movement, Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, launched the movement in the 1920's, incorporating the American ideals of equality and democracy into the study and practice of Jewish life. Kaplan's beliefs endorsed traditional Jewish customs and practices, but the reasoning behind them changed.
- Kaplan promoted the idea that rituals are made holy due to the unity and community of the people performing them, as opposed to the traditional Jewish view that God's command is what makes rituals mandatory.
- Kaplan saw Judaism not as a religion, but as a civilization, characterized by beliefs and practices, as well as language, culture, literature, ethics, art, history, social organization, symbols, and customs. He promoted the notion of a synagogue-center that offered religious prayer services as well as study programs, drama, dance, song, sports and exercise.
- He encouraged democracy in the synagogue community and advocated voluntary membership, elected leadership, and respect for the religious opinions of individuals.
Tenets of Reconstructionism
- Judaism is an Evolving Tradition
Reconstructionism is a "bottom-up" approach to Judaism. It begins with the experiences of the Jewish people. It speaks less of revelation and more of discovery. It emphasizes connection, opportunity and responsibility over commandment.
- Judaism is a Spiritual Path
Reconstructionist Jews understand Judaism primarily as a spiritual path, the means by which the search for ultimate meaning in life is conducted. God is the source of meaning, the power within that urges us toward generosity, responsibility, concern and self-fulfillment. God is found when we look for meaning in the world and work to realize the goals of morality and justice.
- Jewish People Share Past, Present and Future
Reconstructionist Jews believe the Jewish people share historical memory and destiny, a commitment to the Hebrew language and the land of Israel and are heirs to a rich legacy of thought, laughter and tears that continues to grow in our day.
- Jews Choose the Covenant
Reconstructionists diverge from definitions of Judaism that see God as choosing Israel from among other nations, initiating the covenant and revealing the law. They believe it is the Jewish people who choose to live in a context of covenant, through which tradition becomes holy. They believe in an historic mission, to witness the divine presence throughout the world, and especially to testify that every human life is sacred, created in the divine image.
- Reconstructionists are Religious Humanists
Reconstructionists believe in the human authorship of all religious traditions, including their own, and they realize that no tradition has a monopoly on religious truth. Reconstructionists believe that all peoples are called to build a world of justice and compassion, and we welcome dialogue with persons of good will in all traditions.
The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation was founded in 1955 to serve 100 congregations and havurot spread across North America. We are now united under the umbrella of the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.