What are our values?
Reform Judaism, the continuation of the millennial Jewish journey, embodies all the best of traditional Jewish values. We see the Torah as our foundation document and love Jewish learning. We are amazed and moved by the Jewish story and read in its pages the development of a tradition, a culture of extraordinary value. We are profoundly aware that it was Judaism that taught the world that God is the embodiment of the ethical and that we serve God not just through prayer and ritual but in the way we behave towards our fellow human beings. We are proud that our Judaism has a geography as well as a history and walk the living bridge between Britain and Israel with love and concern.
We have also learned a huge amount from modernity – about democracy, egalitarianism and human rights; about history and the transmission of sacred texts and truths. We have learned to trust the individual and the need for the individual to take responsibility for her or his own Jewish life. We have learned from the emergence of a global village that faiths can no longer exist independently of each other and claim to embody the whole of truth. We understand that there are few values greater than humility in the truth claims we make and working with others to repair the world.
We have also learned from the violence, inhuman behaviour and moral cynicism we see around us. Tolerant, compassionate religious traditions were never more needed. Religious and secular fundamentalists are today’s idolators.
Judaism embraces both the people and the ideas to make a real contribution to the cutting edge issues of our day, the values by which we can live together in justice and peace and sustain life on our planet.
We adopt an open and positive attitude to Jews, welcoming all as they are rather than as others think they should be. We welcome. We count people in. We solve problems rather than create them. We seek to open doors, not to erect barriers. We understand doubt. We prize our Jewish tradition of questioning. We know that answers are often provisional, fragmentary, glimpses on a journey towards a living truth and reality that is always before us.
We engage with the dialectic between tradition and modernity through the following guiding principles:
- Personal choice – Individuals have the autonomy to navigate their own way through a multiplicity of choices. There is no one pathway that everyone must follow to be authentic. Each person must be true to themselves while engaging with others to form a community of seekers.
- Egalitarianism – While men and women are not necessarily seen as identical, they are treated equally in terms of access to leadership, learning and engagement. Each person’s individuality is acknowledged (with their gender being part of that individuality), but no one faces discrimination or limits based on their gender.
- Inclusivity – The institutional culture invites people in as opposed to raising barriers to their participation. Efforts are made to welcome people and help them deepen their Jewish commitments and learning, without expending energy on defining the boundaries of who is in and who is out.
- Engaging deeply with Jewish texts and tradition – While each of these institutions allows individuals to find their own way, the authentic Jewish voice is maintained through an unmediated engagement with Jewish texts and tradition. Participants are expected to study and grow by engaging with Jewish texts and each other. Different interpretations are welcomed, and critical thinking encouraged.
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