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Coming to Grips with Reform Judaism’s Crisis of Identity

Allan C. Brownfeld
Winter 2004

by Dana Evan Kaplan,  
Rutgers University Press, 288 pp.  
Hardcover $60, Paperback $22.  


The Reform Judaism movement, now the largest Jewish denomination in the United States, is facing a growing crisis of identity.  

Retreating from the vision of the founders of Reform Judaism, who advocated a religion of universal values free of nationalism and of traditions no longer meaningful in the modern world, the movement is moving in at least two contradictory directions. It is, on the one hand, moving back to concepts the founders rejected, such as the increasing use of Hebrew in religious services, wearing yarmulkes, following rituals once abandoned, and adopting notions of ethnic identity. At the same time, it is striking out in entirely new directions, including full equality for women and acceptance of gay and lesbian unions as well as homosexual rabbis.  

In this book, Dana Evan Kaplan, Assistant Professor of Judaic and Religious Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, research fellow at the University of Miami, and rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Albany, Georgia, explores the tensions in the Reform movement and its seemingly contradictory tendencies which came to a head in the debate over a new Reform platform considered by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) at its 1999 convention. Many rabbis and congregants opposed the reintroduction of traditional rituals, calling it a betrayal of Classical Reform principles. Others supported it as a move toward building the kind of distinctive spiritual community sought by many in the younger generation.  

Classical Reform  

“For decades,” writes Kaplan, “the movement was dominated by Classical Reform, a form of practice that emphasized the belief in ethical monotheism and rejected most traditional practices. But over the last several decades, this rigorous if nontraditional form of Judaism became, for many, an excuse to do little and care less. The Reform movement had become a ‘low tension’ religious group, which sociologist Rodney Stark explains is a religious body whose beliefs and practices do not dramatically set it apart from its environment. In contrast, a ‘high tension’ religious group has beliefs and practices that conflict with the surrounding ethos. The Reform movement’s traditional open-door policy allowed people not only to come in without any concrete expression of commitment, but also to stay without any active participation. This is less true today.”  

To understand how far the contemporary Reform movement has moved from the vision of its founders, Kaplan’s chapter on what he calls the “Classical Reform Period” is instructive. He notes that, “Classical Reform was the type of Reform Judaism that developed in the late 19th century. American Jews, most of whom were of central European background, saw the tremendous influence that liberal religion had on their Protestant neighbors and wanted to develop a form of Judaism equivalent to Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism and especially Unitarianism. As presented in the 1885 Declaration of Principles, known as the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, Classical Reform Judaism minimized Jewish ritual and emphasized ethics in a universalist context, stressing universalism while reaffirming the Reform movement’s commitment to Jewish particularism through the expression of the religious idea of the mission of Israel. The document defined Reform Judaism as a rational and modern form of religion in contrast with traditional Judaism on the one hand and universalist ethics on the other.”  

Social Justice  

Reform Judaism historically emphasized what it interpreted as “the central ... message of the prophets,” notes Kaplan: “... the need to fight for social justice. The Reformers believed deeply in working with their Christian neighbors to help make the world a place of justice and peace, and this belief was a central part of their religious worldview. The platform emphasized the prophetic mandate to work tirelessly for the rights of the downtrodden, and the term ‘prophetic Judaism’ described the Reform vision of following the dictates of the prophets to create a just society on earth. Coupled with the emphasis on its interpretation of prophetic Judaism, the Reformers in particular spoke frequently about the mission of Israel, which presented the idea that the prophets of the Bible served as advocates of ethical monotheism ... The mission of Israel was to stand as an example of the highest standards of ethics and morals and to help bring the world to an awareness of and commitment to ethical monotheism ... Judaism deserved to be taken seriously as a way of thought and a way of life by all individuals committed to finding a true understanding of God and God’s place in the world. This allowed Reform leaders such as Stephen Wise to declare that Judaism was destined to become the faith of all human kind, or at least all Americans who held liberal religious beliefs.”  

The concept of the “mission of Israel” rejected any notion of a return by Jews to Palestine. Instead, Kaplan points out, “This covenant as concept developed into the doctrine that the Jews are a people chosen by God to enter into a special covenant and that this relationship determined the course of their history. In traditional Judaism, this idea was tied in with the settling of Eretz Israel, the Holy Land promised by God as an eternal gift to the Jews. To this day, traditional Jews aspire to settle in the state of Israel not necessarily as a nationalistic act but rather as a way of fulfilling their religious ideals ... The Reformers ... vehemently opposed any suggestion that they should hold political loyalties other than the loyalty to the land of their birth and citizenship ... early Reform theologians used language from the prophets to declare that the Jews had a special mission to be a light unto the world and thus needed to be dispersed: God had deliberately scattered the Jews among the nations to bring the ethical monotheistic message of Israel’s God to all people.”  

God’s Unity  

As early as 1869, at a Philadelphia conference, a gathering of early Reform rabbis argued that Israel’s messianic aim was not the restoration of the ancient Jewish state but rather the union of all of God’s children in the confession of his unity. Thus, the destruction of the second Jewish commonwealth by the Romans in 70 C.E. was not a divine punishment, since the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world was necessary for them to fulfill “their high priestly mission, to lead the nations to the true knowledge and worship of God.”  

Kaufmann Kohler, a leading Reform theologian of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, explained it this way: “The task which the God of history has assigned to us is to unfold and spread the light of the monotheistic truth in its undimmed splendor, ever to be living witnesses, and also to die, if needs be, as martyrs for the One and holy God, to strive and battle also, if needs be, to suffer for the cause of truth, justice and righteousness, and thus to win the nations, the races and creeds, all classes of men by teaching and example, by life and mental and moral endeavor as well as of incessant self-sacrifice and service for Israel’s religious and ethical ideals.”  

Traditional Jews believe that at some unknown point in the future, a Messiah will come to redeem the Jewish people and will bring the remnants of Israel back to their homeland, rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and reinstate the sacrificial cult. “Reformers,” Kaplan writes, “rejected the idea of an individual Messiah and instead argued that it was up to human beings to work toward a messianic era, a time of world peace when all suffering due to poverty, plague, war, and so on would be eradicated. The Jews would not be brought back to the land of their ancestors but would fulfill their messianic hopes in their current place of residence ... A messianic belief based upon the return to Eretz Israel, the land of Israel, would be inconsistent with their contention that, for example, American Jews owed their sole loyalty to the United States.”  

This Land Our Palestine  

A typical Reform view was expressed in the comments of Gustavus Poznanski when he participated in the dedication of a new building for Congregation Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1841: “This synagogue is our temple, this city our Jerusalem, this happy land our Palestine, and as our fathers defended with their lives that temple, that city, and that land, so will their sons defend this temple, this city and this land.”  

Max Lilienthal, a prominent rabbi in Cincinnati in the latter part of the 19th century, echoed this view: “We Israelites of the present age do not dream any longer about the restoration of Palestine and the Messiah crowned with a diadem of earthly power and glory. America is our Palestine; here is our Zion and Jerusalem. Washington and the signers of the glorious Declaration of Independence - of universal human right, liberty and happiness - are our deliverers, and the time when their doctrines will be recognized and carried into effect is the time so hopefully foretold by our prophets. When men will live together united in brotherly love, peace, justice and mutual benevolence, then the Messiah has come indeed, and the spirit of the Lord will have been revealed to all his creatures.”  

The Reformers, writes Kaplan, “emphasized the prophetic ideals of justice and righteousness, arguing that these universalistic values formed the essence of Judaism. The 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, which differentiated moral and ritual laws and became the ‘principle of faith’ for Classical Reform Judaism, stressed that most of the ancient laws were not to be observed.” The Platform declared: “Today we accept as binding only the moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity and dress originated in an age and under the influence of ideas altogether foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They failed to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.”  

Steady Retreat  

The history of Reform Judaism, Kaplan shows, has been a steady retreat from the principles of the founders. “In response to the changing political environment,” he states, “the Reform movement began to accept and eventually embrace a more particularistic understanding of Jewish identity, including political Zionism, The Reformers began to accept a definition of Judaism centered on Jewish peoplehood ... In the aftermath of that tragedy (the Holocaust), the Reform movement veered away from its univeralistic triumphalism toward a more ethnically based cultural identity ... increasing numbers of Eastern Europeans joined Reform congregations. Under their influence, the Reform movement inched back toward a more traditional approach to Jewish thought and practice ... The CCAR adopted the Columbus Platform in 1937, officially named ‘The Guiding Principles of Reform Judaism.’ This new platform embraced Jewish peoplehood and leaned toward support of political Zionism.”  

More and more, Kaplan points out, Reform leaders appear to have focused their attention on Jewish “continuity” and “survival” rather than on affirmative theological beliefs about man, God, and the world: “The 1976 San Francisco Centenary Perspective document’s statement about belief in God begins, ‘The affirmation of God has always been essential to our people’s will to survive,’ which says nothing about belief in God but concerns rather the consequence of that belief for the Jewish people. Further, ‘In our struggle through the centuries to preserve our faith, we have experienced and conceived of God in many ways.’ Again the stress is on the struggle of the Jewish people to survive, and the text never defines the faith it has preserved. Already a contradiction arises: If the will to survive has depended on affirming a specific conception of God, then how can one say that Jews have seen God in so many ways?”  

Today’s Reform service, Kaplan points out, has now incorporated “increasing numbers of traditional practices such as the use of yarmulkes, the observance of the second day of Rosh Hashanah and even the wearing of teffilin ... Simultaneously the movement has drawn back from a commitment to social justice projects and embraced traditional ritual practice.”  

Israel’s Position  

When it comes to Reform’s relationship to the State of Israel, while Kaplan is critical of Israel’s refusal to grant Reform rabbis equal rights to perform marriages and burials, he feels that, “Because of the central position the State of Israel holds in the Jewish world, building a strong Reform movement there is the highest priority ... Israel is the world center of Judaism and the Jewish tradition ... Most American Reform Jews have become increasingly and painfully aware that the State of Israel - the country they look to as their spiritual homeland - discriminates against their religious movement.”  

It is highly unlikely that the majority of American Reform Jews agree with Kaplan’s assessment that Israel is “the country they look to as their spiritual homeland.” Instead, like the original Reformers, it is more likely that God, not Israel, is central to their religion and that they view themselves as Americans by nationality and Jews by religion, just as their fellow citizens of other faiths view their religion and nationality as separate and distinct.  

Kaplan is correct, however, when he makes it clear that Reform Judaism’s official bodies no longer share this perspective. He notes that, “The American Reform movement has shown its commitment to Zionism and the State of Israel ... In 1997, the CCAR adopted a platform devoted to discussing the commitment of the Reform movement to Zionism. The process had begun in 1989 when the Association of Reform Zionists of America initiated a series of three think thanks ... In 1994 the CCAR joined with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion to draft a centenary platform on Reform Zionism to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Zionism and the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of Israel ... While individual Reform Jews might show little interest in the events transpiring in the State of Israel, the Reform movement had reaffirmed its intimate involvement.”  

An American Religion  

When Kaplan writes that, “The marginalization of the Israeli Progressive movement threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the Reform movement in the U.S. and throughout the world,” it is difficult to understand what he means. American Reform Judaism evolved in the United States as a religion of universal values dedicated to the prophetic vision of God’s moral law and hope for an ethical world and a meaningful life. Whether that vision meets the approval of religious authorities in another country seems essentially beside the point. How many American Reform Jews really believe that the “legitimacy” of their religious faith lies in its success or failure in some other place?  

Ironically, Kaplan seems to understand this reality as well. He writes that, “Very few American Jews are interested in making aliyah, moving to Israel. Thus, both those who remain committed to Jewish identity and those who no longer care share a decreasing interest in what is happening in Israel ... American social and religious trends have also contributed to the increasingly distant relations. American Jews no longer look for the sort of nationalistic expression that so invigorated them in the 1960s and 1970s.”  

In other areas, such as support for gay and lesbian marriage and for homosexual rabbis, Kaplan finds it difficult to explain the rationale for such positions other than “compassion” and political correctness. He declares: “It is a big intuitive leap to say that fighting for gay and lesbian marriage rites/rights is in the spirit of the Torah and the prophetic tradition. It is hard to imagine a single prophet finding the idea even remotely acceptable.”  

No Analogues or Precedents  

He quotes a number of rabbinical critics. Philmore Berger of Temple Avodah of Oceanside, NY, for example, said: “It’s my duty as a rabbi to love all human beings, but it’s not my duty as a rabbi to approve of the behavior of all human beings.” Berger cited the passage of Leviticus 18:22, which calls homosexual behavior a “toevah” (an abomination). “So far as I know, no Jewish biblical scholar has reinterpreted the meaning of that verse.” Hebrew Union College professor Leonard Kravitz states that the Jewish tradition had an unequivocal position on homosexuality: “Unlike so many other issues such as birth control, for instance, on which different voices in our tradition say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘maybe’ - here is an issue on which the tradition speaks with one voice and it says, ‘no.’ There are no analogues or precedents anywhere in our tradition for homosexual rabbis, as there are, for example, for women rabbis or for the patrilineal descent issue. The Reform movement has begun to pay greater attention to the voice of tradition. We are taking kashrut and Shabbat more seriously we don’t just disregard what the Torah says.”  

Many Reform congregations faced the unusual circumstance in which rabbis were willing to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian congregants - as long as their gay and lesbian partners were Jewish - but not for heterosexual couples in which one partner was not Jewish. Some congregants were outraged, for example, when Jerome Davidson, senior rabbi at Temple Beth El of Great Neck, NY, agreed to participate in the commitment ceremony of his assistant rabbi, a lesbian, and her partner while refusing to officiate at weddings of members of his congregation who were to marry non-Jews. On Rosh Hashanah, 1997, Davidson announced a change of heart. He said he had decided to perform interfaith marriages under certain circumstances: “to do more to support such couples ... Some of us want to find ways to bless and perform their marriage ... It is necessary and right and ultimately will strengthen our faith.”  

When the 110th annual CCAR convention in Pittsburgh passed a new set of principles in May, 1999, the vote represented the culmination of eighteen months of debate over a Reform platform. Drafted by CCAR President Rabbi Richard Levy, the initial draft of the platform embraced kosher laws, the use of the mikveh (ritual bath), and more Hebrew in Reform services. The draft also declared that, “We encourage Reform Jews to make aliyah, immigration to Israel.”  

Sifting Through Tradition  

Writing in Reform Judaism (Winter 1998), Rabbi Robert M. Seltzer, professor of Jewish history at Hunter College of the City University of New York, declared that Rabbi Levy’s draft “fails to convey the distinctive ongoing mission of our movement.” He said that Rabbi Levy has eliminated “the greatest contribution of Reform to modern Judaism: a conscious sifting through the tradition, choosing practices that are consistent with the canons of rational thought, the best of modern knowledge and the hard-won place of Jews and Judaism at the center of modern Western society ... Rabbi Levy ... seems to suggest that we should wall ourselves off from ... society.”  

In the end, the draft was altered. Nevertheless, it moved the Reform movement further away from its original philosophy. Its understanding of Judaism became more ethnic and less universal. It urged “Jews who reside outside Israel to learn Hebrew as a living language,” to “affirm the unique qualities of living in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, and encourage aliyah, immigration to Israel.” This is a far cry from the view of the founders of Reform such as Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who declared that, “The idea of the Jews returning to Palestine is no part of our creed. We, rather, believe it is God’s will that the habitable world become one holy land, the human family one chosen people.” Judaism, he declared, was a world-wide religion: “The Jew’s nationality is not endemic; it is not conditioned by space, land or water. The Jew’s nationality ... is not in his blood ... It is all intellectual and moral, without any reference to soil, climate or any other circumstance. The Jewish nationality ... has been made portable.”  

Debate Over Platform  

The debate over the 1999 platform, Kaplan believes, may “have forced many Reform Jews to ask themselves what their synagogues stand for.” The concerns of the Reform rabbinate and those who administer its official bodies, Kaplan implies, have diverged dramatically: “A number of recent journalistic reports suggest that the obsession with Jewish continuity and survival worries lay and professional leaders almost exclusively and that most Reform Jews and most American Jews generally are just living their lives. Their attitude is, what happens, happens. As the intermarriage rate dramatically increased, the consensus in the Jewish community shifted from rejection of intermarriage to grudging acquiescence and then to acceptance. The Reform movement reacted to the change in social context and by proactively advocating and implementing new approaches to issues facing Jews and Judaism today.”  

In Kaplan’s view, approximately one quarter of the Reform movement remain loyal to the principles of Classical Reform. To “placate” this group, “most of the references to specific ritual acts were removed from Levy’s original proposed draft. The suggestion that Reform Jews might consider eating kosher food, taking ritual baths in a mikveh, and even wearing teffilin was shocking to many ... This new document ... still contained a number of issues that caused difficulties ... mainly the urging to read and speak Hebrew and the encouragement to make aliyah - move to Israel.”  

No Doubt about Direction  

The platform, passed by a vote of 324 to 68 with nine abstentions, was rewritten six times. It may not have gone as far toward embracing traditional rituals as its author intended, but there is no doubt in which direction Reform Judaism is moving. And that direction has serious conflicts and contradictions within it.  

Dr. Kaplan provides this assessment: “The controversy over the platform reinforced the impression that Reform is moving in two directions at the same time. Since the 1960s, the positions taken by the Reform movement have been shaped by two very different impulses that seem contradictory. On one hand, the Reform movement has reintroduced many traditional rituals and practices that had been rejected by Classical Reform, including the wearing of yarmulkes and prayer shawls for men and now women and, perhaps, most noticeably, the increase in the Hebrew in the ... services ... At the same time, the Reform movement has adapted to changing social realities by sanctioning a significant change in the traditional definition of who and what is a Jew - the patrilineal descent resolution of 1983, which accepted the children of Jewish fathers and gentile mothers as Jewish if they were raised as Jews ... They went even further when they decided to ordain first women and then gays and lesbians as rabbis and cantors. These innovative responses to changing social trends reveal how sensitive the leadership of the movement is to the needs of the typical congregant ... Others believe that the movement’s embracing of contradictory trends cannot continue forever, and that the platform may serve to galvanize opposition to either neo-traditionalism or to the politically correct social agenda.”  

Losing Their Synagogues  

Classical Reformers, Kaplan reports, “were voicing a great deal of concern. Many remained fearful that they were losing their own synagogues ... The debate over the platform reinforced the impression that what most concerned the rabbis did not worry the congregants, and that what concerned the congregants did not interest the rabbis ... Reform Judaism has been going through a process of re-ritualization and while the majority of the Reform movement has adapted to the changes, up to 33 percent of congregants today remain uncomfortable with the process. The conflict already brewing among congregants was accelerated when the new platform came to light.”  

Dr. Kaplan has provided us with a thoughtful assessment of the present state of Reform Judaism. He explores the ways in which the freedoms the Reform movement offers its followers contribute to its popularity, while at the same time threatening its future. The issues facing the Reform movement, he shows, are neither unique nor isolated. Many other religious movements are currently facing or will face future dilemmas. What Reform Judaism really stands for at the present time, however, is less than clear. It has abandoned much of the philosophy of the Classical Reformers, although that philosophy remains widespread within the movement. It has adopted positions which move, at the same time, toward tradition and toward the political correctness of the present time.  

Thus, Kaplan states, “Conflicting - one might also say contradictory - strands run through contemporary Reform Judaism. The movement is rushing to embrace more of what used to be regarded as traditional Judaism, while eagerly accepting social innovations that even today strike many as on the left fringe. It has begun to use the word ‘mitzvah,’ which means commandment, while insisting on its commitment to personal autonomy. It seems eager to reaffirm and even reinforce its historic links with the Jewish people around the world and in particular with the State of Israel but takes measures that seem to diminish or even destroy the possibility for reconciliation and unity.”  

Theological Clarity  

To solve this conflict, Kaplan urges greater theological clarity. “If the Reform movement is to prosper and grow, both numerically and religiously, it is going to have to develop a coherent, effective strategy for reconciling autonomy and authority.” But what should such a theology stand for? Should it embrace the vision of the classical Reformers, or move back toward tradition and ethnicity? And if it moves in one direction or another clearly and definitively, how many members will abandon a group which no longer shares their own vision?  

The fact is that the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform, which rejected Jewish nationalism and declared that Judaism was a religion of universal values and that Jews were at home in America, “is not as outdated as Rabbi Levy contends,” argues Rabbi Robert M. Seltzer. “Understanding that religious observances give structure and meaning to our lives, the platform insists that we should maintain ‘such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives.’ In the modern spirit of tolerance, it acknowledges the legitimacy of all religions and especially the ‘providential mission’ of Christianity and Islam. In the Jewish philosophical spirit, it insists on the purity of the Jewish ‘God-idea’ and the progressive nature of a Judaism ‘ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason.’ In the spirit of prophetic Judaism, it reiterates ‘the divine nature of the human spirit’ ... To be sure the 19th century platform clings to a faith in the essential goodness of human beings, of inexorable progress, which appears naive in light of the horrors of the 20th century. Rabbi Levy’s document, however, errs in the opposite direction, expressing a certain cultural pessimism.”  

Rejecting Jewish “Peoplehood”  

The Classical Reformers stripped Judaism of those characteristics which served the idea of a separate “Jewish peoplehood.” What remained, and what they deeply believed in, was the Judaism of the prophets, a religion of universal and moral ethical laws from a God who was the God of all men, not simply of the Jews. The prophets taught that the one God of the Israelites was the God of all the world. “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:6). And the Jews were to bring this message to all the peoples of the world: “Behold you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:1-15).  

Isaac Mayer Wise criticized the idea of Jewish nationalism and of an ethno-centric religion in these terms: “The false Messiahs who appeared from time to time among the dispersed and suffering remnants of Judah, had no religious purpose in view; all of them were political demagogues or patriotic fantasists with as much religious zeal as was deemed requisite to agitate the Jewish mind and to win the goodwill of the masses and its leaders for the proposed political end, which was the restoration of Jewish nationality and the conquest of Palestine. All of them failed miserably and left behind them plenty of misery for their thoughtless followers. And yet with that warning of history before them, the party of men called Zionists and the admirers of Dr. Herzl’s Judenstaat propose to do the same thing over in our days ... We cannot afford to let it go out into the world that we are in sympathy with a cause which we know will ultimately result in harm to the Jews even in this country ... We denounce the whole question of a Jewish state as foreign to the spirit of the modern Jew in this land, who looks upon America as his Palestine, and whose interests are centered here.”  

Beliefs of Most Jews  

Professor Thomas Kolsky notes that, “The Pittsburgh Platform, the classical expression of American Reform Judaism, represented the fundamental beliefs of most American Jews at the time of its formulation. Late in the 19th century, American Jews no longer considered themselves a nation or a nationality. Comfortable in the United States, they felt integrated into America and defined themselves as a religious community. The theology of Reform Judaism was a religion with a universal message. Their faith was as founded on optimism ... and on an almost religious love of America as the promised land. Confident about their future in the United States, they objected to efforts to revive Jewish nationalism.”  

In 1898, the CCAR adopted a resolution disapproving of any attempt to establish a Jewish state. The resolution declared: “Zion was a precious possession of the past ... as such it is a holy memory, but it is not our hope of the future, America is our Zion.”  

Which Path to Take  

There can be little doubt that Reform Judaism is in the process of moving further and further away from its philosophical foundation. In the end, it is America’s Reform Jews themselves who must decide which path to take. Do they want to advance in the spirit of the original reformers who had faith in America’s free and open society and proclaimed an expansive religious faith drawn from the prophetic vision of a moral and ethical world for all men and women, whatever their individual identities might be? Or, on the other hand, do they want Reform Judaism to move back to a more narrow, ethnocentric religion which abandons the changes which characterized the very essence of the Reform enterprise?  

Only time will tell us whether Classical Reform Judaism, committed to one universal God and rejecting ethnocentrism and separation for Judaism’s mission as a light to the nations, will survive into the 21st century. If it does not, men and women of all faiths who believe in a God large enough to encompass all of mankind with a vision of a moral and purposeful world will be the losers. Dana Evan Kaplan has set forth the dilemmas and the choices. Now it is up to us.  

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