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What is Reform Zionism?

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Ben Lewis

on 14 April 2016

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Transcript of What is Reform Zionism?

What is Reform Zionism?
Na'aseh V'Nishmah
The book of the covenant was read before the people, and they said, "We will do and we will hear"
Shmot 24:7
History of
Zionism and Reform Judaism
L'or goyim
I, the Eternal, have set you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations.
Isaiah 42:6-7
We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.
"The Pittsburgh Platform", CCAR, 1885
"we unequivocally declare that we need to seek nor acknowledge subjection to any land except the land of our birth."
Reverend David Marks, the first Minister of West London Synagogue (1850's)
From the 1930's a more sympathetic attitude again to involve in the Reform Movement towards Zionism. The Holocaust and the reality of the establishment of the State was followed by the introduction of a prayer for its well being in the reform liturgy. Earlier fears of being accused of dual loyalty had proved groundless and the emergence of Jewish nationalism did not undermine the religious faith of British Jews.
1983 - RSY joins Netzer Olami
Reform Rabbinate at the time respond - "not all Reform Jews are Zionists"
"for Reform Jews today, Israel has a multi-faceted significance: it is the scene of much of the early religious history of Judaism; its memory has been enshrined in Jewish prayer for the last 2000 years; it is one of the few places in the world that has had a continuous Jewish present since Biblical times; it has witnessed a remarkable read the weakening of Jewish consciousness in modern times; it holds an increasingly large percentage of the worlds Jewish population; it is a haven for Jews suffering persecution in any other country; and it is become a centre of Jewish creativity and achievement. Without doubt, it occupies special place in the hearts of all reform Jews."
Faith and Practice - a guide to Reform Judaism Today, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, 1991
The Enlightenment
(18th Century)
Universalism vs Particularism
Reform Judaism as a universalist expression of Judaism and the compatability of Judaism and wider society.
The rise of nationalism as a form of particularism and creation of national identities.
Forms of Zionism
Religious Zionism
Jewish original creativity, whether in the realm of ideas or in the arena of daily life and action, is impossible except in Eretz Israel. On the other hand, whatever the Jewish people creates in Eretz Israel assimilates the universal into characteristic and unique Jewish form, to the great benefit of the Jewish people and of the world…a Jew cannot be as devoted and true to his own ideas, sentiments, and imagination in the Disapora as he can in Eretz Israel……Deep in the heart of every Jew, in its purest and holiest recesses, there blazes the fire of Israel.

Rav Kook
Cultural Zionism
Jewish settlement, which will be a gradual growth, will become in the course of time
the centre of the nation, wherein its spirit will find pure expression…then from this
centre the spirit of Judaism will go forth to the great circumference, to all the
communities of the Diaspora and will breathe new life into them and preserve their
unity; and when our national culture in Palestine has attained that level, we may be
confident that it will produce men in the country who will be able, on a favourable
opportunity, to establish a state which will be truly a Jewish state and not merely a
state of Jews.
Ahad Ha'am (1897)
Revisionist Zionism
Labour Zionism
What we seek to create here is life - our own life – in our own spirit and in our own way. Let me put it more bluntly: in Palestine we must do with our own hands all the things that make up the sum total of life. We must ourselves do all the work, from the least strenuous, cleanest and most sophisticated, to the dirtiest and most difficult. In our own way, we must feel what a worker feels and think what a worker thinks – then, and only then, shall we have a culture of our own, for then we shall have a life of our own.

Aaron David Gordon, 1911
Political Zionism
Thanks: Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Deborah Blausten, Adam Overlander-Kaye, Sarah Grabiner, Laura Solomons, Joe Grabiner, Jake Cohen, Louis Graham
Reform Zionism?
Voices from our Tradition
Lech Lecha
Go for yourself, from your country, to the land that I will show you.
Bereishit 12:1
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof
Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live and inherit the land which the Eternal, your God, is giving you.
Devarim 16:20
L'ma'an tzion lo echesheh
For the sake of Zion I will not be silent and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still
Isaiah 62:1
Kol Makom
Every place that you step on, I have given to you, the wilderness, Lebanon, from the Euphretes to the Great Sea.
Joshua 1:3-4
Jewish nationalism has been accorded legitimacy by Reform only when it self-consciously acts in the service of some grander, more universal cause that 'transcends nationalism' with its 'dangerously parochial goals'. Nonetheless, other parts of that universalistic legacy must be reconsidered. We need not be held in slavish obeisance to the ideals of 19th century universalism. A new ideology must be contemplated as we seek to uncover and articulate a contemporary ideological basis for the Reform movement's approach to Zion.

The confidence we formerly had in the goodness of humanity, in the moral progress of civilization, must be tempered by the recognition that the human capacity for evil, as for goodness, is virtually infinite. Reform Judaism can no longer completely identify and assert its compatability with the tenets of Western or any otehr civilization. The nationalism of our people can no longer be seen as distinct from our religion - religion and peoplehood are inseparable and intertwined. The singularity of universalism must be rejected. Our Zionism must be build upon the dialectical foundations of universalism and particularism and the interplay between them.

Jonathan Sarna and David Ellenson
My understanding of contemporary Reform Judaism is founded upon the classical notion of a universalistic vision for the messianic reshaping of human society, while at the same time I fully embrace a view of the Jewish community as belonging to a polity that Mordecai Kaplan brilliantly understood to be a religious civilization and that looks to the State of Israel both as our ancient homeland and as the spiritual center serving the worldwide Jewish community. The Reform Judaism that I chose and with which I remain comfortable is both universalistic and particularistic, driven by goals and purposes that are at times spiritual, at times social, at times political, at times an amalgam of all three.

Reform Zionism is based on the principles of Progressive Judaism, and therefore
is a form of religious Zionism. It believes that while Jews can live religious lives in the Diaspora, only in Israel where Jews bare the primary responsibility for governing society can the principles of Tikkun Olam be implemented on a national scale, enabling Israel to be a moral example, and "or legoyim‟, to the Diaspora and the rest of world.

Two factors brought a change to the relation of Reform Judaism to Zionism: the Shoah (Holocaust) and the establishment of the State of Israel.

Stanley Davids - Reform Zionism as Political Theology
What does Reform Zionism say about issues in Israel today?
How does a person express Reform Zionism?
Aliyah Nimshechet
Support for Israelis and Israeli institutions
Religious pluralism
Social justice
and inequality
Minority rights
Religious pluralism
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