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Book Review: Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice (Revised Edition)

Review By: 
Bonny V. Fetterman

How does Reform Judaism deal with the emerging issues in bioethics? What are the requirements and rituals for conversion? Can same-sex marriages be performed by Reform rabbis? Who can play a role in a Reform congregation and in a Reform worship service?

Mark Washofsky, professor of Rabbinics at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, tackles these and other questions in the revised edition of his classic guide to Reform Jewish practice. (In the interests of full disclosure, I was the editor of the first edition.) This new edition features an index, facilitating its use in educational settings, and updated references to the Reform Movement’s new prayer book, Mishkan T’filah—A Reform Siddur.

Along with the revised edition of The Torah: A Modern Commentary, by W. Gunther Plaut, and The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, edited by Tamara Cohn Eshkenazi and Andrea Weiss, Jewish Living serves as one of the core texts of the Union for Reform Judaism for home study and reference. Comprehensive in scope, it describes the worship service, the Reform congregation, holiday and lifecycle observances, conversion, medical ethics, interfaith services, and the relationship of Reform Jews to the Jewish community. An excellent introduction presents Reform Jewish practice as Reform halachah , a way of life based on the ongoing process of rabbinic interpretation.

Bonny V. Fetterman is literary editor of Reform Judaism magazine.