What is Reform Judaism?

Throughout history, the Jewish people have remained firmly rooted in Jewish tradition – and yet, since its earliest days, Reform Judaism has asserted that a Judaism frozen in time cannot coexist effectively with those who live in modern times.

In this way, Reform Judaism has enabled the Jewish people to introduce innovation while preserving tradition; to embrace diversity while asserting commonality; to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt; and to bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship.

What do Reform Jews believe?

We see the Torah as a living, God-inspired document that enables us to confront the timeless, timely challenges of our everyday lives, and believe that Judaism must change and adapt to the needs of the day to survive.

Reform Judaism affirms the central tenets of Judaism — God, Torah, and Israel — while acknowledging the diversity of Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. We believe that Judaism must change and adapt to the needs of the day to survive, and we see the Torah as a living, God-inspired document that enables us to confront the timeless, timely challenges of our everyday lives. 

Indeed, Reform Judaism asks us to renew our living Covenant with God, the people Israel, humankind, and the earth by acknowledging the holiness present throughout creation – in ourselves, in one another, and in the world at large – through practice that includes reflection, study, worship, ritual, and more.

We are committed to the ongoing work of pursuing justice.

Central to Reform Jewish beliefs is the idea that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and that we are God’s partners in improving the world. Tikkun olam, the repair of our world, is a hallmark of Reform Judaism as we strive to bring about a world of justice, wholeness, and compassion.

Reform Jews strive to make thoughtful choices about how we put our values into action. Organizationally, we are led, in part, by the work of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a nonprofit advocacy center in Washington, D.C., that educates and mobilizes North American Jewry on legislative and social concerns.

We are committed to inclusion, not exclusion.

We believe that there is more than one authentic way to be Jewish, and we stand for a Judaism that is inclusive and open. Crucially, we recognize that we can become a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community only when we fully welcome and incorporate the diversity that is the reality of modern Jewish life.

We embrace the concept of “audacious hospitality,” a focused effort to embrace Jewish diversity and reach out to those currently not engaged in Jewish life. This includes but is not limited to: Jews-by-choice and those exploring Judaism; Jews of color; LGBTQ+ Jews; Jews with physical, mental, and/or intellectual disabilities; interfaith and intermarried couples and families; multiracial families; and families with young children – as well as the intersection of many identities.

  • We welcome interfaith families: Since 1978, the Reform Movement has been reaching out to Jews-by-choice and interfaith families, encouraging them to embrace Judaism. Reform Jews consider children to be Jewish if they are the child of a Jewish father or mother, so long as the child is raised as a Jew.
     
  • We welcome Jews of color: A strong Jewish community must ensure that the lifestyles, stories, and perspectives of Jewish individuals and families – particularly those whose stories are underrepresented – are heard and incorporated into Jewish life. Through initiatives such as the Union for Reform Judaism’s JewV’Nation Fellowship and our Wholly Jewish podcast, as well as our work with synagogues, Reform Judaism seeks to raise up the voices and experiences of Jews of color so that all Jews and spiritual seekers may see themselves represented in every facet of Jewish life.
     
  • We welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families: Reform Jews are committed to the full participation of LGBTQ+ individuals in all areas of Jewish life and beyond, and we have worked tirelessly to fight discrimination and support equality. In 1977, Reform Judaism formally affirmed the rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Jews (since expanded to include the entire spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community).
     
  • We welcome Jews with disabilities. Ensuring that people with disabilities can participate fully in the Jewish and broader secular communities has long been a Reform Jewish priority. We work in collaboration with Jewish, secular, and civil rights partners, as well as those in synagogues and summer camps, to ensure inclusion, accessibility, welcome, and, ultimately, the full participation of individuals with disabilities in Jewish life and beyond.
     
  • We are committed to gender equality: The Reform Jewish seminary Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion began ordaining female rabbis in 1972, making Reform Judaism the first Jewish movement to ordain women rabbis, invest women cantors, and elect women presidents of our synagogues. In 2015, Reform Judaism became the largest religious movement in North America to affirm its commitment to the equality, inclusion, and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions.

Learn More about Reform Judaism

Led by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the umbrella organization for North American Reform Judaism, the organizations of the Reform Jewish Movement work to bring the teachings of Judaism to the world.

The North American Reform Jewish Movement offers:

  • Membership in professional associations for Reform clergy, educators, and other professionals
  • A vast summer camp system, including 11 regional overnight camps, as well as two science/technology specialty camps, two sports camps, and an arts and a creative arts camps
  • NFTY – The North American Federation of Temple Youth, a network of temple youth groups for Jewish teenagers in grades six through 12
  • Travel, study, and work programs in Israel for Jewish teenagers and young adults via URJ Youth
  • National, regional, and local leadership development conferences and events for teens and adults, including the URJ Biennial
  • Centralized fundraising for specialized Israel initiatives and worldwide disaster relief efforts

Looking for a Reform Jewish synagogue near you? Use our locator tool to find the congregation closest to you.