The Reconstructionist Movement


  • Founded by Mordecai Kaplan in the 1920s
  • First Jewish denomination formed in US
  • Rabbinical school started in 1968
  • Currently 109 synagogues and approximately 40,000 members
  • Influence in American Judaism much greater than size


  • Judaism is more than a religion; it is an evolving religious civilization.
  • Judaism is the creation of the Jewish people themselves, not of God.
  • Jewish law is not the sole decision maker: i.e. the past "has a vote, not a veto."
  • A belief in a non-supernatural deity: "God is the process that leads to salvation"
  • The driving force behind Judaism is belonging rather than believing.
  • Judaism and working for social justice are inseparable.
  • The State of Israel is vital to Jewish cultural and spiritual survival.

Differences between Reform and Reconstructionism

  • Reform Judaism values individual autonomy/ Reconstructionism values communal decision making.
  • Reform Judaism is the largest of the major US denominations/ Reconstructionism is the smallest.
  • Reform Judaism uses more traditional God language/ Reconstructionism uses a more traditional prayer style.

Reform Judaism


  • Founded in Germany in the early 1800s
  • The 1st Jewish response to Enlightenment
  • Key figures:
    • Abraham Geiger (1810-1874)
    • Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900)
    • Stephen S. Wise (1874-1949)
  • The largest Jewish Denomination with 1.5 million members, 900 synagogues


  • Belief in God as defined in the Shema.
  • Belief that the Torah was written by human hands, in the language of its time, with divine inspiration.
  • Belief in the rationality of humanity.
  • Belief that the process of reinterpretation of the Torah to the language of today is ongoing, and that every Jew has a stake and a role in that restatement and extension.
  • Belief in egalitarianism (equal treatment of the sexes) wherever possible.
  • Belief in the strong moral and social action commitment inherent in the Torah and embodied in the concept of Tikkun Olam, rebuilding the world.

Congregation Shir Shalom of Buffalo, NY
4660 Sheridan Drive  |  Williamsville, New York 14221
716-633-8877 Temple Office  |  716-633-8952 fax  |  716-633-8953 Religious School

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