Reconstructionist and Reform Movements

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.