Reconstructionist Judaism | Congregation Darchei Noam
What do Reconstructionists believe?
Judaism is more than a religion—it is the evolving civilization of the Jewish people, encompassing history, literature, art and music, land and language. Each generation is responsible for re-constructing Judaism to give it meaning for our time. The Jewish people share historical memory, a commitment to the Hebrew language and the land of Israel, and a rich legacy of ideas, texts, melodies, values and rituals.
Reconstructionist Judaism was founded by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan in the 1930s as an offshoot of Conservative Judaism, and emerged as the fourth mainstream movement in Judaism in 1968 when the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was opened. Reconstructionist Judaism is the first major Jewish denomination to originate in North America. Today there are over 100 Reconstructionist Synagogues and communities across North America.
Rabbi Kaplan described Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people, and encouraged a respect for Jewish tradition, coupled with a willingness to modify tradition when necessary to live in step with contemporary North American society.
Reconstructionist Judaism, now often referred to as Reconstructionism, welcomes a plurality of beliefs about God and holiness, yet is based on a few basic principles:
- Throughout its history, Judaism has been continually reconstructed to suit external realities and a changing understanding of ethics. For example, the Rabbis created volumes of interpretation of the Torah when they compiled the Mishnah and the Talmud. This process must continue today, since Judaism has always evolved to remain relevant. Every Jewish generation makes its distinct contribution to the legacy of Judaism.
- Reconstructionists respect Jewish tradition, yet also respond to the changing realities of contemporary society. By doing this, we mesh our Jewish observance with our 21st century needs.
- Jewish community is built from the ground up. This means that we, as Reconstructionist Jews, are active participants in synagogue life. We encourage all members of our community to contribute to its direction and take on leadership roles.
- We believe that what binds Jews to Judaism and to each other is a shared legacy, which has led to a common culture and set of values. We welcome the kinship of all who participate in this community, from birth or by choice, regardless of denominational affiliation or specifics of practice.
As a Reconstructionist community, we are guided by our core values.
The Reconstructionist approach to Judaism has changed the way Judaism is practiced. In 1922, the world’s first Bat Mitzvah was held at Rabbi Kaplan’s synagogue! Reconstructionists have pioneered an interactive and participatory approach to ritual.
For more information about Reconstructionism, visit the Jewish Reconstructionist Movement.