Recharging Reform Judaism
Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Yael Splansky
Baskin-Garson Senior Rabbinic Chair
Last week I attended a two-day conference, entitled Re-charging Reform Judaism. One of the leaders of the conference was our own Past President, Mark Anshan. He has devoted two years to spearhead this conference which grew to more than 300 participants – rabbis, cantors, educators, and lay leaders from across N. America and Israel. It was a grassroots conversation among Reform Jews about Reform Judaism.
“Reform” is a verb, of course. A present tense verb. We were not “reformed” once and frozen in time. We are constantly “reforming” our finest expression of modern Jewish life. And we are part of a global Reform “movement.” We move. We shift. We expand. We recalibrate, reorient, and realign ourselves to meet the call of the day.
The thrust of the conference was that the Reform Movement as a whole ought to amplify its commitment to Jewish Peoplehood and to Israel. I must admit that it was validating for me to hear this call because Holy Blossom is already there. Yes, we are committed to universal aims and to acts of Tikun Olam which serve humanity and the world, but we get there through a particularly Jewish lens.
The opening two paragraphs of Holy Blossom’s Statement of Identity assert:
Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto’s first synagogue, is a leading Canadian Reform Jewish congregation with a rich history of responding to both tradition and modernity in our religious and spiritual expression. We pursue meaningful opportunities for personal growth and family fulfillment at every stage of life through belonging, learning, prayer and ritual, and acts of service for our congregation and community, our city and country, the Reform Movement, Israel, and all the world.
Founded in 1856 as an Orthodox congregation in downtown Toronto, Holy Blossom Temple joined the Reform movement in the 1920s and soon became known the world over as a flagship congregation of Reform Judaism. In the 1970’s we began to embrace more traditional practices and today our prayer language and ritual draw from the best of the Reform tradition as well as from Klal Yisrael (the totality of the Jewish People). Within our congregation, there is a respectful range of Jewish observance and beliefs. Our commitment is to create a Jewish life, which is meaningful and challenging, authentic and joyful, responsible and relevant.
I was honoured to be invited to address the conference on the themes of Reform Jewish Theology, Belief and Practice. Here is the link to the brief thoughts I was able to share and to the panel discussion which followed. https://swfs.org/re-charging-reform-judaism/watch/ (I come in at the 10-minute mark.)
And here is the link to the many keynote speakers. https://swfs.org/re-charging-reform-judaism/watch/ Have a listen and share your thoughts with me.
Yishar Koach, once again to Mark Anshan. You can hear his remarks which, like bookends, opened and closed the conference to set the frame for our deliberations and considerations. Mark continues to devote himself to the Reform Movement of North America and Israel. This conference, which gave rise to many new insights and influences, would simply not have come to fruition without his dedication.
Shabbat Shalom, everyone.