Temple Sholom Believes (responses to YK morning sermon 5770)

I believe that God lives inside of our hearts. – Andres Chang • I believe that brothers are not enemies. – Ben Fechtner • I believe that everyone is good at heart. – Emily Koprowski • I believe that even though God is one, people are stupid in their own interpretations in it. – AHB • I believe that God is not one being but is all around us. – Michael Aronson • I believe it is time to stop killing in the name of G-d. Religious extremists have become the authors of our national policy. It is time to listen to people of greater tolerance. • I believe with perfect faith that God loves us all and God is with us whenever and wherever there is kindness and hope. • I believe… that there can be peace in the world. – Allyson Bisgay • I believe that some things are perfect, though some are not. • I believe there is good in everybody. • I believe we need to take the time to slow down our lives and reflect – on who we are, who we want to be, who God wants us to be. • I believe that one person can change the world. – Jason Bisgay • I believe we need to apply these learnings and values in our everyday lives. • I believe that words without actions are almost powerless. I believe that the actions must match the words for true power. I believe that unconditional positive regard does exist, and I ultimately believe in miracles. – Beth Amador • I believe… there should be peace around the world … that everyone should have the right to do what they want to do. – Andrea Leitner • I believe that you should teach your children about what it means to be a Jew and why they should carry this forward to keep Judaism alive. • I believe (and hope) that the goodness of mankind will overcome the evil in mankind. • I believe… God notices when we help others and smiles on us. • I believe in my family, friends, and community. I believe that together we can create valuable lives and a better world for our children and all who follow. • I believe much of what is written in the Bible is interpretation by man. I believe much is symbolic and metaphoric and open to interpretation. • I believe there is good in all of us and God gives us a chance to use it every day. • I believe that faith in the Lord will bring mankind together. • I believe with perfect faith that God hears our prayers. • I believe forgiveness is a true virtue, a gift to learn and use. One also must forgive oneself in order to continue and prosper. – J Lynch • I believe God is our partner and needs us to do his miracles. – Avital Abraham • I believe… that there is only one body. I believe that one person can change the whole world. • I BELIEVE… that G-d, quite possibly (though not definitely), is a human construct, albeit a very useful one. On the other hand, lots of horrible events have occurred in the name of “G-d”… • I believe in randomness… We are all here by accident. Within that, I believe in the importance of people to each other. I also believe that we can be in touch with something beyond ourselves via beauty, nature, acts of goodness. I believe religion, including Judaism, is an artifact which people have created to make sense of the world. I believe Judaism is worth preserving because it adds value to the world. • This I believe – I believe that we can only achieve our goals by reaching out to all in need. I believe that the “challenge” gave us much to think about. • I believe in Reform Judaism. • I believe every day is an opportunity to help another human being. – Claire Greenberg • I believe that except for a few (i.e. Hitler, Khomeini, etc.), people of this earth are good. • I believe I must unceasingly search within. • I believe that God loves all humankind, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation, that God would never condone murder in God’s name, and to consider murder as a commandment of God is never valid. – Sheryl Weintraub • I believe the statement should be “I want.” • I believe that no matter a situation, we can learn and grow from it. • I believe that God is infinite. – Robert Lowe • I believe people are equal and all have value, regardless of race, religion, gender, ability, or geography. • I believe faith is within regardless of a building or service. • I believe in the peoplehood of the Jewish people. • I believe that people have the capacity to believe the most amazing ideas and to believe that the most profound truths are not so. – M. Abraham • I BELIEVE – that people have unlimited potential to do good – to the extent we fail to reach this potential is our own inadequacy. • I believe in the poetry and elegance of Torah, which is far more important than loud statements of creed. – Elin Diamond • I believe that most people are innately good and can accomplish good things if encouraged to do so. • I believe that people can be kind and help each other. I believe people can change and help better that world and each other. • I believe that all people rely on each other and must take care of each other. • I believe in bettering myself through being kind to others, through laughing with friends, through participating in sports, through doing what I want to do. Reform Judaism does not dignify one to pay their indulgences (which is a sin in itself) show up to temple once a year, and feel that somehow their slate is clean – That is not bettering yourself. A clean slate is irrelevant. Instead of wasting away in this temple, I could be bettering myself by hanging out with my friends, by eating lunch with my sister, by running with the rest of the track team. Pourquoi je suis juif? Je suis juif parce-que je veux que mes parents soient heureuse. C’est la vie. • I believe in the right of the individual to work for his/her dreams without being “ “ out for who they are and what they believe in. I believe in social justice and the right of every individual to the basics of life, a roof over their head, food, and “ “• I believe my life is a gift from God and that my life’s work is to do God’s will on earth. – Anita Lepelstat • I believe in God and I must try to follow God the best way I am able – LR • I believe in the beauty of family! I believe in the sanctity of marriage! I believe that the Jews should have a home in Israel forever!! I believe that humans should live in peace and harmony. • I believe some people are inherently evil, for example the leader of Iran. I believe we have to exercise our power to overcome evil. • I BELIEVE that if all people simply acted according to the Golden Rule and did unto others as they would have done unto them, the world would be a more peaceful place. • I believe that we are blessed to be Jews and to be Jews in the US of A; that as Jews we must contribute selflessly to “our” community and to the broader communities in which we live; and, that if all so participate in some way, we are living the creeds of the Torah and doing what God has asked of us. – Ronnie Liebowitz • I believe that each of us, and our congregation, has the obligation to serve our communities, making them better and helping the least among us to fulfill their potential. – Bob Raymar • I believe that one person can make a difference. • I believe in strong family values. • I believe that we are one. • I believe that when we all work together, we can make a difference. • I believe do unto others as you would want others to do unto you. – Pam Dorn • I believe in the inherent goodness of mankind, that a well-informed and well-read public can (and is necessary to) preserve healthy, viable, and representative democracy. I believe that there is a higher being or power, and that there is an afterlife, because there has to be. I believe in the liberalism, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual struggle allowed and espoused by Judaism and especially Reform Judaism. • I BELIEVE… Family is #1 and God knows and understands this. Everyone is the busiest but must put family 1st and God will understand. Then the neighbor who needs assistance is a redemption. Not always through a house of worship or through an institution but on one’s own we can help one or many. • I believe in the importance of education and not being ignorant; in going through life engaged, with our eyes open, in making a positive difference through daily acts of mitzvot and being forward thinking. • I believe that we have an obligation to repair and build our Jewish Community. Our community has an obligation to repair our world. I believe that Torah is our guide. I believe in an ineffable G-d. – Dave Richmand • I believe that all of us are responsible for the well-being of our fellows in this congregation, in the community and the world. – Marvin Brander • I believe that we are obliged to do all that we can to make the world a better, fairer, place, and to leave it on good “ “ for those that follow. • I believe that the most important time is now, the most important person is the one right here next to us, and the most important thing to do is to do good for the person with us. That is why we are here. – Mari Schindele, paraphrasing Tolstoy • I believe humanity as a whole is the true meaning of God. • I believe that personal responsibility and truth make valid and just our actions. – Neal Snitow • I Believe – I can see the good in others if I look for it and help them be good. I believe I can let go of anger and allow my inner strength (God) guide my forgiveness of myself and others. I must take personal responsibility for living my life consistent with the ideas of peace and love. I believe in the oneness of God – I have known the oneness of God. – Patti Amor • I believe in the power and unity of the Jewish people, and the continuation of that power and unity through the community. I believe in the power of people to effect positive change, in themselves and in the world. – Harry Dreier • I believe that we are responsible to give back to the community through deeds and direct involvement. • I believe a life needs balance: work, play, love, faith. • I believe that God cares more about how we act than what we believe. That said, our thoughts become our words, and our words become our actions. This is why I pray. • I believe things happen for a reason. • I believe we are responsible to bring love and kindness to others, that integrity is essential to living a good Jewish life. I strive to keep Judaism alive by these values. – Lucille Taub • I believe – that the United States is the only force in the world that promotes individual freedom and is the last hope for this freedom. • I believe in God. I believe in our Temple community in that they have learned form God that God has created us to look out for each other. • I believe that the primary makeup of mankind is goodness. M.R Schwarz • I believe in faith of mankind. • I believe in the inherent goodness in everyone. • I believe tradition and ritual provide comfort in good times and bad. • I believe that humans try to create meaning to everything to make sense of their lives. But in reality, and ultimately, there is no meaning to life. Sad but true. • I believe that America is run by corrupt, money hungry politicians, who secretly want to break the law and use their unlimited means to benefit themselves. – Anonymous • I believe that God has faith in man to be righteous and reject evil. I believe that God expects man to defend those amongst us who cannot defend themselves. I believe that God expects man to support himself and those who cannot support themselves and to be thankful that they have the power to do so. • I believe in the basic good of humanity that we need to all believe so that goodness will surface in difficult times. • I believe that although I sometimes follow where blind faith is concerned, in times of joy, sorrow, anger, or despair I unfailingly turn to God, proving to myself that my believe in God is absolute. – Susan Saunders • I’m a Jew who believes in Reform Judaism. • This I believe – I believe that there is an eternal G-d within us and without ourselves; and I believe that faith will bring us all closer to G-d and each other; and I believe that family that exists within their faith will be stronger and better able to handle the trials of life and better able to enjoy life - ??????????????? • I believe that each and every person in the world has the power in them to live a just and righteous life with God inside/beside them guiding them along the way. • I believe in memories and that once a person passes they continue to live on in the memories of those who love them. Those who have died are never actually gone. “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.” Yom Kippur Memorial Service – Rachel Leitner • I believe God listens, wherever you are. • I believe that while we have been taught that the “Promised Land” is in Israel my modern notion of the “Promised Land” is under our feet in the USA. We have been blessed with a nation founded on Freedoms too numerous to mention on one 3x5 card. – Martin Marks • I believe mostly in fairness to others and in turn to be treated justly. I believe in health care for everyone – hopefully this will occur soon. –????????? • I believe in kindness to your fellow man – including your parents (even if you find them annoying and obnoxious). – D. Bort • I believe because I am here that God exists. • I believe in family, in my sons’ goodness. – Beth Kempner • I believe in love, compassion, and forgiveness to ALL people. • I believe that God is with everyone even if they are bad or good. – Alex Jacobs • I believe that God is there for everyone whether or not they believe. I believe that we are a better congregation when we are all in it together. We are stronger. – Teresa Jacobs • I believe in taking the ego out of the picture and operating daily with loving kindness and compassion. I believe that we are all here as one step of our journey, and we need to be open to the lessons and gifts that appear to us daily. I believe in daily gratitude for we are all truly blessed in so many ways but moving too fast to notice. I believe in what you put out in this life you receive back otherwise known as Karma. • I believe that humanity is good-natured – Scott Flood • I believe in our congregation’s pursuit of tikkun olam, social action, social justice, and the potential to change our community beneficially. • I believe in wisdom, will, and love; in educating the hearts of humanity, especially our children; in justice for all; in leadership with compassion, that the will of God will prevail. • I believe that people are good. – Bob Nachman, Guest of the Lieberman Family • I believe that good will prevail. – Anonymous • I believe that if everyone actually lived the “Golden Rule” and treated everyone else as they wished to be treated themselves, the world would be a happier and much more peaceful place. • I believe that when I die, I will pass into darkness. • I believe in religion for all people of all faiths – and every color. • I believe in freedom. • I believe in the love of family and friends in good times as well as bad/sad times. • I believe that friends and family are special to me. They are special even during bad/sad times. • I believe in the goodness of people. • I believe – that things happen for a reason; G-d hears our prayers; in Karma, even more as I get older; in my temple and it must endure, therefore I have a responsibility to volunteer anyway I can. – Amy Weinstein Montouri • I want to believe that each individual has a kind heart deep inside, although he may seem unkind in many of his actions. • I believe that people want to do and be good to each other but find it difficult to do so. I believe that act(s) of trying to do so bring us close to God. • I believe that there is an essence that lives in every one of us. I do not believe necessarily that this is God, but that there is something spiritual in this world. • I believe – Judaism is a religion of ethical monotheism. As God wishes the world to operate where undue harm should not occur, we must strive to act justly, as we see it, in everything we do. – Randy Ringel • I believe in family. I believe in goodness and the Ten Commandments. I believe in sunshine, laughter and the innocence of young children. • I believe that everyone in this country has a right to health care in this country, that all children are created equal and that a good education should be offered everyone. – Rhoda Rosenblatt • I believe in the dignity and equality of all people, and in humankind’s ability to progress. – Michael Ringel • I believe that people are generally good so we will survive, and that there is a higher spirit. • I believe acceptance of all people regardless of race and religion is important, and that we all can make a difference in the world if we put forth the effort. – Michael Zito • I believe that strong family units are the way for us to survive as Jews. • I believe that I’m a Jew. Not just a Jew who goes to temple but one who lights Friday night candles with family and who also does havdallah every week. I am a Jew. And I believe in the judicial system. • I believe in Adonai our G-d. • I believe prayer is a way to communicate with G-d. Every Jew has the right to communicate with G-d in their own individual way. – Josh Isaacs • I believe that every human has the choice to be a good person or a bad person; to contribute to society in a positive way or to destroy it by negative actions. • I believe this is ridiculous. • I believe the majority of humanity is good. Circumstances have influenced the thinking and actions of all of us. We need God’s help now, more than ever before, to guide us toward becoming the people God would be proud of. – Marjorie Cohen • I believe that people are basically good, that faith in a higher power, whom I choose to call god, helps me to live in a righteous way, that helping others helps us too. – Shelly Freedman • I believe that God is almighty, all loving and all forgiving. He does not give us more than we can handle and when we do feel overwhelmed, I believe he is right there beside us, guiding us and protecting us. Sustaining our faith in each other, in the whole of his creation, and most importantly in him! – Lillian Aragones • I believe the card is too small to even summarize what I believe and I don’t know what part of it is most important. Perhaps I can say that I am alive and that I will die, maybe to be more alive. – Marianne Kriman • I believe that God is within us not outside of ourselves. Each day is a struggle to do what is right when it is easy to follow a different path. Judaism is the parameter within which we are helped to make the right choices. – Susan Sedwin • I believe there is too much anger in the USA and the world. We must get beyond the anger to move forward to a more peaceful and prosperous world. • I believe the world would be better if we focused on our similarities rather than our differences. – Ben Darwin • I believe that happiness depends on how connected we are to others – to the communities we are part of. I believe that this connection depends on what we contribute even more than on what we receive. – Florrie Darwin • I believe that we have great leaders among us. My hope is that we find them without the pressures of money, politics, and personal ambitions for power and gain. • I believe in the inherent goodness of all people, that if world leaders looked for ways to find common ground instead of building walls and weapons, world peace would be a reality. – Allan Darwin • I believe in the goodness of individual people and humanity. • I believe I am a good citizen. – Bruce M. Kleiman • I believe that I can change myself to be a better wife to my husband by providing a cleaner home. I need to let go of unnecessary possessions giving us more space to live in. – Caren Kleiman • I believe my rabbi cares about what I think and is secure enough in himself to be open to the ideas of others. – Ellen Berman

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Result - High HolyDay Sermons 5770

As I give them, I will post the High HolyDay sermons that came about as a result of this blog:
Rosh haShanah Evening 5770 (18 September 2009) - A Religion of Deed, Not of Creed?
Rosh haShanah Morning I 5770 (19 September 2009) - A Creed without God?
Kol Nidrei 5770 (27 September 2009) - I Am a Jew Because
Yom Kippur Morning 5770 (28 September 2009) - And Now, What Do You Believe?

However, what is most exciting is the huge stack of "I believe" cards filled out by my congregation.Finally (1/3/11), I have posted them in a crawl above.  Run your cursor over the text to freeze it temporarily. Thank you to Ellen Berman for typing in all the text.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Elegant Answer to the Question

We can't have this discussion without looking at Edmond Fleg's classic statement (oft-used as liturgical poetry in the Reform movement) I Am a Jew...

I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having lost her,

I have felt her live again in me, more living than myself.

I am a Jew because, born of Israel and having regained her,

I wish her to live after me, more living than in myself.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands of me no abdication of the mind.

I am a Jew because the faith of Israel requires of me all the devotion of my heart.

I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.

I am a Jew because at every time when despair cries out, the Jew hopes.

I am a Jew because the word of Israel is the oldest and the newest.

I am a Jew because the promise of Israel if the universal promise.

I am a Jew because, for Israel, the world is not yet completed; men are completing it.

I am a Jew because, above the nations and Israel, Israel places man and his Unity.

I am a Jew because above man, image of the divine Unity, Israel places the divine Unity, and its divinity.

Now, here's a creed - written far better than I ever could. Here is what one person believes that Judaism is and what makes them Jewish. Stirring.

(The full book can be found in google books here. A good summary, reprinted from Arthur Hertzberg's Zionist Idea can be found on this blog.)

I just found it in the original French here:

Je suis juif, parce que, né d'Israël, et l'ayant perdu, je l'ai senti revivre en moi, plus vivant que moi-même.

Je suis juif, parce que, né d'Israël, et l'ayant retrouvé, je veux qu'il vive après moi, plus vivant qu'en moi-même.

Je suis juif, parce que la foi d'Israël n'exige de mon esprit aucune abdication.

Je suis juif, parce que la foi d'Israël réclame de mon cœur toutes les abnégations.

Je suis juif, parce qu'en tous lieux où pleure une souffrance, le juif pleure.

Je suis juif parce qu'en tous temps où crie une désespérance, le juif espère.

Je suis juif, parce que la parole d'Israël est la plus ancienne et la plus nouvelle.

Je suis juif, parce que la promesse d'Israël est la promesse universelle.

Je suis juif, parce que, pour Israël, le monde n'est pas achevé : les hommes l'achèvent.

Je suis juif, parce que, pour Israël, l'Homme n'est pas créé : les hommes le créent.

Je suis juif, parce qu'au-dessus des nations et d'Israël, Israël place l'Homme et son Unité.

Je suis juif, parce qu'au-dessus de l'Homme, image de la divine Unité, Israël place l'Unité divine, et sa divinité.

Edmond FLEG, Pourquoi je suis juif, 1928.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

An American Classic

OK, let's go back to the first entry. Here are some thoughts on Kaufmann Kohler's Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Articles of Faith.

He begins by saying that although there have been many attempts to create a Jewish creed - there is no authoritative body that could issue or sanction it. However, it's not like we haven't had authoritative Jewish ideals for centuries - originally postulated by individuals then ratified by succeeding generations and, generally, retrofitted into ancient texts. His second point is that we have no need for a creed. He notes that the Jewish attitudes and practices of conversion are eminently practical - and by practical he means practice based. He says, "For the preparation of the convert, therefore, no other method of instruction was employed than for the training of one born a Jew. The aim of teaching was to convey a knowledge of the Law, obedience to which manifested the acceptance of the underlying religious principles; namely, the existence of God and the holiness of Israel as the people of His covenant." Especially to the modern "atheistic" Jew, it seems a bit of a sidestep to say that following the practices implicitly includes certain beliefs.

In his historical survey - a must for any wissenschaft scholar, he has some useful summaries:

The first creed he finds is from Philo:

Philo enumerates five articles as embracing the chief tenets of Mosaism: (1) God is and rules; (2) God is one; (3) the world was created; (4) Creation is one; (5) God's providence rules Creation.

He explores the use of the Ten Commandments as creed - up through his contemporary, Isaac Mayer Wise.

But then goes back to Saadiya Gaon:

Saadia's "Emunot we-Deot" is in reality one long exposition of the main tenets of the faith. The plan of the book discloses a systematization of the different religious doctrines that, in the estimation of the author, constitute the sum total of his faith. They are, in the order of their treatment by him, the following: (1) The world is created; (2) God is one and incorporeal; (3) belief in revelation (including the divine origin of tradition); (4) man is called to righteousness and endowed with all necessary qualities of mind and soul to avoid sin; (5) belief in reward and punishment: (6) the soul is created pure; after death it leaves the body; (7) belief in resurrection; (8) Messianic expectation, retribution, and final judgment.

and, course, hits Maimonides (although he does label this as Mamonides as a young man):

The most widely spread and popular of all creeds is that of Maimonides, embracing the thirteen articles. Why he chose this particular number has been a subject of much discussion. Some have seen in the number a reference to the thirteen attributes of God. Probably no meaning attaches to the choice of the number. His articles are: (1) The existence of God; (2) His unity; (3) His spirituality; (4) His eternity; (5) God alone the object of worship; (6) Revelation through His prophets; (7) the preeminence of Moses among the Prophets; (8) God's law given on Mount Sinai; (9) the immutability of the Torah as God's Law; (10) God's foreknowledge of men's actions; (11) retribution; (12) the coming of the Messiah; (13) Resurrection.

[There will obviously have to be a lot more to say on Maimonides in this discussion.]

As an interesting side note, he finds a creed from the Karaite Jews:

In the order there given these are the articles of the Karaite faith: (1) God is the Creator of all created beings; (2) He is premundane and has no peer or associate; (3) the whole universe is created; (4) God called Moses and the other Prophets of the Biblical canon; (5) the Law of Moses alone is true; (6) to know the language of the Bible is a religious duty; (7) the Temple at Jerusalem is the palace of the world's Ruler; (8) belief in Resurrection contemporaneous with the advent of the Messiah; (9) final judgment; (10) retribution.

But, for me, it still seems limiting - and even self-defeating - to limit creedal statements to God. Of all the text above, the only one that I would put into a modern Reform creed is (6) from the Karaite statement - "to know the language of the Bible is a religious duty".

What is becoming clear to me, is that any creed that I would advocate would be more about our own commitments to Judaism - to its text and history - than about belief in that which cannot be proven. I am more interested in beliefs that call us to action - is that a way to put creed into a religion of practice?

Friday, July 17, 2009

I had a fascinating conversation with Rabbi Lance Sussman this morning. He pointed me toward some very interesting sources. The first is Isaac Leeser's Catechism for Jewish Children (which I found on a fascinating blog Jewish-American History on the Web), which is the 1863 version of an 1839 educational guide for Jewish children, which he based on Dr. Eduard Kley of Hamburg's 1814 Catechismus Der Mosaischen Religion. His argument for a creed and his translation of the Maimonidean creed can be found here. It should be noted that Leeser says that creed is not sufficient for salvation and the purpose of a creed is that:

The firm faith in and admission of acknowledged truths will best promote a correct course of life; for by being impressed with holy feelings we will be best able to withstand temptations and the inclination to sin inherent in man.

Leeser is on the more Orthodox side. [He also argues for a Jewish creed in two editorials here and here.]

The second, which I am further researching, is from the Reform (or Reformed) Community of Israelites of Charleston, South Carolina. In the seventh issue of the first volume (October 1843) of The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, Nathaniel Levin begins a series on the history of the Jewish community of Charleston. In issue number nine (December 1843), Levin speaks of the foundation of the Reform Community of Israelites and makes the following note about creed:

The most peculiar part of their ritual is the ten articles of faith adopted by the society, which emanated from enlarged, liberal, and enlightened views, for it was optional with any member of the society, either to believe, or reject them; for in the preface to their volume is this remarkable passage: "Let each one believe or reject what his heart and understanding (at once humbled and enlightened by divine goodness) may rationally dictate to be believed or rejected."

What more could you want in a Reform creed? Actually, I admire the idea - that the creed is there not to be accepted without thought, but as a starting point of a discussion. I believe with a perfect faith that ideas must be struggled with, rather than blindly accepted or blithely rejected.

Levin continues:

Their creed embraced but ten articles, differing in almost every point with the creed of the great Maimonides. We have selected three of the articles for the perusal of our readers, which are as follows. Article 7. reads thus:

"I believe with perfect faith that the laws of God as delivered by Moses in the Ten Commandments are the only true foundation of piety towards the Almighty, and of morality among men."

Article 8.—"I believe with a perfect faith, that morality is essentially connected with religion, and that good faith towards all mankind is among the most acceptable offerings to the Deity."

Article 10.—"I believe with a perfect faith that the Creator (blessed be his name) is the only true Redeemer of all his children, and that he will spread the worship of his name over the whole earth."

More information on the Charleston community and what many consider the birth of the American Reform movement can be found in an article on the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life website.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Do we already have a Reform Jewish Creed?

Is this - the "Principles for Reform Judaism" - a creed (albeit a very long one)?

Adopted at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention
Central Conference of American Rabbis
May 1999 - Sivan 5759
See Commentary on the Principles for Reform Judaism

On three occasions during the last century and a half, the Reform rabbinate has adopted comprehensive statements to help guide the thought and practice of our movement. In 1885, fifteen rabbis issued the Pittsburgh Platform, a set of guidelines that defined Reform Judaism for the next fifty years. A revised statement of principles, the Columbus Platform, was adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1937. A third set of rabbinic guidelines, the Centenary Perspective, appeared in 1976 on the occasion of the centenary of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Today, when so many individuals are striving for religious meaning, moral purpose and a sense of community, we believe it is our obligation as rabbis once again to state a set of principles that define Reform Judaism in our own time.

Throughout our history, we Jews have remained firmly rooted in Jewish tradition, even as we have learned much from our encounters with other cultures. The great contribution of Reform Judaism is that it 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.

This "Statement of Principles" affirms the central tenets of Judaism - God, Torah and Israel - even as it acknowledges the diversity of Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. It also invites all Reform Jews to engage in a dialogue with the sources of our tradition, responding out of our knowledge, our experience and our faith. Thus we hope to transform our lives through (kedushah), holiness.

"Creed" from Merriam-Webster On-Line


Middle English crede, from Old English crēda, from Latin credo (first word of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds), from credere to believe, trust, entrust; akin to Old Irish cretid he believes, Sanskrit śrad-dadhāti
before 12th century
1: a brief authoritative formula of religious belief
: a set of fundamental beliefs ; also : a guiding principle

Why is creed only about God? A reaction to Milton Steinberg's Basic Judaism

When talking about creed in Reform Judaism (cf this article from the soc.culture.jewish faq), the first citation is always from section one (Creeds) of chapter 4 (God) of Milton Steinberg's classic, Basic Judaism. It reads, "By its nature, then, Judaism is averse to formal creeds which of necessity limit and restrain thought." (p.35)

However, I would recommend reading the whole section to put this quote into context. The chapter, you will note, is about God. Steinberg examines the idea of creed in a serious manner, but as an introduction into his discussion of God. I would suggest that we can create a creed that, while referencing God, is not solely a statement of theology (more on this later).

I would suggest that we go back to the beginning of the section -

For the past one hundred and fifty years a quiet debate has been going on among Jewish theologians over the question: Are there dogmas in Judaism? Does it have a set of beliefs, authoritatively formulated, which the individual Jew must accept if he [sic] wishes to be a communicant in good standing in the Jewish religion? (p. 31)

- and, placing the word "Reform" before each citation of Jewish or Judaism, take this as a challenge to ourselves: Is there a set of beliefs, authoritatively formulated, which the individual Reform Jew must accept if s/he wishes to be a communicant in good standing in the Reform Jewish religion (or better yet "a good Reform Jew")?

Can "informed choice" be a belief? The progressive nature of Jewish history? These are the areas that I hope to explore - and commonalities I hope to find.