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Rabbi Urges Reform Judaism To Remain True To Its Character

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
July-August 1999

Discussing the recently adopted principles adopted by the leadership of Reform Judaism calling for a return to tradition and, among other things, urging Reform Jews to emigrate to Israel, Rabbi Jack D. Spiro, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond, Virginia, declares that, "Reform Judaism must remain true to its character; namely, to seek a balance between rituals and social ethics."  

Writing in The Richmond Times Dispatch (June 18, 1999), Spiro notes that, "In writing this I face the risk of being described as antediluvian . . . The historical and theological bedrock of Reform Judaism is the prophetic message of social justice. From its inception at the beginning of the 19th century, Reform Judaism always asked: What in Jewish tradition is truly essential — the proper performance of rituals or responsibility for our fellow humans? Some of the prophets seemed to believe that it was either-or. We are inclined today to think that both have value. But if a choice has to be made in terms of priorities, Reform Judaism would insist on the biblical prophets’ stirring and challenging call to live in the divine image by working for the betterment of the human community."  

Rabbi Spiro concludes: "Ritual without ethical commitment is form without content."  

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