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“Friends of Classical Reform” Gather in Dallas

Spring 2006

In the first of a series of regional meetings envisioned for the coming year, almost 100 people attended a special luncheon gathering coordinated by Council members in Dallas on March 28. This effort was sponsored by an ad-hoc committee of local Jewish leaders, Friends of Classical Reform, conceived as a way to bring together supporters of our work in the advocacy of our historic spiritual ideals and worship traditions – both long-time associates of the ACJ as well as potential supporters who share our commitments. The Council’s Executive Director, Rabbi Howard A. Berman spoke on “The Coming Revival of Classical Reform Judaism”. Following are excerpts from his address:  
“…We cherish the distinctive worship traditions of historic Reform Judaism, embodied in a meaningful liturgy, primarily in English, in its highest literary form. While we share a reverence for the Hebrew language as a symbolic link to our ancient history and to our ties to all Jews everywhere, Hebrew is not our native tongue -and for most American Jews cannot be the means of authentic worship as the expression of our deepest yearnings and needs in prayer. What makes a worship experience truly “Jewish” is not its degree of Hebrew usage, but rather the ideals and values it reflects. Classical Reform worship also embraces the role of inspiring choral and instrumental music that elevates the spirit, and reflects the highest artistic standards – drawing on both historic compositions and contemporary sources. Yet another dimension of historic Reform worship is the importance of intellectually and spiritually challenging preaching that offers the wisdom of our Jewish tradition in addressing both the pressing moral and social issues of our day, as well as the deeply personal experiences of our lives. We believe that these characteristic qualities of Classical Reform worship Services, which for many of us are most meaningfully embodied in the Union Prayer Book, continue to offer a vital, creative option for many Jews today – not only those who were raised in and cherish this tradition, but also for many younger people – particularly interfaith families – who are searching for a meaningful and accessible form of Jewish prayer that embraces them with Judaism’s universal message for our life and times…  
“We celebrate the rich diversity within today’s changing Jewish community. We are particularly committed to offering a warm, loving and unconditional welcome to the ever-increasing number of interfaith and multi-cultural families in our midst. We believe that we must support our young people and their partners and spouses with ‘open hearts and open doors’ - celebrating their weddings and offering them a spiritual community that respects both of their identities and integrity. We believe that Classical Reform Judaism’s broad, universal message and embracing, accessible worship, have a unique role to play in reaching out to our young people in interfaith relationships, and empowering them to find a meaningful setting for sharing their experience of our Jewish faith and tradition together…  
“Our contemporary Reform Movement includes a broad diversity of interpretations and styles. Our hope and commitment is that the historic traditions of Classical Reform are recognized and honored for their enduring value and potential to speak to a new generation of Jews today...”

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