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There Is More Than One Way To Be a Jew

  |   Judaism

Judaism - Our Path


Judaism has always adapted to the changes of times. If this was not the case, Judaism would have ceased to exist. It changed in biblical times during the exile in Babylon, where the ancient Israelites became Jews; it changed after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE) when prayers have replaced the animal sacrifices, as well as rabbis and teachers replaced the worship in the Temple; it changed during the Crusades, in Germany and France when the scattered Jews from Medieval Europe developed Ashkenazi Judaism with their customs and melodies; and it changed again in Spain and Portugal, after the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews, having developed in different ways in different countries.


Judaism changed again after the time of the Enlightenment in Europe. Evidences of the changes that took place abound and dates from the 19th century in Germany. The merchant and politician Israel Jacobson led the changes in the liturgy of services in the small village of Seesen during the Napoleonic era. Subsequently, Jacobson and others celebrated modern Services throughout Berlin. The first Reform synagogue was the Temple of Hamburg, founded in 1818, with Services deeply influenced by the Portuguese Synagogue in Hamburg. The first cantor in Hamburg Temple was the Portuguese David Meldola. Thirty years later the Ashkenazim became more influential
and these Sephardic beginnings of Reform/Progressive Judaism are not really known by the wider public. In 1841, 19 people from the Hispanic-Portuguese Synagogue founded the first reformist synagogue in London, which was the first reform synagogue in England. Even today, one can notice a progressive liturgy with great Sephardic influence. One of the most important aspects of this change was the fact that Judaism embraced modern science – as it had already happened in the Middle Ages in Spain – and this became the model for the reformers. Sacred texts are also studied as History development. It became possible to study and question the Bible’s oral history,
as well as the liturgy and the Jewish tradition. Judaism as “progressive” is referred to a Judaism that is in constant progress, in constant development. Furthermore, the role of the individual came to be seen as important and influential. We must study the tradition establishing a healthy dialog between modern sciences and the ethical considerations of the individual.


Reform Judaism moved rapidly throughout the 19th century reaching several other countries such as England, the United States, Canada, Romania, Sweden, among others. In 1926, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) was created as an international arm of the Reform Movement in the United States.The WUPJ and all its members met for the first time in an International Conference two years later, in London. Progressive Judaism is also known as Reform Judaism in the USA or sometimes as Liberal Judaism in other parts of the world . In Israel, it is known as Iahadut Mitkademet. Nowadays, the WUPJ has its headquarter in Jerusalem and constitutes the largest body of religious Jews in the world. It represents more than 1.8 million members in 50 countries and 6 continents. Currently, there are several sub-organizations to enable communication between the communities alike in a given region, as for example the World Union of Latin America, the European Union for Progressive Judaism, the South African Union for Progressive Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism (for USA and Canada) or the “Association of Progressive Jewish Congregations in Russia”.


The Movement remains faithful to its original principles of practicing Judaism in constant progress and oriented toward social justice. It accept Jews of all sexual orientations and, for almost 100 years (since 1912), it has accepted women equality in religious Services and Education.

The Progressive Judaism believes in:
• Innovation, whilst honouring the tradition
• Diversity, while preserving the community
• Questions based on sacred texts
• Jewish relevance within modern life

Text and adaptation

Dr.ª Annette M. Boeckler

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LEMLE, Rabbi Dr. Heinrich – “Our Path” – 1953

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First Temple of Hamburg, 1818 (exterior).
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First Temple of Hamburg, 1818 (interior).
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Dr. Annette Mirjam Böckler is a professor of Jewish and Biblical liturgy at Leo Baeck University in London, where she is also a librarian. Writer and translator in Jewish matters (being the translator of the Seder HaTefillot-the first liberal prayer book after the Shoah in Germany), has developed the translation of the German edition of the comments of the Torah from W. Gunther Plaut.