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Re–form Judaism
Monday 25th February 2019 @ 2:09 pm

I was struck in January by a conversation with a Jewish rabbi friend in a synagogue in Israel.

Firstly – and more by way of a sideline, it was explained to me that the largest Jewish movement in the world at the moment is Reform Judaism. Hence, the Rabbi telling me is a woman. Seems that to be a female in the faith community of any major religion you have to be more on the Reformed side of things. When I use the word Reformed, I’m not just talking about the noun – and all things capital R Reformed – I am also talking about the adverb. Although I am very aware of ‘reformed’ churches on the island where I live where this is not the case at all, I hope it follows that capital R Reformed religious communities are also a place of constant small r reforming. Wide, spacious, energized, hopeful, progressive, change–adept, constantly moving toward something ‘more’ (perhaps at it’s best a Jesuitical ‘Magis?!?’)  ‘Reformed’ at it’s best is always reforming. Questioning, exchanging, calling. This should be true in any world religion taking a label of Reformed. After all, the word reform itself is about a constant process of re–form(ing) – bringing back together that which has once been formed, but is fractured. What has been broken  often needs to be re–formed, re–worked, re–thought, re–energised, re–envisioned, re–imagined , re–loved.

Here’s to constant re–awakening of the possibilities that exist toward re–forming in all our world faith communities. What is interesting to note in Judaism is that while Reform Judaism is the smallest sector of Judaism in Israel, it is the fastest growing and largest in the world as a whole, particularly in America. Interesting times ahead.

The other really interesting thing my Rabbi friend talked about as we sat in her synagogue was her explaining what a synagogue needs within it in order to be a synagogue. Obviously, the old tradition of ten families (or just ten people as she said) are needed, i.e., to create community. But aside from that three things are required within a synagogue …



Your guess … ?



I had them wrong when I guessed. You may have them right.


The Torah. (In Christian world, try to imagine a church without a Bible!)

The Eternal light. (In Catholic world try to imagine a church without a tabernacle light)

The windows (!?!?!?!?!?!??!?! What???)


It was this final one that stumped me. You can’t be a synagogue without windows?


Yes, I was told, you can’t be a synagogue without windows – because windows show you the world outside and removes from us the individualizing of our prayers. Windows stop those from praying inside forgetting there is an outside. Windows provide a constant reminder that there is somewhere ‘out there’ where the liturgy and prayers carried out ‘in here’ have to make sense, have to be lived, have to have meaning, have to provide purpose – have to have impact.


In Christian world we are fairly au fait with the religious connotations and practice connected to Torah and Light. Jewish and Christian practices are in many ways a hairs breath apart in those representations. But in the concept of creating physical practices in our liturgies that push us toward an outside – we are hopeless. No matter what we claim, the vast majority of our practice, our resources, our energies and our desires in Christian world, are directed toward those who are with us inside or those we think should be inside with us.


Thank you Judaism for giving us something else to think about.




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