What Drives the Reform Movement?
JHV: What sort of narrative, if any, drives the Reform Movement today?
Jacobs: What drives our narrative is this incredible moment in Jewish history. We are currently the largest movement in Jewish life in the United States. What are we going to be as we go forward?
The early founders of the movement articulated something so compelling, that there was a change and uniqueness to the Jewish narrative. It was about shaping a more just and fairer world, where we placed an emphasis on ethics over ritual. It was a narrative that said we are, in our essence, a religious community, not simply an ethnic group. And, they believed honestly, with all their hearts, that they were on the verge of this new, almost messianic time.
Of course, we know that in the 20th century, we experienced something so dark and overwhelming. No one in the 19th century could have imagined the Shoah. At the same time, no one who had emphasized religious community over peoplehood could have imagined the State of Israel coming into being.
So, for us, we live in a time of freedom and opportunity in North America. We have to articulate what we uniquely bring to the Jewish world. The expression of Reform Judaism today is serious in its learning. It is spirited in its spirituality. It is deep in its commitment to social justice. It is committed to the State of Israel. And, it is evolving, because it believes change and innovation is the hallmark of the Jewish tradition. There are many different pathways to living a life of Jewish purpose.