Amer­i­can Reform Judaism: An Introduction

Dana Evan Kaplan
  • Review
By – September 24, 2012
Rab­bi Kaplan, pro­fes­sor of Juda­ic and reli­gious stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­souri- Kansas City, pro­vides a gen­er­al intro­duc­tion to Reform Judaism in the Unit­ed States. Begin­ning with its ori­gins in 19th cen­tu­ry Europe and its evo­lu­tion in Amer­i­ca, he out­lines basic beliefs and prac­tices, exam­ines the­ol­o­gy, litur­gy, and halacha and looks at the social and reli­gious forces that impact the move­ment. Kaplan feels that the lib­er­al the­ol­o­gy of the move­ment makes it dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a durable com­mu­ni­ty. He also notes the chal­lenges that the move­ment faces— recog­ni­tion in Israel, inter­mar­riage, and Jew­ish edu­ca­tion— as well as the advances it has made — accept­ing gays and les­bians, rec­og­niz­ing women as equals and work­ing for social jus­tice. Reform Judaism is begin­ning a return to tra­di­tion while under­tak­ing a major out­reach pro­gram. Kaplan’s book offers an exten­sive exam­i­na­tion of a move­ment at a crossroads.
Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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