When people find out that there are various movements of Judaism and it’s not a one size fits all, I often get the question, “So what can reform Jews do that’s different?” Reform Jews espouse the morality found within the Torah, from Tikkun Olam to charity, to treating others with mutual respect, loving our neighbors, etcetera. We pray three times a day, hold the sabbath/Shabbat as holy, celebrate lifecycle events, celebrate the holidays and festivals, many of us learn Hebrew, and we seek a righteous and holy life for ourselves and our families. All of the core of Judaism is found within Reform Judaism, but with more freedom through spiritual autonomy.
Reform Jews can choose to wear teffilin, Kippah, and tallit or not, we have the freedom to decide what benefits their spiritual life and what doesn’t within the Jewish lens of spirituality. Reform Jews can choose to maintain Kosher dietary laws, or not as well, with some in the Reform movement eating shrimp and even pork, and others maintaining full dietary restrictions. There is dynamism within the Reform movement, a degree of modernization and adaptation to the diaspora that most Jews still reside.
Reform Judaism is the embracing of equality amongst the sexes, genders, sexualities, etc… within society. We fight for social justice, accept science, work and live in non-insular communities, and freely work interfaith with other religions. Reform Judaism is a loving, accepting, modern branch of Judaism, which maintains the core roots and elements of Judaic belief, practices, ceremonies, holidays, festivals, and lifecycle events.
When I’m asked, “can a Reform Jew do that?” I answer “absolutely,” while ordering a chicken, bacon, ranch sandwich and reading up on some science, “Just not all Reform Jews will.” It’s very individualized, but also very united in our acceptance of one another and our individual, yet collective, free wills. I wear a kippah every day, not all Reform Jews do, I wear a tallit during morning prayer, many Reform Jews do not, it is this autonomy that makes Reform Judaism so beautiful and meaningful to each of us. We each have our own connection to Adonai, we each find what is spiritually empowering to us individually, and how we desire to build our relationship with Adonai.