The New Pittsburgh Platform (1999)

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The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform movement, issued a new Statement of Principles during its 1999 Pittsburgh conference. Known as the “new” Pittsburgh Platform, the 1999 document was issued 114 years after the original Pittsburgh Platform (1885), a seminal document that defined the then nascent American Reform movement. The new set of principles was hotly debated among leaders of the movement in the months before the conference. Two camps emerged: 1.traditionalists who represent a new wave of rabbis and laypeople seeking greater adherence to Jewish ritual and 2. classicists who reject attempts to inject more ritual into daily practice.

Rabbi Richard Levy, a leader of the traditionalist wing, drafted a platform that advocated the observance of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) and mikveh (use of the Jewish ritual bath). However, the final version of the platform was substantially altered from Levy’s draft in an attempt to placate both traditionalists and classicists. The new Pittsburgh Platform encourages Reform Jews to study Hebrew and Torah, observe Shabbat, and recognize the importance of mitzvot (sacred obligations). For traditionalists, the platform confirms that Reform is moving toward more tradition; for classicists, the platform affirms the importance of unity within the movement.

A Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism

Adopted at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention

Central Conference of American Rabbis

May 1999 ‑ Sivan 5759

Preamble

On three occasions during the last century and a half, the Reform rabbinate has adopted comprehensive statements to help guide the thought and practice of our movement. In 1885, fifteen rabbis issued the Pittsburgh Platform, a set of guidelines that defined Reform Judaism for the next fifty years. A revised statement of principles, the Columbus Platform, was adopted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 1937. A third set of rabbinic guidelines, the Centenary Perspective appeared in 1976 on the occasion of the centenary of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College‑Jewish Institute of Religion. Today, when so many individuals are striving for religious meaning, moral purpose and a sense of community, we believe it is our obligation as rabbis once again to state a set of principles that define Reform Judaism in our own time.

This "Statement of Principles" affirms the central tenets of Judaism--God, Torah and Israel--even as it acknowledges the diversity of Reform Jewish beliefs and practices. It also invites all Reform Jews to engage in a dialogue with the sources of out tradition, responding out of our knowledge, our experience and our faith. Thus we hope to transform our lives through kedushah, holiness.

God

We affirm the reality and oneness of God, even as we may differ in our understanding of the Divine presence.

We affirm that the Jewish people is bound to God by an eternal b’rit, covenant, as reflected in our varied understandings of Creation, Revelation and Redemption.

We affirm that every human being is created btzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and therefore every human life is sacred.

We regard with reverence all of God's creation and recognize our human responsibility for its preservation and protection.

We encounter God's presence in moments of awe and wonder, in acts of justice and compassion, in

loving relationships and in the experiences of everyday life.

We strive for a faith that fortifies us through the vicissitudes of our lives--illness and healing, transgression and repentance, bereavement and consolation, despair and hope.

We continue to have faith that, in spite of the unspeakable evils committed against our people and the sufferings endured by others, the partnership of God and humanity will ultimately prevail.

We trust in our tradition's promise that, although God created us as finite beings, the spirit within us is eternal.

In all these ways and more, God gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

Torah

We affirm that Torah is the foundation of Jewish life.

We cherish the truths revealed in Torah, God's ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people's ongoing relationship with God.

We affirm that Torah is a manifestation of ahavat olam, Gods eternal love for the Jewish people and for all humanity.

We affirm the importance of studying Hebrew, the language of Torah and Jewish liturgy, that we may draw closer to our people's sacred texts.

We are called by Torah to lifelong study in the home, in the synagogue and in every place where Jews gather to learn and teach. Through Torah study we are called to mitzvot [commandments],the means by which we make our lives holy.

We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of mitzvot and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and as a community. Some of these mitzvot, sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modem, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times.

We bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and places of our lives through regular home and congregational observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with kedushah, holiness, menuchah, rest and oneg, joy. The High Holy Days call us to account for our deeds. The Festivals enable us to celebrate with joy our people’s religious journey in the context of the changing seasons. The days of remembrance remind us of the tragedies and the triumphs that have shaped our people's historical experience both in ancient and modem times. And we mark the milestones of our personal journeys with traditional and creative rites that reveal the holiness in each stage of life.

We bring Torah into the world when we strive to fulfill the highest ethical mandates in our relationships with others and with all of God’s creation. Partners with God in tikkun olam, repairing the world, we are called to help bring nearer the messianic age. We seek dialogue and joint action with people of other faiths in the hope that together we can bring peace, freedom and justice to our world. We are obligated to pursue tzedek, justice and righteousness, and to narrow the gap between the affluent and the poor, to act against discrimination and oppression, to pursue peace, to welcome the stranger, to protect the earth's biodiversity and natural resources, and to redeem those in physical, economic and spiritual bondage. In so doing, we reaffirm social action and social justice as a central prophetic focus of traditional Reform Jewish belief and practice. We affirm the  mitzvah of tzedaka), setting aside portions of our earnings and our time to provide for those in need. These acts bring us closer to fulfilling the prophetic call to translate the words of Torah into the works of our hands.

In all these ways and more, Torah gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

Israel

We are Israel, a people aspiring to holiness, singled out through our ancient covenant and our unique history among the nations to be witnesses to God's presence. We are linked by that covenant and that history to all Jews in every age and place.

We are committed to the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael, love for the Jewish people, and to k’lal Yisrael, the entirety of the community of Israel. Recognizing that kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba‑zeh, all Jews are responsible for one another, we reach out to all Jews across ideological and geographical boundaries.

We embrace religious and cultural pluralism as an expression of the vitality of Jewish communal life in Israel and the Diaspora.

We pledge to fulfill Reform Judaism's historic commitment to the complete equality of women and men in Jewish life.

We are an inclusive community, opening doors to Jewish life to people of all ages, to varied kinds of

families, to all regardless of their sexual orientation, to gerim, those who have converted to Judaism, and to all individuals and families, including the intermarried, who strive to create a Jewish home.

We believe that we must not only open doors for those ready to enter our faith, but also to actively encourage those who are seeking a spiritual home to find it in Judaism.

We are committed to strengthening the people Israel by supporting individuals and families in the creation of homes rich in Jewish learning and observance.

We are committed to strengthening the people Israel by making the synagogue central to Jewish communal life, so that it may elevate the spiritual, intellectual and cultural quality of our lives.

We are committed to Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel, and rejoice in its accomplish-ments. We affirm the unique qualities of living in  Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, and encourage aliyah, immigration to Israel.

We are committed to promoting and strengthening Progressive Judaism in Israel, which will enrich the spiritual life of the Jewish state and its people.

We affirm that both Israeli and Diaspora Jewry should remain vibrant and interdependent communities. As we urge Jews who reside outside Israel to learn Hebrew as a living language and to make periodic visits to Israel in order to study and to deepen their relationship to the Land and its people, so do we affirm that Israeli Jews have much to learn from the religious life of Diaspora Jewish communities.

We are committed to furthering Progressive Judaism throughout the world as a meaningful religious way of life for the Jewish people.

In all these ways and more, Israel gives meaning and purpose to our lives.

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