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Celia Rothenberg

The New Pittsburgh Platform (1999) 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. AStatement of Principles for Reform Judaism Adopted at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention Central Conference ofAmerican 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.Arevised statement of principles, the Columbus Platform, was adopted by the Central Conference ofAmerican Rabbis in 1937.Athird set of rabbinic guidelines, the Centenary Perspective appeared in 1976 on the occasion of the centenary of the Union ofAmerican Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College­Jewish 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 ful
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