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
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
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,
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
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
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
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