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The world organization for Reform Judaism is the World Union for Progressive Judaism (http://www.wupj.org/), which is headquartered in Jerusalem. Outside of North America, Reform is also known as "Progressive" or "Liberal" Judaism. A list of all the affiliates of the WUPJ may be found at http://www.wupj.org/; this list includes members from Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Former Soviet Union, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paregoric, Dominican Republic, Saint Maarten, St. Thomas, USA, Canada, and South Africa.
The confusion about the terms "Reform" or "Liberal" comes from a split in England's Reform movement. In 1842 the English Reform movement split into two factions, one of which was more traditional, while the other was more liberal. The more traditional Reform Judaism faction called themselves simply 'Reform'. Their prayer services are much more traditional than the faction that split off, and their laity is in general more observant than the other faction. Thus their prayer services are much like American Conservative shuls and English Masorti shuls, but they still are what we Americans call Reform (i.e. Classical halakha is not considered binding by its rabbinate or laity.) The more liberal Reform Judaism faction seceded, and renamed their movement as "Liberal Judaism". They are more in the mode of Classic German Reform. They generally have less Hebrew in their services, and are less observant.
Progressive Jewish congregations are to be found throughout the Jewish world, from Europe to Asia, from South America to India and from Africa to Australasia. In Israel, in addition to urban congregations, there are also two Progressive kibbutzim and a Progressive village settlement.
Where appropriate there are regional umbrella organizations such as the Australian and New Zealand Union for Progressive Judaism (http://www.anzupj.com.au); the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland; Union of Liberal Jewish Congregations in the Netherlands (http://www.xs4all.nl/~ljg), etc. The following are some specific regional notes:
United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, Progressive/Reform Judaism is represented by the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues (http://www.liberaljudaism.org/), known generally as the Liberal movement. As part of a process of becoming part of the Progressive movement, some Liberal Synagogues changed their name from Liberal to Progressive some years back. Yet the distinctions are difficult to draw.
Members of reform congregations in the UK are likely to see themselves closer in beliefs to the US Reform movement and not to the Conservative. In halachic terms, little now separates the UK Reform and Liberal movements, and *both* are affiliated to WUPJ. Indeed proposals to merge the two movements arise from time to time. The Leo Baeck College is sponsored by both movements, and its graduates officiate in both Liberal and Reform synagogues.
The differences between the two are largely historical. The Reform movement developed in the UK independent of the classical German liberal trend. The West London Synagogue was established in the early 1800's as a breakaway from the Sephardi Bevis Marks synagogue in the City of London, so that wealthy jews who had moved to the affluent West End district of London had a convenient place of worship. Its liturgy adapted to cope with the desire for a degree of assimilation and less harsh observance of this class of English Jewry! A number of congregations throughout the UK over time adopted the West London prayerbook. With the outbreak of the Second World War, these congregations got together to deal with issues of jewish education in the context of children being evacuated to the countryside. The Movement for Reform Judaism (formerly Reform Synagogues of Great Britain) (http://www.reformjudaism.org.uk/) (the umbrella organisation for the Reform movement) dates from this time. Leo Baeck College was founded by MfRJ (who were later joined by LJ) in order to re-build the European rabbinate following the shoa - and the destruction of progressive seminaries in continental Europe. Leo Baeck College may be reached at:
The Sternberg Centre For Judaism
80 East End Road
London N3 2SY
The Liberal movement (and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue) was founded in the early part of this century by Lily Montagu as an adjunct to the then Reform synagogues - with the intention that the use of more English in services, etc would prevent some on the margins of British Jewry assimilating completely and being totally lost. The Liberal movement owes more to classical German liberal jewry. Reform practices tend to be somewhat more Orthodox than the Liberal - (e.g. wearing of tallit, the form of some prayers), but when you get down to fundamentals, there is not much in it - as the sharing of a rabinnical seminary shows.
The Masorti movement corresponds more closely to US conservative practice in its interpretation of halacha and the from of its services.
The International Youth Movement, Netzer Olami, has active branches of Netzer (acronym: No'ar Tzioni Reformi - Reform Zionist Youth) throughout the world. In the UK, contact ULPSNYC-Netzer, <R.L.Reese@sheffield.ac.uk> or <Beccy@brij000.demon.co.uk>. There is also a growing Dayschool movement in a number of countries.
The WUPJ is a constitutent of the World Zionist Organization, and the political Zionist arm of Progressive Judaism--ARTZENU--has active constituents in most contries.
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.
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Daniel P. Faigin <email@example.com>