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Convention of Reform Rabbis Seeks Standards of Religious Observance

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American Reform Jewry was urged today to determine “minimal standards” for observances of all Judaism’s religious ceremonies and to establish standards to make religious observance expressive of the modern age. The Reform movement in this country has been operating without a formal code of religious practice ever since it was founded.

The need for establishing standards of observance for Sabbath, holidays and festivals was emphasized at the opening session of the 70th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis by Dr. Jacob Philip Rudin, president of the organization of Reform rabbis. “Surely there are such minimal standards, ” he declared in his presidential address. “There must be. To say that there are not is to say that Reform Judaism is without its discipline for daily living. It would mean that there is no longer in Reform Judaism the binding strength of the eternal word. “

The Central Conference, largest rabbinic organization, represents approximately 750 religious leaders of Reform congregations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The Reform movement, which has a membership of approximately a million, holds that Judaism is a continuously progressive religious discipline which, while retaining the essential from tradition, shapes and re-shapes ceremony and ritual to make faith germane and meaningful in each particular age.

Rabbi Rudin emphasized that he was not recommending revival of old ceremonies or establishment of a binding code. He said he was pleading for determination of “the irreducible minimum” upon which Reform Judaism must build. “We ought to take the eternal aspects of the word, as ‘Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,’ and see what that word realistically means in our time, ” he told his colleagues.

“What ought we to do to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy? What is possible and what is impossible? What must be done? What dare we not leave undone? In other words, what are the minimum standards for the Sabbath? And what are the minimum standards for the observance of other holidays and festivals, indeed for all the ceremonial which has helped make Judaism a rich and wonderful way of life? “Rabbi Rudin explained.

In proposing to establish standards “to make religious observance expressive of the modern age, ” the president of the CCAR said: “We are this generation of the People of the Book. We must preserve the word in our time, and in this time we must enlarge the word which is the law and the prophecy, the psalm and the yearning, the event and the joy and the sorrow. We must set firm anew the stones of our history. “

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