Reform Judaism Headquarters to Transfer from NY to Jerusalem Move to Strengthen Progressive Movement
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Reform Judaism Headquarters to Transfer from NY to Jerusalem Move to Strengthen Progressive Movement

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The World Union for Progressive Judaism, the international body of Reform Judaism in 25 countries, will transfer its headquarters from New York City to Jerusalem in July, 1973. Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch of Washington, D.C. has been named as the new executive director of the World Union succeeding Rabbi William A. Rosenthall. Presently Rabbi Hirsch serves as the director of the Religious Action Center of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in the nation’s capital.

In announcing the move, Rabbi Bernard Bamberger, president of the World Union, noted that the action approved by the organization’s Governing Board meeting in London, July 1971, “reflects the conviction that an international body should have its center in the place that for all Jews symbolizes the unity and the spiritual striving of the Jewish people.”

He said he believed that the establishment of the headquarters in Israel “will strengthen the progressive movement there, presently with nine congregations, in its struggle to obtain recognition as a valid interpretation of Judaism.” Dr. Bamberger noted, “Such recognition has hitherto been blocked by the opposition of the Orthodox Religious Party which controls the Ministry of Religion.”


Rabbi Hirsch explained that the definition of Jewishness has expanded since the holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. “Jews are a people. Neither we nor the non-Jewish world is capable of constricting Jews to a faith or a philosophy or a narrowly defined religious movement.”

Turning to the non-recognition of Reform rabbis in Israel, Rabbi Hirsch said, “We do not intend to permit any group to read us out of Jewish life.” The World Union executive said he felt, “the democratic society in Israel will not for too much longer tolerate minority control over vast areas of public policy. The Jewish people are highly pluralistic, and Israel, if it wants to remain true to Jewish character, will have to allow for full expression of Jewish pluralism.” The World Union was founded in 1926 in London, inspired by the late Lily H. Montague and Dr. Claude G. Montefiore.

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