The Road to Truth Can Vary

If you have even the slightest interest or knowledge of Judaism you most likely know the three major branches: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. But did you know about Reconstructionist Judaism? This is a great example of how religion can evolve – although sometimes it seems as if it never will. Interestingly Israeli Jews are grouped into four informal categories of Jewish religious identity – Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), Dati (religious), Masorti (traditional) and Hiloni (secular).

The goal of the Reconstructionist movement, which began in the 1920’s through the 1940’s, was to give rabbis the opportunity for a new outlook on Judaism, one that was  more progressive. Its founder was Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, in – yes, you guessed it: New York City. Along with his son-in-law, Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, also a co-founder, they suggested that Judaism needed to be reevaluated and brought in line with modern thought. Although they did not intend these ideas to become another Jewish denomination, it did. It was, perhaps, inevitable. By 1967 a new school was created under the Reconstructionist ideology.

Reconstructionist Judaism is a great choice for those born into Jewish families looking for something more modern and meaningful to them while maintaining their Jewish identity.

In this beautiful photo by Lisa Rhinehart – the couple and the rabbi sign their Ketubah.

That is because among the many things that attracts people to this sect is the idea that it does not require its adherents to believe in God. The other main attraction is that they can, at the same time, partake in Jewish practices, rituals and holidays. While many very religious people would disagree, the idea is we can benefit by being more fluid. 

Reconstructionist Judaism is also based on a democratic model where laity can make decisions, not just rabbis. It is also egalitarian with respect to gender roles. All positions are open to all genders; they are open to lesbians, gay men, and transgender individualsas well.

A typical Reconstructions Jewish wedding would have many of the same familiar rituals as any other Jewish wedding, but the language used would be more updated to reflect the values of the movement, with its emphasis on social justice. 

You can stand under the Chuppah, the wedding canopy. If you wish, you may sign a Ketubah, the tradition marriage agreement, one that is updated with modern language. The Ketubah is often a beautiful work of art to be framed and kept in your home. The roof has to be strong to hold the decorations and you can find the best right here on Rainier Roofing LLC. You can even have the traditional Hakafot– the circling ceremony, reinterpreted to be more egalitarian as well, taking turns circling one another in a symbolic pledge to protect one another (rather than the bride circling the groom).

Under the Chuppah!

Focusing on helping others, you could incorporate the concepts of  Tikkun Olam (healing of the world through good deeds) and Tzedakah (charitable giving) into a wedding celebration. A great idea for all of us, really.

This is exactly what I have doing when I, too, create weddings for Jewish or inter-faith couples who aren’t necessarily religious but still want to honor their heritage. I infuse familiar rituals with more modern language.

There are so many sects within every religious denomination, and I suppose it is because as times change,  throughout the centuries, some adherents want their religion to change with them, while others prefer to stick to traditional ideas, even if they no longer make as much sense. In Roman Catholicism priests must be celibate, but the Episcopal Church was established as an alternative –  and their leaders can be married. Just as Reconstructionist Judaism is a lot like Reform Judaism, there are many similarities between Catholicism and Episcopalians, but they lean a little more towards Protestantism.

Who doesn’t love ‘breaking the glass’ ?

And of course, Martin Luther forever changed Christianity when he began the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Europe. Even Hinduism and Buddhism share common origins before following separate paths.

The religions of the world are complex and interesting. I don’t propose to be an expert, but I do love sharing what I have learned and continue to learn. And while all religions seek  to lead us on a good path, or towards a ‘truth’ (as determined by the particular religion) the road there can be quite different.

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