What is Judaism?
Judaism denotes the civilization of the Jewish people, their history and realities, their secular as well as sacred lives, their culture and social institutions of all types. Equally, Judaism stands for the Jewish religion. Whilst many elements of the former are woven into the fabric that is Judaism, the religious element has been the constant that has ensured the continuity of our people.
The religious element of Judaism is itself far from being simple and homogeneous. However, seven strands might be recognised by all those who hold belief, and practice the variety of Jewish religious expressions, as being essential elements of Judaism.
1. A doctrine concerning God, the universe and humanity.
2. A morality for the individual and society.
3. A regimen of rite, custom and ceremony.
4. A sacred literature.
5. A body of law.
6. Institutions through which the above find expression e.g. the synagogue.
7. The Jewish people, sometimes called Israel.
The different approaches to the Jewish religion reflect the fact that the dominant form of Judaism remains that of a religious philosophy of inquiry, the search for meaning in life and central to that, what God requires of us during our short stay on earth. In this sense, Judaism is extremely unorthodox as it can never rest upon dogma. Liberal Judaism is one of the religious expressions of Judaism.
What is Liberal Judaism?
Liberal Judaism arose in early nineteenth century Germany as an attempt to reconcile the basic principles of Judaism with the Enlightenment values of rational thought and scientific evidence. As the Jew emerged into Western society, Liberal Judaism affirmed the possibility and desirability of making compatible the practice of Judaism and a Jews participation in modern society. Liberal Judaism’s main departure from traditional Judaism concerns revelation. Liberal Judaism believes that the Hebrew Scriptures including the Torah are a human attempt to understand the Divine Will, and therefore uses Scripture as the starting point for Jewish decision making, conscious of the fallibility of scripture and of the value of knowledge outside of Scripture.In the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there are over thirty Liberal and Progressive Jewish congregations, large and small.
All work together to uphold and spread their beliefs, combining rabbinic and lay resources, through the national organisation, Liberal Judaism.The organisation was founded in 1902 by men and women committed to the ideal of a liberal philosophy. in order to ensure the continuity of Jewish faith, tradition, practice and ethics within a contemporary framework. They worked unsparingly to reinstil Judaism in the hearts of Jews through services, public meetings, sermons, writings and inspiring leadership. The movement they founded, the Jewish Religious Union, was later renamed the Union of Liberal & Progressive Synagogues, now known as Liberal Judaism.Today, we declare the basis of our faith which has enabled us to be part of the proud, developing and dynamic history of Judaism.
Liberal Judaism is the growing edge of Judaism. It reverences Jewish tradition, and seeks to preserve all that is good in the Judaism of the past. But it lives in the present.It desires that Judaism shall be an active force for good in the lives of Jewish individuals, families and communities today, and that it shall make its contribution to the betterment of human society.It confronts unflinchingly the challenges of our time, welcomes gladly all advances in human knowledge, and responds constructively to changing circumstances. It values truth above tradition, sincerity above conformity, and human needs above legal technicalities.It is unafraid to engage in dialogue with other streams of Judaism, or with other religions, or with secularism. It is always ready to reconsider, modify and innovate.It is the Judaism of the past in process of becoming the Judaism of the future.