Progressive Judaism Q&A

Progressive Judaism: Your Questions Answered

Progressive Judaism embraces tradition and works to make it meaningful in contemporary life.

Judaism is built on the history and laws set out in the Torah (Five Books of Moses). It emphasises ethical behaviour and prescribes a way of life, telling us how to behave, work, rest, eat, celebrate and much more.

Progressive Judaism embraces all these traditions and works to make them meaningful parts of contemporary life.

We put particular emphasis on Tikkun Olam (rebuilding the world), the belief that through social or environmental action we are partners with God in creating the world as it should be.

Progressive Jews believe that the Torah comes to us from God but it is our task to apply its teachings to our times. Halacha, Jewish law, is not a static set of decisions made by past rabbis, but a vital process requiring continuing engagement with our core beliefs in the context of our current world.

Individuals are responsible for developing a personal understanding of what God wants of them. This means Progressive Judaism emphasises education, requiring each person to engage with Jewish texts and traditions.

In line with contemporary understanding, men and women are equal partners. There is no division of seating in our synagogues and women participate equally in services, including serving as rabbis.

Our prayers and rituals are essentially the same as other streams of Judaism. There may be adjustments according to what is meaningful to a community. Many Progressive synagogues use the vernacular as well as Hebrew. Shorter services are common and musical instruments may be played.

Contrary to common misconception, Progressive Jews do not reject Jewish law, Shabbat observance, dietary laws or anything else. Progressive congregations have set aside Shabbat and festivals and holy days as sacred time. We re-interpret Torah to emphasise meaning for our lives today. We accept that this may include driving to synagogue on Shabbat or for other celebrations to make the time meaningful for us and our families.

Jews-by-choice, those who convert to Judaism through a Progressive framework, undergo an 18-20 month period of learning, integration and personal reflection. As in other streams of Judaism, the process includes milah (for a man) and mikvah for women.

Children of mixed marriages, including those whose father only is Jewish, may be accepted as Jewish but only if they have been raised Jewishly and are able to make an informed choice at the time of bar/bat mitzvah.

You can read more about the principles of Progressive Judaism here.

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