What's the difference between Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism?
To be completely honest, the Reform and Reconstructionist Movements are incredibly similar. Both members of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, they both are egalitarian, ardent feminists, liberal/progressive zionists, share equal beliefs about the LGBTQ+ community, believe that the Torah was written by humans, have a lot of music and ruach (spirit) in their services and have very inclusive environments.
Reconstructionist Judaism was founded in the early 20th century by Mordechai Kaplan, who’s ideas focused on an evolving religious life based on community. Here are some basic tenets:
- Judaism is more than a religion; it is an evolving religious civilization.
- Judaism is the creation of the Jewish people themselves, not of God.
- Jewish law is not the sole decision maker: i.e. the past “has a vote, not a veto.”
- A belief in a non-supernatural deity: “God is the process that leads to salvation”
- The driving force behind Judaism is belonging rather than believing.
- Judaism and working for social justice are inseparable.
- The State of Israel is vital to Jewish cultural and spiritual survival
All of the above ideas are 100% still used in the modern Reconstructionist movement, and all but one of the above concepts have come into the Reform Movement as time has gone on. The fourth bullet point is not relevant in the Reform Movement as we understand that God is a difference force for everyone. But then again, the above source might be old and Reconstructionist Jews might have also evolved with this bullet point.
The Reform Movement is notably larger with more congregations around North America and the world and a larger seminary. But Reconstructionist Judaism is not the smallest movement- that would either be Jewish Renewal or Humanist Judaism.
According to the website I referenced above, where “Reform Judaism values individual autonomy”, “Reconstructionism values communal decision making”. Additionally, “the Reform Movement uses more traditional God language” where “Reconstructionism uses a more traditional prayer style.”
As you can tell, both movements are extremely similar.
Hope that this helps!