Reform Jewish Thought Leaders Chart a New Course

group of people posing for photo

Participants at the Mohonk Summit on Reform Jewish Theology and Ideology.

Reform Jewish rabbis and scholars from around the country gathered in the Catskill Mountains this spring to chart a bold new course for the future of Reform Judaism as it meets today’s rapid social, cultural, technological, and political changes.

The two-day summit, sponsored by HUC-JIR with a grant from the Perlin Family Foundation, addressed crucial questions for this moment of religious and social disruption. Participants grappled with issues related to digital technology, Jewish peoplehood, social justice, and the nature of the divine-human relationship, while engaging in challenging and provocative discussion with HUC-JIR President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. and Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss.

This immersive academic summit created critical space for participants to explore the great ideological and theological challenges of our times. Professor Joseph Skloot, an organizer of the summit, said, “We believe that the Reform Movement will only thrive in the present and future if there is clarity about who we are and why we do what we do.  The times are calling us to engage these ideas, no matter how complex and controversial they may be.  The urgency and need for intellectual rigor to accompany the current calls for radical change and transformation was underscored in all of our discussions.”

Rabbi Amy Perlin, who supported the gathering, added “Jewish survival has been grounded in Jewish transformative thinking at critical moments in our history. HUC-JIR continues to be the premier laboratory of thought leadership and transformational thinking for our Reform Movement. As such, it was an honor to support and participate in this gathering of intellectual giants and practitioners grappling with the important ideas upon which future change will be predicated and realized.”

The group will now spearhead an agenda for the coming months, including convening working groups to delve deeply into the issues addressed at the summit and holding additional gatherings convened by the College-Institute. This work is being undertaken with a keen awareness that today’s rapid transformations will move us beyond our current understandings of denominationalism. Summit participants intend to challenge their academic and rabbinic colleagues, lay partners, and institutions to join in the creation of a new theological and ideological framework that defines what Reform Judaism stands for and aspires to be.

President Andrew Rehfeld left inspired by the gathering and noted, “Thanks to the investment of the Perlin Family Foundation and the vision of Rabbi Skloot, this summit represented an important start to reassessing the future of Reform Judaism as a distinct approach to Jewish life that responds to contemporary challenges.  By bringing together a small group of scholars and practitioners to explore core concepts, the conference laid a foundation for a renewal of modern Judaism that embraces the spirit of Reform for a new age.”