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November 25, 2014 | 3rd Kislev 5775

Final Proposed Vision Statement
Revised Language Analysis – to Incorporate Changes at Final Meeting – Boston

Michael Laufer
Member of the Reform Judaism Think Tank

Language Analysis

Paragraph I

Reform Judaism is the living expression of Torah and tradition in our modern lives.
  • Intentional and important connection of Torah and tradition to modern, contemporary life because this was a common theme found in the data and among members of the Think Tank.
Reform Judaism welcomes all who seek Jewish connection to pursue the fullness of a life inspired by compassion and our Divine mission to do what is right and just.
  • First three words—“Reform Judaism welcomes”—sets the stage for our vision and makes a powerful and positive statement.
  • There was a long debate about “welcome” vs. “invite,” and we determined that welcome is more open—and consistently open. It requires neither an invitation nor a response.
  • We want Reform Judaism to welcome both those who are already “inside” and those who don’t even know that there is something to be “in.” Thus we welcome “all who seek.”
  • To what are we welcoming people? This statement affirms that a life is fuller if it is infused with Judaism, and infusing lives with Judaism is the goal to which we aspire.
  • We recognize the influence of “the Divine.”
  • And, we provide the underlying framing concept that our goal as Reform Jews is to do what is right and just. This statement relates to our deep commitment to tikkun olam, social justice and activism, and our universal obligation to the world, all of which are important themes within Reform Judaism.
Paragraph II

In our sacred communities, Reform Jews make thoughtful and informed choices about how we put our values into action. We explore our spirituality, and we engage in reflection, critical study and sacred acts, in order to renew our living covenant with God and the Jewish people.
  • This paragraph presents the aspirational behavior of Reform Jews and focuses on the individual.
  • It answers this question: What is special and unique about Reform Jews in our vision?
  • In the original format, these same descriptors and explanations were used to define Reform Judaism, but we made changes to emphasize, ultimately, the importance of our ideology and all of our structures as they relate to the individual Reform Jew.
  • Note the use of active verbs: make choices, conduct lives, put values into action, live our faith, explore, we link, we embrace.
  • The first sentence is a strong statement of what we do. It is aspirational and active.
  • “Putting our values into action” is an important concept.
  • It is important to establish the context “in communities” and equally important to consider these communities “sacred.” “Communities” is a significant concept found in the entire data gathering process.
  • Some participants wanted to include references to ritual and some Hebrew. The final statement used general language to represent these needs: “explore our spirituality” and “sacred acts.”
  • The term “critical study” reflects Reform Judaism’s modern academic approach and connection to the Movement’s institutions of study and research.
Paragraph III

The organizations of the Reform Movement exist in partnership with one another to nurture individual Jews, to sustain our innovative and diverse communities, and to shape our shared destiny with Israel and fellow Jews around the world.
  • This paragraph focuses on the Reform Movement as a whole andis perhaps the boldest in the vision statement.
  • It identifies the Reform Movement as a collection of organizations. Use of the word “organizations” was debated extensively. “Branches,” “arms” and “affiliates” also were considered as other possibilities, but in the final analysis, “organizations” expressed best what we intended to communicate: that we are, in fact, talking about different organizations. In addition, the use of “arms” and “branches” conveys appendages to a main body, which is not what we wanted to portray.
  • In this vision statement, the organizations are clearly and expressly “in partnership with one another.” With partnership comes obligation and responsibility—to each partner organization and to the common endeavor.
  • Our organizations may be independent, but they also are interdependent—and that fact is clear in this statement.
  • We used this specific language to communicate that we are not referring only to the partnership among the URJ, CCAR and HUC-JIR.
  • This partnership exists so that in all its activities and in all that flows from this statement, the Reform Movement will nurture Jews, sustain our communities, and shape our destiny with that land and people of Israel and all other Jews.
  • The statement also acknowledges individuals’ diversity in myriad ways (interfaith families, sexual orientation, worship style, beliefs, etc.). It also recognizes diversity within and among communities that may or may not be congregational communities.
It is worth noting that the vision statement does not include these words:
  • Membership
  • Affiliation
  • Dues
  • Synagogue, Temple, Congregation

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