Ok, let’s clear the air:
A) “REFORMED” is an adjective. “REFORM” is a verb or a noun.
Definition of REFORMED:
1: amended by the removal of faults or abuses.
as in, “Criminals and drug addicts can be reformed.”
2: (initial capital letter) noting or pertaining to Protestant churches, especially Calvinist as distinguished from Lutheran.
as in, NOT JEWISH.
Definition of REFORM, on the other hand:
Verb: make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
Noun: the action or process of reforming an institution or practice.
This becomes an adjective when referring to Jews. As in, “I’m a Reform Jew, and it’s important to me to be mindful of our tradition even though there are things I think need to be changed, or made more meaningful to me.”
B) Being a Reform Jew does not give you a free pass.
Identifying as a Reform Jew means making thoughtful choices. If you choose nothing because you don’t “have” to, or because you legitimately have no religious beliefs, that’s fine, you are secular, or consider yourself not affiliated with a particular denomination. Nothin’ wrong with that. Enjoy. Be well. But don’t say “I’m a Reform Jew so I don’t HAVE to . . .” .
It’s not all or nothing, though. If you’re rolling your eyes at me, thinking the only Jewish thing you choose is Reform synagogue affiliation so your kid can become bar/bat mitzvah in a communal Jewish environment, you are a Reform Jew making a thoughtful, Jewish choice. You are acknowledging the shared DNA of our People, and are creating continuity with your kids.
Serving shrimp cocktail at the reception right after the motzi is made by Grandpa Jack over a gigantic challah? By choosing to incorporate the Hebrew blessing over the bread, you are acknowledging that Jews have rituals that make us unique and we pass them from generation to generation. Just like you don’t “have” to keep kosher, you don’t “have” to say the blessing over the challah. But you’ve chosen to. You are a Reform Jew making a thoughtful, Jewish choice.
WHEW! I feel better :-D
Up next: Stuff Reform Jews “don’t do” but can, and Stuff Reform Jews have categorically rejected and/or changed from our Tradition (as in: creating new Traditions).