Jewish Reconstructionist Movement Makes History

Jewish Reconstructionist Movement Makes History

Deborah Waxman is First Woman to Lead Movement and Seminary

Special for the AJT

Deborah Waxman

The Jewish Reconstructionist movement made history October 26, when Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., was inaugurated as the first woman president of both a seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC), and a major Jewish movement in Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. This historic event took place at 2:30 p.m. at The National Museum of American Jewish History.

Rabbi Waxman notes that in the 21st century, when Jewish people are able to choose from a vast array of spiritual, religious, and cultural sources to construct their identities, Reconstructionist Judaism offers a distinctive, inclusive path toward meaning and connection. “The conviction that we need not choose between being Jewish and being modern and American is even more relevant today than it was when the movement took shape fifty years ago,” she said. “We can choose from a vast banquet of spiritual, religious, and cultural sources, and Reconstructionist Judaism offers a distinctive way for Jews – and the people who make their lives with us – to find meaning and connection.”

Calling Waxman a visionary leader who is uniquely suited to her new role, David Roberts of St. Louis, MO, chair of the RRC Board of Governors, said that Waxman’s passion and keen intellect combine in a way that empowers and energizes those around her. “With Deborah’s leadership, I am optimistic about the future of the movement, as we continue to strive to meet people’s changing spiritual and communal needs,” Roberts commented. “I can’t imagine a better standard bearer than Deborah – it’s as if her whole career has been spent preparing her for this role.” Waxman, a historian of American Judaism, received rabbinical ordination from RRC in 1999 and served as RRC’s vice president for governance from 2003 to 2013.

Reconstructionist Judaism teaches that Judaism is the continuously evolving civilization of the Jewish people, encompassing culture, art, music, food, and everything else that makes up a civilization. With deep roots in tradition, Reconstructionist Jews believe that, for Judaism to remain relevant, each generation must “reconstruct” it to meet contemporary emotional and spiritual needs.

The fourth largest movement of American Judaism is headquartered outside of Philadelphia and has 107 affiliated congregations throughout the United States and Canada. Reconstructionist Judaism is growing at a time when membership in other religious groups is shrinking.

Together, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities (JRC) constitute the Reconstructionist movement. The RRC teaches, trains and guides the next generation of rabbis, and the JRC provides services and support to Reconstructionist synagogues and communities.

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