The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) is the unique Israeli expression of the larger worldwide Progressive Movement, which traces its roots back to 19th century Germany. Though its early classical period was in Germany and Central Europe, Progressive Judaism has undergone its greatest period of growth and development in the United States. Today Progressive Judaism numbers some two million adherents in nearly 40 countries throughout the world, united in Jerusalem by the international headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.
Among the earliest Reform rabbis settling in Israel was Judah Leon Magnes, the first Chancellor of the Hebrew University, who became its President in 1935. In 1938, Rabbi Meir Elk, a graduate of Germanys liberal Breslau Rabbinical Seminary, established the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, today one of the most successful educational institutions in the country. The first Reform synagogue, Jerusalems Congregation Har El, was founded in 1958.
In 1973, the World Union for Progressive Judaism moved its headquarters to Jerusalem, establishing Progressive Judaisms international presence in Zion and reflecting its commitment to help build a strong indigenous movement. In 1976, the first Reform kibbutz, Yahel, was established in the Arava (65 km. north of Eilat) followed in 1983 by the founding of Kibbutz Lotan. A Progressive settlement in the Galilee, Har Halutz, was inaugurated in 1985.
Today, the IMPJ boasts a growing membership of both immigrants and native Israelis, with some 30 congregations around the country. Helping to ensure the movements future is a growing network of schools, educational and community centers, a youth movement, Hebrew and English Beit Midrash study programs, and the degree-granting and informal programs at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Also working to assure the movements advancement is the Israel Religious Action Center, the IMPJs public and legal advocacy arm.
In its practice, Progressive Judaism in Israel is in some ways more traditional than in the Diaspora. Hebrew is used exclusively in worship services. Classical Jewish texts and Rabbinic literature play a more prominent role in Reform education and synagogue life. A Progressive Beit Din (religious court) regulates procedures of conversion and offers guidance in other ritual matters. This traditional leaning embodies one of the original, classic principles of the movement: that Progressive Judaism draws upon powerful influences in the larger social context in which it lives and grows. Indeed, the leaders of the IMPJ have always endeavored to shape an indigenous movement, a natural synergy of the highest ideals of both Progressive Judaism and Israeli society.
Like Reform Jews worldwide, the members of the Israel movement value the principal of Tikkun Olam the repair of the world through the pursuit of social justice as they value ritual and tradition. In Israel this commitment extends to protecting the physical and spiritual well-being of the Jewish State. Progressive Judaism is dedicated to ensuring that the State of Israel reflect Judaisms highest prophetic character which calls for freedom, equality and peace among all the inhabitants of the land.
"The Reform movement in Israel is growing, with more Israelis turning to it as a viable option to both Orthodoxy and secularism, and with an increasing impact on public discourse. But the story of the movement’s experience in Israel has not been well told. The paper seeks to meet that need. It places the movement in a larger context, reviews its history and current status, and summarizes the challenges it and similar groups are facing" (Introduction, The Reform Movement in Israel: Past, Present and Future, L. Wolff, 2015)
We invite you to read an extensive article written by Laurence Wolff, a long-time friend of the IMPJ, on the history of the Reform Movement in Israel: click here to read the article
For more detailed information on the beliefs and positions of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, please visit the FAQ page