Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism

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The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (or the IMPJ, Hebrew: התנועה הרפורמית - יהדות מתקדמת בישראל‎) is the organizational branch of Progressive Judaism in Israel, and a member organization of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. It currently has 40 communities and congregations around the state of Israel, 13 of which are new congregations, referred to as "U'faratztah" communities, and two kibbutzim, Yahel and Lotan, Israel.

Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism
Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.jpg
Motto There is more than one way to be Jewish
Established 1971
Affiliations World Union for Progressive Judaism, Israel Religious Action Center
Website Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism


Some of the earliest Reform rabbis to settle in what would become Israel included Rabbi Judah Leon Magnes, who was the first Chancellor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in 1938, became its President. Rabbi Meir Elk, who graduated from the liberal Breslau Rabbinical Seminary in Germany (now in Wroclaw, Poland), founded the Leo Baeck School in Haifa, which today is one of the most renowned[according to whom?] educational establishments in the country.

The first Reform congregation in Israel opened in Jerusalem in 1958, and it was named Congregation "Har'el". A conference open to the public who wished to see a Jewish alternative to the Orthodox Movement took place in 1965. This strengthened the relationship between the six existing congregations, and served as the cornerstone for the establishment of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). The IMPJ officially became an organization in Israel in 1971. The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the rabbinical college of Reform Judaism, began its Rabbinical Studies program in Israel in 1974, and in 1980, the first Reform rabbi was ordained by the HUC. Despite the mass-immigration of Jews from the CIS to Israel, the growth of the Reform movement in Israel was still limited. According to some[who?], this is due to political pressure from Haredi and other religious parties.[citation needed] The headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism was moved to Jerusalem in 1973.

Today, there are 40 communities and congregations affiliated with Reform Judaism in Israel. The IMPJ runs about 40 kindergartens, school-run educational programming; "Noar Telem", the Reform Movement youth organization, a part of Netzer Olami; and the Youth Adult and Students Forum for 20- to 30-year-olds, as well as four Batei Midrash, Jewish study centers. The first Reform kibbutz, Yahel, was founded in 1976 in Arava, and Lotan was founded in 1983. Har Halutz was established in Galilee in 1985.

The Movement participates in various initiatives for social justice, such as Rabbis for Human Rights, and it is affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism. In 2012, The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism officially changed its name to the "Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism". Yaron Shavit, Adv. serves as the Chairman of the IMPJ, and Rabbi Gilad Kariv serves as the Executive Director.

Achievements of Reform rabbis[edit]

  • Kehillat Yozma, a Reform synagogue in Modi'in,[1] is the first non-Orthodox congregation in Israel to receive state funding for its synagogue building.[2][3][4]
  • Kinneret Shiryon, a Reform rabbi, is the first female rabbi in Israel.[2]
  • Alona Lisitsa, a Reform rabbi, is the first female rabbi in Israel to join a religious council,[5] joining Mevaseret Zion’s in 2012.[6]

The IMPJ Institutions[edit]

The headquarters of the IMPJ are located in The Shimshon Center-Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem.

MARAM - Council of Progressive Rabbis

MARAM serves as the center of all Reform rabbis in Israel. MARAM had edited prayer books for Shabbat and high holidays, and other publications on Jewish law, prayer, and holidays. MARAM deals with a variety of Jewish topics, and runs a Convectional program and court. Rabbi Maya Leibowitz serves as the head of MARAM.

Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)

IRAC was founded in 1987, and serves as the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. It focuses on issues of religion and state, including state recognition of Reform Rabbis and Reform conversions. Anat Hoffman serves as the executive director of IRAC.

Programs and Initiatives[edit]

Project Mechina

The IMPJ Mechina Project is a post-high school, pre-military year of study and preparations toward compulsory IDF service. Participants in the Mechina study Jewish heritage and Israeli identity, and work in community service projects. The IMPJ Mechina takes place in Jaffa.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ephraim Tabory (1988) Reform Judaism in Israel : progress and prospects New York, N.Y.; Ramat-Gan, Israel: Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations of the American Jewish Committee; Argov Center of Bar-Ilan University, 1998.


External links[edit]