Reform Zionism, also known as Progressive Zionism is the ideology of the Zionist arm of the Reform or Progressive branch of Judaism. The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) is the American Reform movement's Zionist organization. Their mission “endeavors to make Israel fundamental to the sacred lives and Jewish identity of Reform Jews. As a Zionist organization, ARZA champions activities that further enhance Israel as a pluralistic, just and democratic Jewish state.” ARZA was founded in 1978 as an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism (at that time called the Union of American Hebrew Congregations). The organization's founding Executive Director was Rabbi Ira Youdovin, succeeded by Rabbis Eric Yoffie, Ammiel Hirsch, and Andrew Davids. In Israel, Reform Zionism is associated with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.
Traditionally, Progressive/Reform Jews rejected Zionism since Jewish nationalism seemed to conflict with the universalistic ideology of the early Reform movement. However, with the establishment of the State of Israel, many Progressive/Reform Jews saw a need for a Jewish national home in the Biblical Land of Israel. In 1978, ARZA began working to conceptualize a Zionism that took the universalistic ideals of Reform Judaism, as well as the particular needs of all Jewish people, into account. In 1997, ARZA significantly shifted thinking regarding the acceptability of Zionism within the Reform Movement through the acceptance of the Miami Platform of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).
During two millennia of dispersion and persecution, Am Yisrael [people of Israel] never abandoned hope for the rebirth of a national home in Eretz Yisrael. The Shoah [Holocaust] intensified our resolve to affirm life and pursue the Zionist dream of a return to Eretz Yisrael. Even as we mourned for the loss of one-third of our people, we witnessed the miraculous rebirth of Medinat Yisrael, the Jewish people's supreme creation in our age.
Centuries of Jewish persecution, culminating in the Shoah, demonstrated the risks of powerlessness. We, therefore, affirm Am Yisrael's reassertion of national sovereignty, but we urge that it be used to create the kind of society in which full civil, human, and religious rights exist for all its citizens. Ultimately, Medinat Yisrael will be judged not on its military might but on its character.
While we view Eretz Yisrael as sacred, the sanctity of Jewish life takes precedence over the sanctity of Jewish land.
Through the ideal of Tikkun Olam (healing the world), Reform Zionism sees the role of the State of Israel as the means by which the messianic era can be achieved, by acting as a "light unto the nations", a national example of ideal prophetic principles of justice and peace. For the Reform Zionist, this means that by working to make Israel a better place, one can lead the world in working towards a state of perfection.
Due to this, the Reform Zionist movement is heavily involved in social activism in Israel. As a religious, rather than political, ideology, Reform Zionism and its organizations do not see themselves as inherently political, and do not align with any Israeli political party or movement.
The Reform Zionist movement has an international youth wing, represented by its youth movement, Netzer Olami, which includes branches in many countries across the world.
Affiliated communities in Israel
- Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
- World Union for Progressive Judaism
- Netzer Olami
- Ze'ev Jabotinsky
- Association of Reform Zionists of America
- Association of Reform Zionists of Canada
- Association of Reform Zionists of Australia
- Pro Zion - Progressive Religious Zionists UK
- Dr. Michael Livni - Reform Zionism researcher.