"Judaism is the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people." — Rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructionist movement
When we speak of Judaism as "evolving", we mean that collectively and individually, Jewish life must evolve to reflect the contemporary realities of our lives. We believe that being a Jew means being engaged in a life-long process of Jewish learning. We come together to develop our own understanding of Jewish civilization and to transmit our heritage to the next generation.
When we say “religious,” we refer to the human need for spiritual fulfillment: the need to transcend the functional realm of everyday life in search of that which adds greater purpose and meaning to our lives. Through prayer and ritual, we seek to express this qualitative dimension of life. Although there are many ways of understanding God, the God of Israel has always been associated with tzedek u-mishpat, hesed ve-rahamim: "justice and righteousness, love and compassion." God is the source of our generosity, sensitivity and concern for the world around us. We believe that our experiences of God are most likely to come from those relationships with other human beings in which those qualities are brought forth.
When we speak of Judaism as a "civilization," we mean that Judaism is more than a religion. The Jewish people share historical memory and historical destiny. Judaism includes a commitment to our ancient homeland and language, and we share a love for Jewish culture, Jewish morality and Jewish philosophy. We are heirs to a rich legacy of literary and artistic achievement, of laughter and tears, a legacy that continues to grow in our day. The ethical imperative of Jewish civilization challenges us to translate the teachings of our Torah into a social reality.
The historic attachment to the land of Israel, from Biblical times until today, has been central to the spiritual and cultural life of our people. We affirm Zionism as an integral part of Jewish identity. We value our special kinship to the Land of Israel and are committed to the continued well-being of the State of Israel. The Hebrew language is an essential vehicle for the transmission of Jewish culture, both religious and secular, worldwide.
When we say that Judaism is a civilization "of the Jewish people," we believe that Jews of past ages have created this civilization, beginning with our Torah and all that has flowed from it. It is up to all Jews of every generation, not only the rabbis, to be responsible for the perpetuation of Jewish life. By "the Jewish people" we also mean that all Jews, whether by birth or by choice, are members of the Jewish family. As Reconstructionist Jews, we endorse democracy and pluralism in Jewish life.