Rabbi Andy Kahn—The Present and Future of Reform Aesthetics and Identity: Performadoxy and Emergent Custom

by Rabbi Andy Kahn, Assistant Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El

Printed in the CCAR Journal, Reform Jewish Quarterly, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Winter 2019.

American Reform Judaism suffers from a crisis of identity. The institutions that fall under the umbrella of the Reform Movement are struggling to locate a vision of the future that both encompasses the rich past and meets the needs and challenges of a swiftly changing future. Religious Judaism, the expression of Reform Judaism that sees itself as a religion akin to Christianity and Islam, is in the same decline as other religious movements among highly educated Western audiences. Ethnic Judaism, that is, Jewishness as a biologically or familially inherited trait, is waning as an impetus for institutional affiliation and also alienating those of mixed heritage or in mixed partnerships. Nationalist Judaism, the Zionism- based pseudo-ethnic identity that cropped up in America after the Six-Day War, is falling prey to its own internal dissonance—that the Jews who subscribe to this identity are politically left-wing on everything except for issues that affect the state of Israel, as well as the inherent incoherence of ascribing a primary identity to an idealized version of a country in which one actively chooses to not hold citizenship.

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Excerpt from the CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Winter 2019.
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