In November 1885, concerned about what they saw as a growing disconnect between the strictures of traditional Judaism and the scientific and rational ways of the modern world, nineteen rabbis from the loosely connected Reform movement in Judaism gathered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to discuss what made the Reform movement both unique and unified. Ultimately, they issued an eight-point platform—the Pittsburgh Platform—that Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, one of the participants, called the “Jewish Declaration of Independence” and that Rabbi David Philipson, the secretary of the conference, concluded was “the most succinct expression of the theology of the reform movement that has ever been published to the world.”
The Pittsburgh Platform stands as the declaration of the core values of what has come to be known as “classical” Reform Judaism. The platform distinguishes between the ethical, philosophical, and religious elements of traditional Judaism, which the drafters thought...
Moses (left) and Aaron (right) with scenes from the life of Moses (Library of Congress)View Full Size