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Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel Helps Jews Understand the Reform Movement’s History and Place in Modern American Life

| December 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

Temple Sharey Tefilo-IsraelRabbi Klein
432 Scotland Road
South Orange, NJ 07079

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Media Contact: Donna Gould / / (201) 796-7788

South Orange Synagogue Offers Knowledge and Rabbinic Guidance to Members and the Community

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J., Dec. 30, 2015 – Rabbi Alexandra Klein of Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) in South Orange recently led an adult education class about the history of Reform Judaism. Her class enabled members to better understand how Reform Judaism has changed with the times – as have its adherents.

A key learning she imparted to attendees: “Reform is a verb, not the adjective ‘reformed.’ The movement is always evolving and reforming, responding to different issues and different needs at different times.”

The Reform movement, established in the mid-1800s, is the largest stream of Judaism in the United States and worldwide. According to a landmark 2013 study by Pew Research, 35 percent of all U.S. Jews identify with the Reform movement, nearly double of those who identify with Conservative Judaism (18 percent) and more than three times the number of Orthodox Jews (10 percent). The Pew study also showed that there is a shift toward less traditional Judaism: Approximately one-quarter of people who were raised Orthodox have become Conservative or Reform Jews, while 30 percent of those raised Conservative have become Reform Jews.

“Whether people are raised as Reform Jews, came to Reform Judaism from more traditional backgrounds, or chose to convert to Judaism, one thing is shared: all can find meaning and connection through the Reform movement’s principle of ‘choice through knowledge’,” noted Klein. “This is mirrored within our own membership at TSTI, where our congregants actively maintain their Jewish heritage and identity while living a modern American lifestyle.”

TSTI is the only Reform synagogue in South Orange, and its programs and culture foster Jewish engagement that is in concert with its members’ daily lives and the wider community. Rabbi Daniel Cohen, TSTI’s senior rabbi, explained that Reform Judaism was historically universalist regarding religious practice and its place among other religions. Today there is a swing toward a more traditional approach, with an emphasis on what distinguishes Reform Judaism from other movements and religions.

“We strive to help our members understand the full context of the Reform movement’s evolution. The movement today is not the one I grew up in, because it embraces an ongoing process of change that reflects society. There is a drive to make Judaism meaningful and provide different avenues for people to connect. Our work at TSTI is to help our diverse members’ discover and deepen their connections to Judaism in ways that are comfortable for them.”

Cohen noted that Klein’s class also dealt with how Reform Judaism addresses the needs of contemporary Jews in America. “The question many people are concerned with is how to be American while maintaining our Jewishness. Everything we do at TSTI is meant to complement our members’ lives and provide them with the knowledge they need to craft a meaningful Jewish life.”

Some of the ways in which TSTI provides portals to Jewish engagement for its members are through creative programming for young families; religious school, Hebrew High school and youth group programs; congregation-wide social justice projects; adult education; the popular Shabbat Scholar series that combines scholarly talks by renowned speakers with community dinners; and travel to Israel in order to foster connection to Israeli culture and politics.

“We want our members to feel empowered as they learn more about Judaism and the many ways to express their Jewishness,” said Klein. “Embracing the process of ‘reform’ as well as embracing knowledgeable choice are two elements of the Reform movement that can deeply enrich their lives.”

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, located at 432 Scotland Road in South Orange, is a vibrant Reform congregation that offers lifelong learning for adults as well as Early Childhood Education, Religious School, teen programs, and a full complement of religious services and cultural programs each month. TSTI serves member families from Maplewood, the Oranges, Livingston, Millburn, Short Hills and surrounding areas. For more information, visit


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