About WOMEN OF REFORM JUDAISM
Mission Statement, 2015
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) strengthens the voice of women worldwide and empowers them to create caring communities, nurture congregations, cultivate personal and spiritual growth, and advocate for and promote progressive Jewish values.
Women of Reform Judaism is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. Established in 1913 as the National Fed, WRJ represents tens of thousands of members across North America, Israel, and around the globe.
With a mission to ensure the future of Reform Judaism, WRJ works to educate and train future sisterhood and congregational leadership about membership, fundraising, leadership skills, advocacy for social justice, and innovative and spiritual programming. Through our YES Fund (Youth, Education, and Special Projects), WRJ provides financial support to rabbinical students at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, to the youth programs of the Reform Movement, and to programs benefiting women and children in Israel and the Former Soviet Union.
- WRJ was founded in 1913, during a historic period of advancing struggle for recognition and equality for women, as The National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS). The organization was renamed in 1993 to more accurately reflect Reform Jewish women in sisterhoods throughout the world. Empowered by the Reform Movement ‘s precept of placing Jewish women on a plane of religious equality with men, WRJ became active in areas that continue to define its work today.
- embracing relief efforts during World War I
- aiding in causes on behalf of the needy during the Depression
- bringing German rabbinic students to study in the U.S. in 1935 after Hitler closed the doors of Jewish academies of higher education
- urging governments to open borders to refugees before and during World War II, and advocating for adequate services on behalf of displaced persons and allowing Jews to resettle in Palestine after the war
- actively involved in the formation of the United Nations and its Charter
The 20th Century
Over the course of the 20th century, WRJ was at the forefront of social action and change in both Jewish and secular venues:
Although marred by war and rioting, the ‘50s and ‘60s were also a time of prosperity and growing membership for the organization, as well as an increased organizational commitment to science and human rights. Support for the United Nations Decade for Women brought forth many important resolutions of social activism.
NFTS became particularly involved in supporting the UN Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The ’70s and ’80s were years of growing achievements for women in Reform Judaism, most notably the ordination, in 1972, of the first woman rabbi, Sally Priesand.
Devoted to a broad spectrum of Jewish and humanitarian causes, WRJ furthers the teachings and practices of Judaism. Its diversified activities include projects supporting:
- the blind and visually impaired
- religious and family education
- strengthening Jewish identity in Eastern Europe
- the State of Israel, and
- inter-group relations and a wide range of social justice and women’s issues
WRJ serves affiliated sisterhoods through the preparation of materials and programs to help them function at the most effective level. This includes materials for:
- local programming
- organizational and leadership development
- continuing Jewish adult education
- education and action on critical issues and community service
- preschool Jewish learning
- working with high school and college age youth
- assisting the aging and the disabled
- outreach to Jews in the Former Soviet Union and in other re-emerging Jewish communities
Since the birth of the state of Israel, NFTS/WRJ has supported social action issues and education in the Jewish homeland as well as the advancement of Reform Jewish institutions, with a particular concern for the religious freedoms of Progressive Jews and women.
WRJ is represented on several boards including the Union for Reform Judaism, Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Commission on Social Action for Reform Judaism. Other affiliations can be viewed on the WRJ website.