WRJ has a new Mission Statement
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.
WRJ’s First 100 Years
Women of Reform Judaism is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of the Reform Movement in North America. Established in 1913, WRJ now represents more than 65,000 women in nearly 500 women’s groups in North America and around the world.
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 scholarships for students at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and other Reform seminaries around the world, We support the youth programs of the Reform Movement and Reform Institutions in North America, Israel, and around the world.
WRJ was founded in 1913 as The National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (NFTS) during a historic period in the struggle for women’s rights. The organization was renamed Women of Reform Judaism in 1993 to more accurately reflect our role in the modern Jewish
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. In the tumultuous early years of the century, WRJ:
- embraced relief efforts during World War I;
- defended the needy during the Depression;
- brought German rabbinical students to the U.S. after Hitler closed the doors of Jewish academies;
- advocated for refugees and displaced persons before and during World War II;
- defended the right of Jews to resettle in Palestine after the war; and
- actively participated in the formation of the United Nations and its Charter.
- 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 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. The influence of women in professional Jewish life led to growing awareness of women’s spirituality and enhanced opportunities for learning and growth for Reform women.
The 21st Century
WRJ continues to be devoted to a broad spectrum of Jewish and humanitarian causes and furthers the teachings and practices of Reform Judaism. Its diversified activities include projects supporting:
- religious and family education;
- strengthening Jewish identity in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union;
- the growth of Progressive Judaism in the State of Israel;
- inter-group relations; and
- a wide range of social justice and women’s issues.
Service to Sisterhoods
WRJ serves affiliated sisterhoods through preparation rich trove of materials and programs to help them operate at their 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
- working with high school and college age youth
- outreach to Jews in Israel and around the world
Since the birth of the state of Israel, NFTS/WRJ has supported social action issues and education in the Jewish state as well as the advancement of Reform Jewish institutions, with a particular concern for the religious freedoms of Progressive Jews and women. Today, WRJ is proud to have over twenty affiliated sisterhoods in Israel, many of which currently twin with WRJ sisterhoods in North America.
WRJ participates in numerous coalitions and represents Reform Jewish women in such settings as:
- The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
- American Jewish World Service
- Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
- Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life
- Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
- National Council on Aging
- Department of Public Information
- U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and other coalitions and commissions dealing with social concerns in the interreligious and general communities.
Reform Movement Leadership
WRJ works with other Reform Movement affiliates to advance Reform Judaism, with representation in such bodies as:
- Board of Trustees of the Union for Reform Judaism
- Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
- Executive Board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism
- Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, and
- other committees and commissions of the Reform Movement
Learn more at wrj.org
12 WRJ Resolutions Selected as Most Important of the Century
1915: Immigration Bill
NFTS protests and urges the U.S. president to veto a restrictive immigration bill.
1923: Representation of Women on Union Boards and Commissions
NFTS recommends that the UAHC grant NFTS representation on UAHC boards and committees.
1933: Jewish Braille Institute
NFTS recommends the endorsement ofthe Jewish Braille Institute.
1935: Birth Control Literature
NFTS supports efforts to exempt physicians, hospitals, and clinics from federal laws that prohibit birth control literature in the mail.
NFTS urges the U.S. Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime ofGenocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
1950: Civil Rights
NFTS advocates equal employment opportunities for minorities, establishment of civil rights agencies, andstrengthening of government provisions for dealing with violations.
1963:Ordination of Women as Rabbis
NFTS calls for a CCAR, UAHC, HUC-JIR, and NFTS conference to determine appropriate action for ordination of women.
NFTS urges Arab-Israel peace negotiations, asks sisterhood for contributions to build a synagogue at Ben -Shemen Children’s Village, Lod, Israel, and calls for telegrams to obtain release of prisoners held by Arab terrorists.
1975: Rights of Individuals
An omnibus resolution supporting: halting all illegal surveillance, legal representation in court for the poor, establishment of counseling centers for rape victims, distinguishing between minors who have committed statusoffenses and those who have committed criminal acts, and the right of women to a legal abortion. It also proposes comprehensive single-benefit health insurance.
NFTS calls on its affiliates to advocate for increased resources for AIDS treatment and research, prohibition of discrimination against individuals with AIDS.
1991:Rights of Gay Men and Lesbian Women
NFTS resolves to support gay and lesbian Jews in fulfilling their communal aspirations, urging member sisterhoods to support: full opportunity and civil protections; integration within congregations and communities; the right of gayand lesbian Jews to serve as rabbis,cantors, and professionals in our synagogues; and to sensitize youth to the diversity of families and life styles.
2001: Complete Health – Mental and Physical
Call for action on: congregational efforts to prevent bullying, genetic diseases among people of Ashkenazi descent,and “funding of responsible research involving stem cells”
2006:Ending Global Poverty
WRJ endorses the UN Millennium Development Goals, which seek to halve global poverty by 2015. WRJ urges itsaffiliates to develop programming,encourage use of fair trade products, and support the work of relief organizations.