Cover image for Response to modernity : a history of the Reform Movement in Judaism
Response to modernity : a history of the Reform Movement in Judaism
Meyer, Michael A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1988.
Physical Description:
xvi, 494 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :

On Order



Although Reform Judaism is one of the major branches of the Jewish faith and a crucial phenomena in modern history, it has not, until now, received comprehensive, up-to-date historical study. Filling a critical gap in Jewish scholarship, Michael Meyer traces the development of the movementfrom its origins in the late 18th-century, through recent events such as the renewal of American Reform Judaism in the 1970s. With great range, extensive archival research, and colorful detail, Meyer sympathetically, yet judiciously, chronicles the spread of Reform Judaism across Germany, Austria,Hungary, Russia, France, England, and America. Demonstrating the influence of modernity, Protestant Christianity, Darwinism, and disputes over Zionism, this book places the Reform segment firmly within its religious, social, political, and intellectual context, to provide historians, religiousleaders, and the general reader with an essential historical record.

Author Notes

MICHAEL A. MEYER: is Professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati. He is the author of The Origin of the Modern Jew, and the editor of Ideas of Jewish History, and has published numerous articles on the religious and intellectual history of Jewsin modern Europe and America.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In attempting to make Jewish observance more comprehensible and meaningful to modern adherents, the Reform branch of Judaism needed to devise a system of ritual and thought flexible enough to survive a fragmented, secularized world. Meyer, professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, traces the origins of the Reform movement to changes in temple services in Hamburg and Berlin in the early 1800s. In Europe, Reform had to contend not only with conservative Christians, who sided with Jewish traditionalists, but also with governmental intrusion into Jewish religious affairs. But, in the United States, the Reform movement found fertile soil, spreading rapidly after a dozen men in 1825 launched the Reformed Society of Israelites in Charleston, S.C. This dry, scholarly history follows the rabbinical rivalries, ideological polemics and innovations that have marked Reform Judaism. First serial to Reform Judaism. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Meyer, author of works on the religious and intellectual history of contemporary Jews, here presents a lucid and thorough history of the Reform movement in Judaism. After analyzing the precedents for reform, he shows how the movement developed slowly in late 18th- and early 19th-century Germany, then moves on to Europe, the United States, and such relatively unexplored areas as Eastern Europe and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The author lucidly describes the philosophies and motivations of the reformers, the relationship between Reform and Orthodoxy, and Judaism's context within the Christian world. For all collections with an interest in religion.Maurice Tuchman, Hebrew Coll. Lib., Brookline, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Sometimes a book is itself an event and not only a record of events. Such a book is this long-awaited work by Michael Meyer, preeminent historian of the impact of modernization on the Jewish people. Meyer has written a very substantial and detailed account of the history of the Reform Movement from the 18th century to the present. He is primarily a student of European Jewish history, and so it should not surprise us that more than half of this work deals with Reform in Europe. The detail in all periods is extremely helpful for the novice and the scholar alike because it gives life to the great events of the history of Reform. At the same time, the author never loses sight of the broad outlines and helps us to understand fundamental issues. For example: to what degree did the European environment influence the early developments of Reform and how did the American context provide for changes in Reform Judaism? Did all Reform leaders embrace the ideal of Americanization or were there Reform Rabbis who wanted to hold on to their European roots? Meyer answers these and other important questions with authority and precision. This is not an easy book, but it can be read with profit by all and should be in university, college, and community college libraries. Marc Lee Raphael's Profiles in American Judaism (CH, Jun '85) will give a briefer treatment of Reform Judaism alongside Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. -M. Scult, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Table of Contents

Preface: Considerations of Historiography
Adapting Judaism to the Modern World
Ideological Ferment
Growth and Conflict on German Soil
European Diffusion
Consolidation and Further Advance
America: The Reform Movement's Land of Promise""Classical"" Reform Judaism
An International Movement
The New American Reform Judaism
Epilogue: In Quest of Identity
Appendix: The Platforms of American Reform Judaism
Bibliographic Essay