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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q18.4.6 TOC Q18.4.8 >

Question 18.4.7:
Fallacy: There are no 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews


Certainly, assimilation has been a problem for Judaism. Reform Judaism is especially subject to that problem because many assimilated Americans who want to identify as Jews, choose a Reform synagogue, not because they are Reform Jews, but because the Reform temple is the least judgmental of their assimilated practices (or in some cases, non-practices).

Many of the children of these families do not remain Jewish, but in fact assimilation was already a generation old.

To actually be a 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jew would require that one's ancestors, living in the 1800s, be Reform Jews. The major growth of Reform Judaism has been in the 20th century. So while it is true there are few 3rd or 4th generation Reform Jews numerically, they are not a large number primarily due to the heavy immegration in the early 1900s. The majority of today's Reform Jews have ancestors who were O or C, but primarily because there was a limited pool of R on whom to draw. Yet there are 3rd, 4th, and even 5th generation Reform Jews (just look at the FAQ Maintainer's daughter).

There is a different question, however: For those that were Reform in the 1800s, how many of their children are still Jewish, and still Reform, today. Anecdotal evidence suggests that number is large.

Note that Reform has invented and reinvented itself (and will undoubtedly continue to do so) in response to a changing world. By the 1930s, it became clear that "classical Reform" wasn't speaking to the majority of RJs. As a result, the evolutionary changes that began in the 20s were formalized with the "Columbus Platform" ( of the 30's that led to Traditional (or Modern) Reform.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>