World Union for Progressive Judaism

World Union for Progressive Judaism
Abbreviation WUPJ
Formation 10 July 1926 (1926-07-10)
Founder Claude Montefiore
Headquarters Mercaz Shimshon, Eliyahu Shama 6, Jerusalem
~1.8 million
Daniel H. Freelander
Carole Sterling
Affiliations URJ, JRF etc.
Budget (2014)

The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) is the international umbrella organization for the various branches of Reform, Liberal and Progressive Judaism, as well as the separate Reconstructionist Judaism.[1] The WUPJ is based in 40 countries with 1,275 affiliated synagogues, of which 1,170 are Reform, Progressive or Liberal and 105 Reconstructionist.[2] It claims to represent a total of some 1.8 million people, both registered constituents and non-member identifiers.[1] The WUPJ states that it aims are to create common ground between its constituents and to promote Progressive Judaism in places where individuals and groups are seeking authentic, yet modern ways of expressing themselves as Jews. It seeks to preserve Jewish integrity wherever Jews live, to encourage integration without assimilation, to deal with modernity while preserving the Jewish experience and to strive for equal rights and social justice.

The WUPJ was established in London in 1926 as the Union of all Progressive (also Liberal or Reform) movements. It moved its headquarters to New York in 1959 and to Jerusalem in 1973. In 1990, the Reconstructionists – who espouse a philosophy different from that of the former – joined the WUPJ under an observer status, being the first and only non-Reform member.[3] The WUPJ has regional offices in London, Moscow and New York City.

As of September 2014 the President of the WUPJ is Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander,[4] and the Chair is Carole Sterling. Past presidents included Claude Montefiore (1926-1938)), Rabbi Leo Baeck (1938-1956), Lily Montagu (1955–1959), and Rabbi Solomon Freehof (1959-1964).

Mission statement

Regional affiliates

Continental Europe

Reform Judaism began in Germany, led by Rabbi Abraham Geiger. It stagnated considerably after the 1840s. In 1898, German Liberal rabbis organized the Union of Liberal Rabbis in Germany under Heinemann Vogelstein. In 1908 the laity formed the Union for Liberal Judaism in Germany. At its height, it had some 10,000 members and half the rabbis in the country. The ULJ was a founding member of the World Union in 1926. After the destruction of the Holocaust, Germany's Jews, mostly refugees of foreign descent, largely favoured Orthodoxy. Liberal Judaism managed to gain inroads slowly, and first prayer groups appeared in 1995. The Union of Progressive Jews was founded in 1997.

The first new branch established by the WUPJ was in the Netherlands, in 1931, eventually coalescing into the Nederlands Verbond voor Progressief Jodendom.

The movement in growing in Spain. As of 2016 there are six congregations, while there was only one congregation a decade ago. In 2017 the Reform community there is expects to its first native-born rabbi since the Expulsion in 1492 once he completes his rabbinical training in London.[5]

United Kingdom

Claude Montefiore, a major theologian, named his religious ideology "Liberal Judaism", founding the Jewish Religious Union as a platform in 1902. His movement was a founding member of the WUPJ in 1926. British Reform, established officially in 1942, joined the global organization in 1945.

North America

The URJ is by far the largest member organization of the WUPJ, with a solid constituency of over 750,000 Jewish members (along with further 90,000 unconverted gentile spouses) and over a million non-members who identify with it in the U.S., and further 30,000 constituents in Canada. As of 2016, 1.5 million of the 1.9 million members of WUPJ are in the U.S. [6] German immigrants and rabbis brought Reform to America, through a short-lived congregation that espoused a somewhat similar ideal existed in Charleston between 1824 and 1833. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, URJ since 2003, was founded in 1873.

North America is also home to the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, which has 105 affiliates, only two of them outside the continent (in Delft, Netherlands and Curaçao). The JRF joined as an observer in 1990. It is the only non-Reform organization in the WUPJ, the other members of which do uphold the basic tenets of ongoing revelation, personal God and the like. In 2013, it had some 65,000 constituents.


A first congregation was formed at Jerusalem during 1958. The movement was incorporated in 1971. The Israeli surrounding encouraged a more conservative approach on behalf of the local branch. The prayer in vernacular, for example, was Hebrew anyway, and the populace was relatively more familiar with rabbinic sources. Patrilineal descent is not recognized by the IMPJ, as by many other smaller affiliates, which cannot antagonize the Israeli Orthodox religious establishment.


There are also, Arzenu – the international umbrella organization for progressive religious Zionist organizations, and Netzer Olami, the international youth wing of the progressive movement, jointly sponsored by Arzenu and the WUPJ.[14]

Communal life

Rabbis, cantors and communal leaders

Rabbis, cantors and communal leaders for the worldwide progressive movement are trained in one of three rabbinic institutions: Leo Baeck College,[15][16] Abraham Geiger College[17] and Hebrew Union College.[18] While all three train rabbis for the worldwide progressive movement, each has a different regional focus: The Abraham Geiger College focuses on providing leadership for communities in Germany, Central and Eastern Europe.[17] Leo Baeck College, located in the UK, focuses on leadership for the UK Reform and UK Liberal.[15] Hebrew Union College, with campuses in the USA and Israel, trains rabbis and communal service leaders for work in North American Reform and Israeli Progressive congregations. It also provides a year in Israel program for students at the Leo Baeck College and Abraham Geiger Institute.[18]


  1. 1 2 WUPJ history
  2. Find a Congregation (under the rubric 'country'), For the mutually exclusive of list of Reconstructionist congregations worldwide, see Directory of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot,
  3. American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Year Book, 1992, University of Nebraska Press, 1992. p. 257.
  4. Q&A RABBI DANIEL FREEDLANDER: WUPJ SUPPORTS LIBERAL JEWS The Canadian jewish News, January 19, 2015
  5. It’s different out there for Reform Jews Jewish Weekly, February 18, 2016
  6. It’s different out there for Reform Jews Jewish Weekly, February 18, 2016
  7. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Australia, Asia and New Zealand
  8. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Europe
  9. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Former Soviet Union
  10. – number obtained by counting the congregations listed for each region in the combo box on this page
  11. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | South Africa
  12. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Worldwide Congregations | Latin America and The Caribbean
  13. Latin America’s Jewish communities flourish, despite anti-Semitism and education challenges The Times of Israel, September 18, 2012
  14. The World Union for Progressive Judaism | Netzer Olami
  15. 1 2 Leo Baeck College (Accessed Nov 1, 2007)
  16. The Directory UK (Accessed Nov 1, 2007)
  17. 1 2 Abraham Geiger College (accessed Mar 2, 2015)
  18. 1 2 Hebrew Union College (Accessed Nov 1, 2007)
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