The Pittsburgh Platform was a statement of principles for Reform Judaism proposed during the Pittsburgh Conference of 1885. The platform favored the moral, ethical, and spiritual aspects of Judaism over adherence to certain “Mosaic and rabbinical laws.” It also advanced the idea of Judaism as a “religious community,” rather than a “nation.”
Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler of New York drafted the platform and convened the convention, which brought some 15 rabbis to Allegheny, Pa. (now the North Side of Pittsburgh) from Nov. 16 through Nov. 19, 1885. Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise of Cincinnati presided. Under the leadership of Rabbi Lippman Mayer, Rodef Shalom Congregation hosted the conference. The conference was held mostly at the original Concordia Club on Stockton Street with some sessions at Rodef Shalom’s Eighth Street synagogue. Guests stayed with local families and attended evening social gatherings hosted by the congregation.
Although never formally adopted by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations or later by the new Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Pittsburgh Platform became one of the founding documents of “Classical Reform Judaism” and still exerts influence today. The Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations drafted several subsequent platforms for the movement, starting with the Columbus Platform of 1937. At a convention in Pittsburgh in 1999, the two bodies issued a new “Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism,” also called the Pittsburgh Platform.