Thoughts-of-mine-in-response-to-How-to-Energize-American-Jewry

My response to the above excerpt from Mr. Shay’s Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry in brief:


Starting with a minute point (a nitpicking which might be picking apart a mere mistake of phrasing or typing), I wish that Mr. Shay had phrased as a principle “at least weekly synagogue attendance.” The written phrasing of “weekly synagogue attendance” conjures, in my mind, a Judaism in which the obligation to pray is fulfilled by praying once a week rather than three times a day. In my own perception of an ideal Conservative mini-Movement, prayer could be obligated to men three times a day and to women at least once a day. (While I’d be fine accepting that some Conservative Jews would, according to their mini-Movement, be not need to observe Jewish law, I personally would like to see some Conservative Jews who, in accordance with mini-Movement, observe Halakhah [i.e. Jewish law].)

If both Conservative and non-Conservative Jews can come to recognize Conservative Judaism as being the collection of movements above and beyond the idea of Jewish denominations conceptually “between” Orthodoxy and Reform, then perhaps Jews currently affiliated with the small movements of UTJ, Reconstructionism, the Masorti movement, the Neolog Movement in Hungary, and others will be able to unite in the great coalition that Conservative Judaism can be.

For the meantime, I do believe it is intellectually accurate to describe Conservative Judaism as a Coalition of Jews of non-Orthodox and non-Reform Jews (and perhaps non-Reconstructionist Jews, etc.). In Coalitions, people leave (as UTJ and many others have done). In Movements, people move together. Moving together in a pluralistic Movement that evolves in multiple directions is impossible though. There are multiple Movements of people moving similarly in the Conservative Jewish Coalition currently; therefore, we are not a single Movement. However, for the purposes of speaking simply, I am willing to settle to call the Conservative Coalition a “Movement” and the Conservative movements individual “mini-Movements.”

I would personally be fine accepting a Conservative Coalition that includes different schools and different schools of thought in each school. Here’s something I can see: the externally highly “traditional” school in Budapest, the extremely liberal school in Philadelphia once associated with Kaplanism, a spiritually inclined Los Angeles school, an academically intensive JTS in NY, an egalitarian but traditional school in Jerusalem, a very traditional school with women clergy in Argentina, a traditional non-egalitarian school in New Jersey, and who knows what else.

On a side-note, I have a lot of faith in JTS’s Chancellor-Elect Arnold Eisen, and there are a lot of great thinkers out there. I hope that more great energetic thinkers can come together to reform Conservative Judaism. I hope that Chancellor-Elect Arnold Eisen (with the help of everyone necessary) will set the movement in its proper place.

And a note on another detail: I believe that patrilineal descent is an issue that the Conservative Jews (a population currently existing and to exist in greater numbers with the reformation of the movement) will come to be more noticeably divided about.

Another final detail: a Law Committee might be unnecessary in at least one individual mini-Movement. I would like to see some Conservative Jews, who according to their mini-Movement, accept the notion that each individual rabbi is the authority deciding the law of her or his own community.

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About jonahrank


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