Conservative Judaism’s Future

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I still haven’t had time to fully digest an intriguing piece from the Forward today, but I figured I’d throw it out for discussion to our readers:

Next week Arnold Eisen will be officially installed as the seventh chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Conservative Judaism’s flagship educational institution. While Eisen’s appointment as Conservative Judaism’s new de facto head has sparked a great deal of excitement, he will be inheriting a movement widely perceived as being adrift.

Conservative Judaism, once America’s largest Jewish denomination, is now second in size to the Reform movement. According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, only 33% of congregationally affiliated American Jews identified with Conservative Judaism, down from 43% a decade earlier. Indeed, JTS’s outgoing chancellor, Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, described Conservative Judaism in his 2006 commencement address as suffering from “malaise� and a “grievous failure of nerve.�

Is Conservative Judaism suffering from malaise? If so, what is the nature of the problem? And how should Conservative Jews steer their ship into the future? The Forward invited prominent Conservative leaders and some outside observers to weigh in on these questions.(MORE)

The respondents cover a range of clergy, academic, and writers. It includes some “old school” names like Harold Kushner and David Wolpe as well as emerging leaders including Elie Kaunfer and Elliot Cosgrove. Females and the LGBT community as represented as well.

I’m looking forward to delving into the answers, but already discord found in the answers jumps out at me.

For example Alan Silverstein, a past president of the Rabbinic Assembly advocates:

Restoring the perception of being a pluralistic (“big tent�) movement in which creativity is welcome both on the left and on the right of the centrist component of the Jewish religious spectrum.

On the other hand, Eli Kaunfer of Mechon Hadar and Kehilat Hadar tells people:

Don’t fear “splitting the movement.� No use pretending Conservative Judaism is unified, so why encourage everyone to share a big-box tag? Differentiation will allow Jews to make clearer choices about which organizations to connect to.

Posted on August 29, 2007

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