Jewish Year in Review: 2006

Four stories that mattered--and three that might have.

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When MyJewishLearning's editorial team got together to pick the top Jewish stories of 2006, two things became clear: (1) America can't compete with Israel for history-making headlines; (2) Judging the long-term significance of the year's events is, at this point, impossible.

In the end, we bowed to both of these considerations. The four stories that we think mattered most include two (War in Lebanon; Provocation in Iran) that are central to Israeli Jewry. And we decided to compose a second list, too: The three stories that seemed to matter, but whose significance is still pending.  

So without further ado, here are MyJewishLearning's picks (in no particular order) for the four stories that mattered in 2006--and the three that might have.

The Conservative Movement Moves

It was a busy year for the Conservative Movement. In April, Stanford professor Arnold Eisen became the second non-rabbi to be named chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, replacing Ismar Schorsch. Eisen's selection surprised some, but in many ways it was a safe choice. As a relative outsider, his nomination was not seen as a referendum on the future of Conservative Judaism.

Meanwhile, Schorsch made sure to slam the door on his way out, delivering a JTS commencement address that included a stinging rebuke of his movement's congregants, students, and rabbis. "Conservative Judaism lost access to critical scholarship as a source for religious meaning, with nothing substantially spiritual to replace it," Schorsch said. Of course, a few people grumbled the obvious: As the leader of JTS for twenty years, surely Schorsch bore some responsibility for this.

In addition to leadership changes, the movement grappled with other fundamental issues in 2006. Most monumental was the Law Committee's decision in December to accept a responsum that sanctioned the ordination of gay rabbis and same-sex marriage.

Though Rabbi Jill Jacobs' responsum on workers' rights failed to win Law Committee approval in September, a few months later Conservative leaders announced their intent to establish a "tsedek hekhsher"--a justice certification that would ensure that kosher food producers meet standards for social responsibility.

Are these progressive religious initiatives a sign of things to come? Will the Conservative movement--which some say has been floundering for years--reassert itself as a primary voice of American Jewry? Whatever happens, one thing is clear: in 2006, the movement took bold steps toward trying.

War in Lebanon--and Israel

The abduction of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, by Hezbollah forces, was the impetus for the Israel-Lebanon War that began on July 12, 2006.

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