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April 11, 1986 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-04-11

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For Conservative Judaism

The newly elected head of the Con-
servative movement, Dr. Ismar
Schorsch, sees his goal as "a
healer" between the progressive
and traditional camps. "I intend to
be a militant centrist,"-says the
50-year-old scholar.



The newly elected chan-
cellor of the Jewish Theo-
logical Seminary, Dr. Ismar
Schorsch, is well aware that
the Jewish world is anxious
to know where he stands on
a whole range of controver-
sial religious issues, from
women's ordination to patri-
lineal descent.
During an interview with

community." Similarly, he
faults those Orthodox auth-
orities who dismiss Conser-
vative divorces or conver-
sions as invalid "for political
rather than halachic qualifi-
Dr. Schorsch may not be
well known outside of the
halls of the Jewish Thelogical
Seminary, the New York base
— both academically and
spiritually — of the world- .
wide movement of Conser-
vative Judaism, but he is
highly regarded within the
Seminary, having distin-
guished himself as both a
scholar and administrator.
Sources say that there were
more charismatic candidates
Schorsch: opposed to extremism of both Orthodox and Reform
considered by the search
committee but there was a
fear that a controversial . dergraduat,e college of Jewish
When he assumes his new
figure would further split the
studies and college of Jewish post on July 1, Dr. Schorsch
Conservative movement and
music. The Seminary pro- will become the sixth chan-
duces leading scholars and cellor of the 100-year-old
alienate either the progres-
teachers and is the official Seminary and the spiritual
sive ,or traditional camps. A
arm for the training and or- leader of an estimated 1.2
source close to the committee
involved in the eight-month
dination of Conservative rab-
million Conservative Jews.
search to find a new chan-
bis and cantors.
His duties will include aca-
cellor said that Schorsch was
From 1975 to 1979, Dr.
demics, fund-raising and
Schorsch was the first dean
an ideal candidate because he
charting a modern halachic
"isn't flashy —he's solid,
of the Seminary's graduate
religious course for Conser-
bright, flexible and well
school, which has trained
vative Judaism, a task, he
more of the nation's pro-
readily acknowledges, which
Before being elected to suc-
is "probably too much,to ask
fessors of Jewish studies
ceed Gerson' Cohen as chan-
than any other college or
of one person."
cellor, Dr. Schorsch served as
Dr. Schorsch believes that
university in the country.
provost of the Seminary from
each component of .the job is
He has written extensively
1980 to 1984, directing and, on the history of European
essential, and he says he wel-
coordinating policy among
comes the opportunity to
Jewry and has been on the
the Seminary's rabbinical
faculty of the Seminary since
fund-raise. "I don't denigrate
school, graduate school, un-
it. Our financial picture has

The Detroit Jewish News

this week, the soft-spoken
50-year-old rabbi and noted
historian made it clear that
he "intends to be a militant
centrist," whose goal is to
help unify the Jewish com-
munity in general and the
Conservative movement in
"I'd like to be remembered
as somebody who brought
this movement together,"
adds Schorsch, whose father
was a rabbi in Pottstown, Pa.
for some 20 years. The Chan-
cellor-elect sees his role as "a
healer" following a time of
great flux and controversy,
and he says he will do all he
can to help "reassert the
primacy of communal needs
at a time marked by rampant
Critical of the extremes of
both the Reform and Ottho-
dox movements, he bluntly
suggests that the Reform
concept of defining a Jew as
the child of a Jewish father
"flies in the face of communal
obligation and violates the
needs of the total Jewish



.71 !3

fi )

Pif- ( T rr.f.ur. D71-3 q4

l',(1 , n117

to be improved because the
Seminary has grown, but our
incdme hasn't. To me, raising
funds for the Seminary is an
idealistic enterprise.
He intends to remain "aca-
demically involved" While
striving to re-unify the var-
ious forces within the Conser-
vative movement, noting
that he stressed to the search
committee that he will not
abandon his scholarship
while performing .his other
duties. "I'm going to pre-
serve and develop the aca-
demic excellence of the
Seminary," he said.
Citing the Conservative
decision to allow the ordina-
tion of women and the subse-
quent formation of a splinter
group, the Union of Tradi-
tional Conservative Jews,
who oppose, female ordina-
tion, Dr. Schorsch acknowl-
edges that the Conservative
movement has been "frag-
mented," but not, he says,
beyond repair. .
He believes the movement
and the Seminary responded
to "a moral imperative," in
choosing to ordain women,
and views it as • part of a
series of actions expanding
the religious and educational
oppportunities for women,
beguming with the concept of
co-education at the turn of
the century and including the
decision three, ecades ago to
allow mixed seating in the

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