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May 15, 1992 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-05-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A More Positive Outlook
For Conservative Judaism

LEONARD WANETIK

he article on the Con-
servative movement in
last week's issue had
two things wrong with it,
from my perspective. First, it
was a tad too pessimistic. Se-
cond, it did not contain any-
thing about Hillel Day School
— an important part of each
congregation's life — without
which a discussion of Conser-
-vative Judaism is incomplete
at best.
As for the first point, I com-
pared the "Conservative" ar-
ticle with the "Reform" arti-
cle (April 10). The latter con-
tained vignettes with real
people who professed the
warmth of their movement. I
can assure you that similar
vignettes abound in the Con-
servative movement.
The Conservative move-
ment has come to realize that
there is a great deal of vitali-
ty which can be tapped in the
lay community. Last year,
Calvin Weiss and I attended
the Imun Lay Religious In-
stitute at Camp Ramah in the
Berkshires on behalf of B'nai
Moshe. There, we and 12
others spent 10 days studying
intensively to assist the rab-
binate (or perform many func-
tions of the rabbinate in a
rabbi's absence) in Conser-
vative congregations. This
year, at least one person from
Detroit (from Beth Shalom)
will be going.
The days of stiffness and a
"we/they" attitude between
rabbis and their congrega-
tions are winding down in
Conservative Judaism. The
days of partnership with rab-
bis and congregants becom-
ing more involved with daily
ritual and congregational life
are on the rise.
This community has a
number of active, committed
Conservative Jews who study,
form chavurot which . are
cross-congregational, and en-
gage in a full and meaningful
life both as Jews and as
citizens living in a non-
Jewish culture. Dr. Joseph
Lewis recently completed a
Haggadah. Others are work-
ing on similar projects.
Still others have the crea-
tion of a warm atmosphere in
their shul as their only pro-
ject. It is sad that some of
them were not included in the
interview.
B'nai Moshe, as the article

Leonard Wanetik is active
at B'nai Moshe and has
sent two children to Hillel
Day School.

indicated, is a case in point.
We have not had a rabbi for
over a year. Yet the congrega-
tion has conducted study ses-
sions, Friday evening services
in congregants' homes, and
completed the full ritual
calendar. Members have
undertaken to give the D'var
Torah, introduce the Haf-
torah, and study so that they
may teach others.
The congregation has
grown together as it has
grown in size. And the plann-
ed educational program is an
offshoot of this philosophy.
The removal of one afternoon
will be counterbalanced by
having the family come to
shul together and spend time
together in a number of all-
day Sunday programs
throughout the year. We will

The days of
partnership and
involvement are on
the rise.

grow from strength, and our
children will not only be
Jewish because they marry
Jews, to quote Rabbi
Schnipper.
The subject of education
brings me to Hillel Day
School. How can one believe
that the Conservative move-
ment is in such deep trouble
when we have a school which
has more than doubled in size
in under six years? The
children who go to Hillel, it is
true, come from Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform
backgrounds. But the vast
majority are Conservative.
Hillel is, and always has
been, a part of the Conser-
vative movement and its con-
gregations. It is dedicated to
teaching children how to
learn to be Jews while living
and participating in the world
at large.
It is one thing, for example,
to teach a child only to shop
in a grocery which has kosher
food. It is quite another to
teach, as Hillel does, how to
identify kosher products in a
large grocery store, how to
make decisions among a wide
variety of products, and how
to keep your home kosher
when you live in a non-kosher
society.
The education at Hillel pro-
duces children who are not
only acquainted with ritual
but can, as recently happen-
ed, carry out a one-and-a-half-
hour play entirely in Hebrew.
This is a standard part of the
seventh-grade curriculum at
Hillel, just as is study of

Jewish values, Torah, pro-
phets, mathematics, and
English.
These are Jews who are
likely to do much more than
merely marry other Jews.
They are likely to study for
the rabbinate, earn degrees in
Jewish studies, go to shul
regularly, and send their own
children to Jewish day
schools.
Until recently, Hillel has
often struggled to be recogniz-
ed even among some of the
Conservative congregations
here. There has seemed to be
a great deal of reluctance to
"acknowledge" Hillel's ex-
istence. Somehow, it seems,
Hillel was seen as "com-
peting" with the congrega-
tional school. What has
changed?
Time has shown that the
quality of education, the in-
tensity of education, and the
commitment of families who
send their children to Hillel
are healthy for every con-
gregation and every Jew in
Detroit. The number of
families sending their
children to Hillel Day School-
is so great today that they are
a substantial portion of every
congregation's membership
list.
In recent developments,
B'nai Moshe provides a sub-
sidy for families who send
their children to Hillel, and
the board contains substan-
tial representation by Hillel
parents. Beth Shalom and
Beth Abraham Hillel Moses
have moved to formally in-
clude Hillel in their decision
process.
The assistant rabbis from
several congregations have
been teaching at Hillel. Rab-
bi Gershon from Shaarey
Zedek is a candidate for the
Hillel board of directors (Rab-
bi Spectre has been on the
board for a while). Cantor
Klein and others have been
preparing children for bar
and bat mitzvah for years.
With this much contact,
how can Hillel be left out of
anything having to do with
the Conservative movement?
These are but a few of the
positive things going on in
the Conservative community.
Are there problems? You bet.
Among other things, the lai-
ty needs to become much
more focused on study — on
putting in the effort to under-
stand its movement. But both
Reform and Orthodoxy have
problems at least as deep.
The Reform movement's in-
ternational conference in the

last few months focused on
issues such as dealing with
spouses who have not con-
verted, and the possible need
to "evangelize!' Too many
board members and officers in
Reform congregations are not
Jews, it seems.
Orthodoxy is so fragmented
it is difficult to tell the
players without a scorecard.
That ought to get a standard
"we all believe in one Torah"
letter in response.

Conservative Jews have to
stop making apologies for
themselves. They have to stop
defining themselves by what
they are not, and focus on
what they are. This process is
well under way. With the help-
of Hashem, it will continue
and grow in intensity. Ex-
periences such as those at
Imun nationally, and B'nai
Moshe, Hillel, and others
locally, show that there is
reason for optimism. ❑

The Factual Eulogy
For Yassir Arafat

PAULA R. STERN

T

he "almost" death of
Yassir Arafat afforded
us a unique opportuni-
ty to set the record straight.
Now, having experienced
Arafat in the past tense, we
know that he will be called "a
father of his country!' and
"the mother of a movement!'
There are many names that
I could attach to Arafat, but
none of them would hint at a
comparison to a Gandhi,
King, Washington, or
Ben-Gurion.
So, now that we know
Arafat is alive, perhaps we
should examine the line and
future plans of this "father/
mother!' What exactly has he

sired in his lifelong quest -to
establish a Palestinian state?
We can credit him with the
placing of Ma'alot in our
hearts and history. We will
never forget the sight of
children bleeding and crying
after being taken hostage and
terrorized while on a school
trip.
Vienna has an airport we
will never forget, for we saw
Jewish bodies lying in pools of
blood as a result of another of
Arafat's brainstorms.
If the Palestinian move-
ment continues to recognize
Arafat as their leader, our
position must be made clear:
with such a man as its father,
it does not take much to
understand why we reject the
child. ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

7

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