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Judaism in Los Angeles, said: "We are
becoming finally a movement that takes
our own integrity and the holiness of
Torah seriously. Some may decry the
lack of numbers. I do not. I
celebrate our renewed
strength and our living up to
our convictions and our
I nsu red
28300 Orchard Lake Rd.
USCJ President Judy
Yudof called Conservative
Judaism "a very tolerant
movement, so tolerant that I
think people sometimes for-
get that our standards are tra-
ditional, that we very much
believe in kashrus and we
believe in Shabbat obser-
"We're not black and
white, black-letter law. We are
willing to reinterpret the
Torah in an appropriate man-
ner to reflect modern times."
Beth Shalom's Rabbi
Nelson agrees. "We are a very
complex movement. We have
to create opportunities for
people who want an alterna-
tive service. We have to serve
a lot of different needs.
"But I'm an optimist.
When it comes to the Conservative
movement, I think our greatest days are
still ahead of us.
"We used to say if you were
Conservative, it was because you were
not Reform or Orthodox," Rabbi
Nelson said. "We are just now articulat-
ing that there is a distinctive
Jewish learning and Jewish observance
and Jewish community — that is identi-
At his own congregation, a focus is on
making the congregation — and the
community — an extended family.
"In our synagogue, that means when a
baby is born, we get together and send
in meals for a week or longer," he said.
"There is a segment of our congregation
— and others — that is very traditional
and has created this sense of communi-
"We spend Shabbat meals together
and invite each other into our homes.
For those who take Judaism seriously,
we have created a beautiful, beautiful
A significant observation was made at
the biennial by Jewish Theological
Seminary Chancellor Rabbi Ismar
Schorsch, who said, "We made a mis-
take to embrace riding on Shabbat.
"Congregants would have ridden in
any case, but to give sanction to it
meant that we gave up on the desirabili-
ty of living close to the synagogue and
creating a Shabbos community" he said.
Steven Bayme, national direc-
tor of contemporary Jewish
life at the American Jewish
Committee and a JTS visiting
history professor, said the
prognosis of the movement's
health depends on how it is
From "the top down,"
Bayme said, the movement is
seen as being based on a criti-
cal mass of Jews living their
lives according to Halachah
and receptive to modern
But, he asks, "How many
individuals in congregations
keep Shabbat, kashrut and
family purity" by visiting the
mikvah, or ritual bath?
"The level of observance is
much lower than the leader-
ship would want," he said.
Said B'nai Moshe's Rabbi
Pachter, "Certainly, most of
our members do not live
their lives based on
Halachah. However, this is
not just about numbers or percentages.
"There are many members of
Conservative synagogues who do take
Halachah seriously. Some of them do
not drive on Shabbat. Others drive to
shul, but nonetheless observe the
Shabbat in most other ways, and also
live Jewish lives during the week. These .
individuals and families embrace tradi-
tion, and yet choose Conservative
Rabbi Nevins said, "No one practices
perfect Judaism. Obviously, I try to
encourage more of our congregants to
observe Shabbat and kashrut, to study
Torah and pray regularly, to give more
tzedakah and to practice social ethics.
"Yet, I tend to see the glass as half full,
to recognize that each person has some
unique virtues and to try to restrain the
tendency in myself and in others to
judge people harshly."
The movement has provided a "mid-
dle road," Bayme said, a path for non-
halachically religious Jews who want
Jewish "enrichment" and Jewish fami-
"Behind the numbers, I don't see
decadence. I see a tremendous amount
of vitality," Bayme said.
For Shabbat walker Samantha
Rollinger, a recent University of
Michigan graduate, spending four
THE SQUEEZE on page 27