Defending The Movement
Local rabbis speak to the positive future of Conservative Jewry.
gregation engages in many adult-level study ses-
"Judaism has never been static," Rabbi Nevins
sions, and our building is teeming with young chil-
said. "The challenge is to preserve authenticity
dren, with 585 young people in our schools,
while adapting to new circumstances. This is equal-
including 2-year-olds studying Hebrew in our
mong clergy who attended the Conservative
ly true of the Conservative movement."
Hebrew immersion program.'
movement's Rabbinical Assembly interna-
Rabbi Nevins sites Conservative Judaism as
Rabbi Miller concedes, "It is not easy to be in the "embracing the idea of dynamic tension between
tional convention in Houston was a delega-
center, [but] our movement should be proud of its
tion from Michigan, including Rabbis Daniel
tradition and change. The strengths of the
Nevins and Herbert Yoskowitz of Adat
Conservative movement reside in the sub-
"In general, the Conservative
Shalom Synagogue; Rabbis Joseph Krakoff
stantial Jewish education we offer from
movement is very exciting right
and Eric Yanoff of Congregation Shaarey
preschool through high school, and a syn-
now," he said.
Zedek; and Rabbi Jason Miller, assistant
agogue experience that is both broad and
Rabbi Miller recently spearheaded
director of the University of Michigan
the revitalization of the Conservative
Hillel Foundation in Ann Arbor.
"We all realize that new energy, new
Minyan at U-M Hillel, now called
"Having just returned from the conven-
music and new modes of spiritual growth
Dor Chadash, with weekly services
tion, I am more optimistic than ever before
have to be incorporated into our congre-
infused with melodies of Rabbi
about the strong future of the Conservative
gations if we are to thrive again," he said.
movement in this country and also
Rabbi Nevins sees Michigan's
"There is much debate about how
abroad," Rabbi Krakoff said.
Conservative congregations as working
Judaism will adapt for our modern
"It is true that the Conservative move-
toward revitalization and attracting new
times," Rabbi Miller said. "The
ment certainly has its challenges in bring-
members. "But [they do this] while still
Conservative movement engages in
ing together the different arms of the move-
remaining true to their mission as tradi-
serious dialogue and debate about
ment. We must work harder to create a
tional Jewish synagogues."
sense of unity, no doubt, but the truth .
"I'm less concerned about playing the
In his synagogue's monthly
about the movement is that we are just not
`numbers game' and more concerned with
newsletter, The Voice, Rabbi
top driven by design. For instance, there is
marketing the strengths of Conservative
Yoskowitz shared with his congrega-
no singular head of the movement; there is
Judaism to the younger generation, of
tion what he sees as significant chal-
no primary spokesperson and no singular
Rabb i Krakoff which I consider myself a member,"
lenges made at the convention by
Rabbi Miller said. "I'm baffled by the
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish
"When I see and hear . what my Conservative rab-
high number of my peers — considered the
Theological Seminary in New York.
binic colleagues are doing in congregations, day
Conservative movement's elite because of their
"[He asked us] to re-channel some of our time,
schools, Ramah camps, Jewish Community
involvement in youth groups and Ramah camps as
energy and activities away from the grassroots
Centers, hospitals and universities across the globe,
youngsters — who make the Orthodox movement
membership to the well-educated, very committed
it is nothing short of awe-inspiring," Rabbi Krakoff
their home in their adult years. Conservative
Jews who are seeking for the holy and looking for a
Judaism is authentic and academic. It is spiritual
spiritual anchor," Rabbi Yoskowitz wrote. "[He]
Having spent two days at the March 6-10 confer-
and energetic. We just have to market it better."
challenged us to find roles in the synagogue for
ence doing what he called "sharing our 'best prac-
Rabbi Nevins said, "I believe that the pendulum
young Jews returning from Israel and to reaffirm
tices' with one another," Rabbi Krakoff said, "I can
will swing our way again as American Jews look for
the halachic boundaries even as we acknowledge
tell you that from community to community, we
a spiritual path that is responsive to their individual
that we lie in an age of resistance to boundaries."
are absolutely touching the souls of our adherents."
needs while remaining rooted in the Torah."
Rabbi Yoskowitz co-led a session at the conven-
Rabbi Krakoff added: "As a movement, we have
Pride In The Present
tion titled, "Synagogue Merger Mania: Friendly or
so much to offer, including an approach to Jewish
Even with recent National Jewish Population
living that is relevant, rational and forward think-
His colleague at Adat Shalom, Rabbi Nevins, led
Survey findings of a 10 percent decline in those
Mg. But we must do a better job of getting the
a session focused on his responsum on brain death,
identifying as Conservative Jews over the last
word out to the masses that we are very much a liv-
and another, "What would Tevye Do? Traditional
decade, Rabbi.Yoskowitz said, "Our Detroit-area
ing, breathing movement with a bright present and
Responsa for Non-Traditional Families."
Conservative synagogues are vibrant. My own con-
a brilliant, meaningful future." ❑
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
Or Coalition? 1
Conservative leaders ponder
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
just who they are.
s Conservative Judaism a united movement, or is
it more of a coalition of approaches to Jewish
That's a question some Conservative rabbis are ask-
ing after taking a long, hard look at the state of their
stream during a convention last week in Houston.
"I think that we're forever looking for that magic
ideology, and the thing is, we're not necessarily united
by a common ideology — but we are united by com-
mon values," said Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, president
of the Rabbinical Assembly, Conservative's rabbinic arm.
"Maybe we need to look for a slightly new language
in the way we describe ourselves," he added. "I think a
better way of looking at who we are as a movement is
that we're a coalition of different approaches to Torah,
God and Israel."
Since its inception, the Conservative movement has
walked a fine line between adhering to Halachah,
MOVEMENT on page 26