Baltimore — What do an expert on Buddhism, a Christian theologian and a former Reagan administration bureaucrat have to say about Jewish spirituality to a room full of Conservative rabbis? That was the question here this week when all three addressed several hundred rabbis and guests at the 99th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the organization representing the world’s 1,500 Conservative rabbis.
Like the biblical prophets Samuel and Nathan, who admonished their kings for sinning, the spiritual head of the Conservative movement found himself a lone Jewish voice in the nation this week following his daring call for President Clinton to resign.
Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, last week thus became the first national Jewish religious figure to urge Clinton to quit because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He said the president’s moral authority has been “destroyed” and in effect cannot be recovered.
For the first time, the Jewish Theological Seminary, which likes to be known as the spiritual center of Conservative Judaism, is involving itself ever so cautiously in next week’s Israeli elections. Just in time for the May17 vote, the seminary is advertising in two Israeli newspapers to gently remind Israeli voters not to forget the religious pluralism issue, which threatens to divide voters.
“VOTE WITH YOUR HEART — AND YOUR HEAD,” urges the ad slated for the May 14 edition of Haaretz and Maariv.
In the week since gay-friendly Conservative rabbis organized themselves, for the first time, into a public group (called Keshet Rabbis) their numbers have nearly doubled.
Last week, 75 members of the movement's Rabbinical Assembly signed up to offer counseling and consultation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Conservative Jews. This week the number stands at 137, just under 10 percent of the RA's 1,500 members.
The job looked like a perfect fit. A Solomon Schechter day school had offered a Judaic studies teaching job to an experienced Conservative rabbi, and had wrapped up negotiations over salary and benefits. Signing the contract was all that was left.
But just before signing, the rabbi wanted to make sure the principal knew she was a lesbian.
The next day the school's rabbinic authority informed the rabbi that the job offer was being revoked on the basis of that information.
Arnold M. Eisen has 15 months before he starts his new job as chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, but even on the day the appointment was announced, he was making significant changes at the Conservative movement’s flagship institution.
When it comes to the Jewish community’s recent focus on Jewish education, you can thank the Conservative movement.
That’ll be the rouse-the-faithful message of Jewish Theological Seminary Chancellor Ismar Schorsch at his annual state-of-the-movement address next week in Jacksonville, Fla.
Faculty members at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement’s flagship institution, are reeling over the sudden announcement that the school faces serious financial problems, ones they believe could harm the future academic reputation of the institution.
At a Nov. 3 faculty meeting convened by Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, the teaching staff learned that JTS has implemented a hiring freeze and is selling a parcel of land it purchased four years ago intending to build graduate housing.
An influx of grants in the last two years has uplifted the learning experience at Temple Beth Israel. Figure things now to get downright exhilarating. The 225-family Conservative congregation in Port Washington has received a $500,000 donation to enhance Jewish programing in what it is believed to be the largest gift of its kind.
"It will enable us to hire someone with top credentials in Jewish education to turn us upside down and reassemble everything in a new and exciting way," said Rabbi Toni Shy.