Conservative/Masorti movement puts a pluralistic spin on the Simchat Torah flag.
When Rabbi Tzvi Graetz was a little boy in the Israel of the 1970s, he would visit the shuk, or market, with his father every High Holiday season to buy flags to wave during Simchat Torah, which celebrates the end of one year of Torah readings and the beginning of a new one.
The Academy of Jewish Religion, a pluralistic seminary, dedicated a new, 8,500-square foot teaching, library and administrative building on Jan. 27. It's proof, the academy says, that it's growing, and that pluralism is catching on.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism estimates that from 1985 to 2009, 175 affiliated congregations have dispersed or merged with other denominations. The movement’s branch of day schools, the Solomon Schechter schools, has had the sharpest enrollment decline out of any denominational schools with a 3.8 percent decrease from 2010 to 2011, and since 1998, 20 Conservative day schools have shut down nationwide.
Huffington Post has a provocative piece this week by Jessica Langer-Sousa, a self-described “observant” Jewish woman who wanted to go to the mikveh before her wedding to a “devout” Catholic. (The quotation marks aren’t intended to be snide, but just to note that since “observant” and “devout” are both somewhat subject-to-interpretation adjectives that she doesn’t define, I am not sure what they mean in this context.)
After being rebuffed by the mikveh lady at one Los Angeles spot, Langer-Sousa consulted with “Rabbi Lori,” the rabbi officiating at her nuptials, and opted instead to dunk in the Pacific. The ceremony turned out to be even more meaningful and spiritual than she’d anticipated.
You might think my knee-jerk “In The Mix” reaction would be to indignantly side with Langer-Sousa as she rails against the (presumably Orthodox) mikveh lady, who told her she wouldn’t be permitted in the ritual bath because her marriage would not be recognized in the eyes of God. But, while the mikveh at the beach sounds great, I actually found the piece troubling.
Are relations among the leaders of Judaism’s branches as bad as they’ve been portrayed?
A recent, well-publicized report on hundreds of examples of rabbinic cooperation nationwide emphasized that the situation may be improving. But even some of the rabbis involved in cooperative efforts questioned the report’s positive spin.
Two leading rabbis, one Conservative and the other Modern Orthodox, called for alliances between their movements last week, even while strongly criticizing the other’s views on pluralism, conversion in Israel, and the chief rabbinate there.Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary and a leading voice of the Conservative movement, and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Israel, engaged in a spirited dialogue Feb. 11 before an overflow crowd at Lincoln Square Synagogue, the Manhattan congregation Rabbi Riskin founded more than three decades ago.
With world Jewry focused on the interdenominational crisis in Israel this week, few are paying much attention to tensions between the Reform and Orthodox in England. Rabbi Mark Winer is one of those few. The former spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami in White Plains is about to assume the pulpit at Britain’s largest Reform congregation. As the spiritual leader of some 2,400 Reform families, he will become arguably the most prominent non-Orthodox authority in Europe.
For the sake of religious freedom, Jews in Israel should be allowed to select the rabbi of their choice for marriages, conversions and burial, argued Manhattan businessman David Arnow.
For the sake of Jewish unity, there must continue to be only one recognized form of Judaism in Israel — Orthodoxy — countered Jerusalem writer Jonathan Rosenblum.