For a few days at least, Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz appeared ready to become the first prominent Conservative clergyman to break with the movement’s ironclad rule against rabbis performing intermarriages. But shortly after floating the idea to his congregants at Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., one of the nation’s largest Conservative synagogues, he reversed course.
In advance of last week’s Biennial Convention of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in Baltimore, I attended a pre-convention Shabbaton- a kind of optional add-on for those who were inclined. (My wife had intended to come, but sadly, Amtrakhad other plans). As President of the Rabbinical Assembly, I thought it was an important opportunity to “reach across the aisle,” if you will, and spend Shabbat with my friends and colleagues in the synagogue arm of the Conservative movement.
As a Conservative Jew and a mohel certified by the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Rabbinical Assembly, in practice for more than 25 years, I was somewhat dismayed at the content of Gary Rosenblatt’s column, “Not Too Late To Push In-Marriage?” (Sept. 13). While Professor [Jack] Wertheimer has done extensive work in gathering data on Jewish demographics, I am afraid that he “chooses and picks” his data to suit his points of view. I disagree that intermarried families have lower chances of raising committed Jews, and I believe my statistics and follow-ups prove him wrong.
Although those who daven (pray) regularly rarely think of it in these terms because they take it so for granted, music plays an irreducibly crucial role in Jewish prayer
On the most basic level, if the proper nusach, or musical mode, is being used by a Hazzan or other prayer leader, a knowledgeable Jew will, immediately upon entering a synagogue prayer service, be able to tell whether it is a Shabbat, holiday, or weekday, or, for that matter, one of the High Holidays. The words that make up our prayer book are not “said,” per se, but chanted, according to traditional customs and melodies that often date back thousands of years.
I've been on the road a lot lately. In addition to traveling to Israel for the Rabbinical Assembly convention in late June, I've spent at few days at the Jersey shore, and as I write this late on Thursday night, I'm actually in Buenos Aires for the second time this year, participating in an international conference of the Masorti/Conservative movement. And while I'm here– the conference was scheduled around this other event– it was my great privilege this evening to participate in the Tekkes Hasmachah, the rabbinical ordination ceremony, of the graduating rabbis at the Seminario Rabbinico Latino Americano, the Conservative Movement's sister seminary in Argentina.
The annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international professional association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, will take place this coming week in Jerusalem. In my capacity as President of the RA, as it’s commonly referred to, it will be my great honor to formally introduce Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel, at a reception that he is hosting for us in his official residence, known as Beit Hannasi.
As I write this, I am somewhere over the Atlantic, on my way back to New York after two intense and remarkable weeks exploring the Jewish communities of France and Israel with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. I am a member of the Conference because I am the sitting President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the professional organization of Conservative rabbis.
Last Tuesday evening there was a presidential debate and a Yankees playoff game. But more than 250 people turned out at Park Avenue Synagogue to hear, and participate in, a discussion on “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Judaism,” a major work published last spring by the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the movement.