Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Conservatives to welcome intermarried

Further evidence of my hypothesis that Conservative Judaism is: Reform Judaism minus fiteen years!

Changing its' long held belief and practice, Conservative Judaism now joins the Reform, and will begin to be friendly and welcoming to the intermarried, in an effort to get the non-jewish partner to convert.


How should Conservative Judaism cope with dwindling membership, growing intermarriage rates and societys increasing religious and political polarity, while remaining true to its base in halachah, or Jewish law?
Those are some of the vexing questions the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism will tackle when it convenes Sunday in Boston for its four-day biennial...

The challenge comes as Conservative Judaism, which once set the agenda for American Jewry, has lost its numeric edge, dropping from 43 percent of affiliated Jews in 1990 to 33 percent in 2000, according to the two latest National Jewish Population Surveys. Conservative Jews are older as a group than the Reform or Orthodox, yet they hold most of the key positions in Jewish communal leadership, contributing to the aging of that leadership.
Meyers insists the Conservative movement is strong and says enrollment in day schools and camps is up, even as the movements outreach to young adult Jews is languishing.
In an effort to stem the hemorrhaging of membership in Conservative synagogues and soften the movements image of being cold and unwelcoming to the intermarried, Rabbi Jerome Epstein, the USCJs executive vice president, will unveil a far-reaching initiative on keruv, or outreach, directed primarily at interfaith families in Conservative congregations...

The Conservatives are broadening their embrace of the intermarried just two weeks after Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yoffie proposed at that movements biennial that Reform congregations ask non-Jewish spouses to consider conversion.
Are the two approaches converging? Not really, Meyers says.
Maybe at the edges Conservative is becoming more Reform, he acknowledges, but the two movements are distinctive. The Reform movements position is that each person and rabbi is autonomous and does their own thing, while we believe in halachah and mitzvot. We have a clear idea of how people should behave. ...

Everyone in the movement agrees its important to deal with outreach to the intermarried, we just havent yet come to agreement on how it should be done, which is fine, he says.
Epstein expects that the new openness will impact the movements Camp Ramah and Solomon Schechter day schools, both of which place restrictions on children of non-Jewish mothers. The day schools, for example, require such students to convert within a year of admission...

posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 12:24 PM


Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

What good does it do to alienate the intermarried? If they were Jewish couples who weren't observant, wouldn't you do kiruv, in the hope that you'd be setting a positive example of what a connected Jewish life could be?

And just as a point of correction, intermarriage is not an easy subject for Conservative Jews (not "Conservatives")--but my understanding is that this new initiative doesn't mark the beginning of a policy of friendliness, but the rolling out of a new approach that will enhance this policy of outreach.

11:14 AM  

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