The voice of the Conservative movement and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism was heard loud and clear at its Centennial convention celebration in Baltimore this past week.
I heard the voices that spoke of positive Jewish identity, that link valued traditions of our collective past to our present actions in personal and communal life. I heard the expressive voices of high school and college-aged youth contribute with singing, dancing and renewed friendship. I heard many conversations at thought-provoking sessions, and I heard the visionary messages that challenge the Conservative movement to engage the creativity of its members and leaders to build upon the strengths evolved from 100 years of communal experience.
I am attracted to the Conservative movement because it includes many diverse voices that celebrate various traditional and new approaches to Jewish expression.
One of the biggest challenges facing the Conservative movement is to maintain a pluralistic and centralist position supported by leadership that offers guidelines for religious practice. Another challenge is to serve a diverse membership that reflects various backgrounds and experiences. This is happening during a time of great change in the identity, attitudes, observance level and demographics of Jews involved in synagogue settings. The recent Pew Research Center study of U.S. Jews substantiates the struggle that all liberal Jewish synagogue movements are experiencing.
I support the USCJ’s efforts to “conserve” the essence of Judaism in our modern age. USCJ is to be applauded for pursuing a new model of governance, for developing regional interactions that strengthen and transform synagogue community and for supporting the efforts of its auxiliary organizations.
It is crucial that we reflect upon the following questions and work toward successful outcomes for the Conservative movement:
> How do we define, practice and protect from loss or harm our movement’s vital, centralist approach to Jewish life?
> How do we sustain and improve our movement’s approach to scholarship, teaching and the practice of our sacred heritage in the face of bewildering change in Jewish communities today?
> How do we foster the civility of conversations and pursue nurturing relationships that support the growth and health of the Conservative movement, its leaders and members?
> How will the Conservative movement, its synagogues, seminaries, schools and programs demonstrate derech eretz (exemplary conduct) and kavod (respect) to the rabbis, chazzanim, professionals and lay leaders and many volunteers who offer much of their time and attention to guarantee a beautiful heritage for future generations?
Any conservatory of value needs commitment, tending and guarding to survive. The USCJ and the Conservative movement care for a conservatory full of Jewish treasures that includes its own narrative of an impressive 100 year voyage.
The Conservative movement legacy is conserved by community study and involvement. It is conserved by its sincere communal spirit before God. And it is conserved by its mitzvot, shared through deeds of loving kindness serving our Jewish community and the nations of the world.
The Conservative movement provides a valued Jewish voice that resonates to all who gain from its devoted service and sacred mission.