The Future of the Conservative Movement

I have never been one to buy into the rhetoric of those who predict the fall of one institution or another—and certainly not an entire religious movement. So I have to tell you that I am excited about the future of the Conservative movement and it is time for people to say it aloud. Every year, I speak to a group of students at the Jewish Theological Seminary—usually in the context of the senior seminar (for rabbinic and cantorial students). Yesterday was my day.

The instructor invited me to spend time with the students discussing the challenges that they will face with regard to integrating interfaith families into their future congregations—recognizing that none of them have completed the “placement process” yet. But it didn’t matter. They acknowledge that this is an issue the Conservative movement has avoided for far too long. And I began to see—as I have been seeing recently in our work with Conservative synagogues (primarily through our Call Synagogue Home program)—that their interest is not demographically driven, which would reveal a hidden agenda, but is really ideologically driven. From where I stand, it seems hey have started to internalize the directive to “welcome the stranger.”

So for those who have written off the Conservative movement, especially with regard to interfaith families, I would say “not so fast.” There is a lot of work to be done—but these soon to be ordained rabbis and invested cantors are ready, willing, and able to do that work. And we at the Jewish Outreach Institute are here to work with them.


  1. I was one of the soon-to-be-invested-cantors in that class, and I agree there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. Now that the placement process is in full swing, it’s clear that synagogues are realizing that outreach to interfaith families is not only key to the survival of the movement, but a long-neglected source of vibrant community and resources. I know that I will be looking to JOI for guidance in the very near future.

    Comment by Ayelet Piatigorsky — February 15, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  2. And we will be here to help you and any of your colleagues who are beginning to realize and respond to the ethical imperative of reaching out to the stranger in our midst

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — February 15, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  3. Are we speaking of the same Conservative movement that recently had a convention where no intermarried speakers were allowed? Because, you know, nothing is more important than avoiding giving the impression that marrying for love and continuing to practice Judaism is a viable option…….

    There are too many other options for intermarrieds–Reform, Recon and Renewal–for them to bother with the C movement until a paradigm shift occurs. Whether Eisen is up to preside over such a move remains to be seen.

    Comment by Eric — February 20, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

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