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.