Finally, Something to Applaud

This year’s convention of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism is full of surprises. What a nice turn of events. Rabbi Jerry Epstein has called for welcoming in the intermarried. Rabbi Neil Gillman has called for a philosophical shift, suggesting that the Conservative movement is not halachic. (If that is indeed the case, then the only thing that stands in the way of being even more welcoming is synagogue culture.) And then Rabbi Ismar Schorsch suggests that Jewish education should be free for all members of JCCs and synagogues. We applaud the lowering of every barrier to creating more pathways into Jewish community. We would only ask Rabbi Schorsch to make one amendment to his proposal: Why not make Jewish education for children free, irrespective of whether or not their parents belong to a synagogue or JCC (lest those institutions build in the additional cost into their membership fees)? After all, they are the Jewish future. They may even join those institutions as a result. And while we are at it, let’s make sure that these kids are welcome to a Jewish education, irrespective of whether they come from in-married or interfaith Jewish families.

***CORRECTION*** Dated 12/22/05 -
In the above paragraph, based on a very brief news blurb, we applauded Rabbi Ismar Schorsch’s proposal for free education. After reading his own words in a recent Jerusalem Post article, however, we realize that once again his “bold initiative” is motivated by fear of intermarriage. He writes “The unabated hemorrhaging of the American Jewish community…due to intermarriage surely jeopardizes its long-term vitality.” So his plan is to find a solution to prevent intermarriage, rather than a vehicle to build strong Jewish identities among Jewish young people regardless of who they eventually marry. In other words, it is the same tired, failed approach, dressed up in different words. And that is not something to applaud.

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