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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.



3 Comments

  1. In theory, obviously, a wonderful idea. Ideally, Jewish education should be free, intensive, practical and fun, because it’s important to ensure a Jewish future. But the problem is that the educators also deserve adequate compensation, whether they are rabbis or teachers or camp counselors or informal educators. And without charging for education, can the American Jewish community afford to pay the teachers who will make the learning possible? Absent a major round of donations from foundations and extremely wealthy donors, and absent a community-wide, cross-denominationally united push for Jewish education as THE priority, I’m pessimistic that this ideal can ever translate into reality. But it’s the kind of pessimism about which I’d happily be proven wrong.

    Comment by Esther Kustanowitz — December 13, 2005 @ 11:18 am

  2. You are right but we have the capacity in our communities. It is just about changing the financial approaches we are taking. Folks said that birthright Israel was impossible and–even with its flaws–gathered the necessary funds. We can do so with Jewish education and other priorities as well.

    Comment by Kerry Olitzky — December 13, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  3. I have a relative who is kind of broke in San Diego who wants her daughter to have a Bat-Mitzvah but can’t afford the temple costs, anyone have any suggestions for her that might know the San Diego scene. This is a big problem, this stuff is too expensive.

    Comment by josh — December 19, 2005 @ 6:59 pm

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