Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Confession: I benefit from Conserv.’s lax observance

Lest I be accused of only kvetching about the Orthodox community, all of these incidents involve(d) Conservative synagogues and/or individuals.

  • A congregant in a tallit (prayer shawl) was standing in front of a synagogue talking on a cell phone—on Shabbat. (The use of any electricity-based communication device is forbidden on the Sabbath and Festivals, unless there’s a life-and-death emergency.)
  • Some of the same folks who protest that it’s not traditional for women to have aliyot go out to a local restaurant for lunch on Shabbat (thereby violating the law against spending money on Sabbath or Festivals) when there isn’t a big kiddush.
  • Sometimes she’s the only “minyannaire”—male or female—who’s wearing tefillin.
  • The participants in a chicken dinner in a synagogue were so impressed by the taste of the pareve cake that one of them got suspicious, and, snooping around the kitchen, discovered that the cake was dairy. No one had ever bothered to explain the concept of pareve to the well-meaning Shabbos goy, who had carefully bought cakes with a hechsher (rabbinical seal confirming that a product is kosher).
  • He almost never wears a tallit, but his wife does—most of the time.
  • The synagogue built its sukkah indoors for many years, though it’s against Jewish law to do so. (I’m happy to report that they’ve since had their roof reinforced for the express purpose of accommodating a rooftop outdoor sukkah.)
  • The congregant claims to keep a strictly kosher home, but bought pastries from a bakery that is not under rabbinical supervision in the presence of some other members of the same synagogue—all of whom also maintain kosher homes—and served the pastries to them. All of them enjoyed the pastries thoroughly.

You might say that I had my cake and ate it, too, literally—but I broke Jewish law in the process. That’s probably a good metaphorical description of the way I observe, and don’t observe, halachah/Jewish religious law.

My personal experience has been that, while most Conservative Jews prefer a more traditional service than do most Reform Jews, the observance level of Conservative Jews outside of the synagogue is often not much different than that of Reform Jews. Speaking as a lifelong Conservative Jew, I think that many of us Conservative Jews are rather hypocritical about being more observant. (Yes, I’m among the guilty as charged—see here.) The inconsistency drives me nuts sometimes, but I also benefit from that inconsistency, in that my own dubious observance isn’t so much worse than that of many other Conservative Jews of my acquaintance that anyone can really point a finger at me. So I guess that, unless I get a sudden inspiration to go behind the mechitzah for the rest of my life and keep my big mouth shut about my beliefs (or lack thereof), I should just shut up and put up.

(You know you've been blogging for too long when you "google" the word "minyannaire," seeking a definition to which to link, and find that the very post for which you're seeking a link is being quoted! Eek! Oooooookay, let's link to minyan, instead.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shira -- I'm looking forward to commenting on this post at length as soon as I have the opportunity. But, in the meantime, please stop beating up on yourself. Your are clearly proud of your judaism, and get great satisfaction from your current level of observance, with which you obviously struggle. Its the struggling part that makes you a conservative jew. Because its so easy to be jewish in the U.S. now, particularly in the greater NYC metropolitan area, demoninational labels are quickly losing their meaning, except to describe the shul you attend; it no longer describes your brand of judaism.

Thu Dec 11, 12:32:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For my entire marriage, my machteine has looked down on me because "they were raised Conservative.". Their observance level is virtually non-existent but the fact that we are Reform is enough to inspire some really nasty comments.

I would agree that many Conservative Jews are not affiliated with Conservative shuls for any theological or philisophical reason. Their practices certainly do not fall in line with the Codes and Standards of the Conservative Movement.

A good post!

Fri Dec 12, 12:02:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Orthodoxim have more important things to "worry" about. Recently: A 59 yr. old Chasid molesting a young teenaged girl; Bernard Madoff fleecing Millions of $$$$ in the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time; The Rubashkin family of Agriprocessors fame, etc. Supposedly, these are frum folk. I think the "sins" you cite from the Conservative movement pale in comparison.I for one, am happy to call myself a Conservative Jew. I LIKE being counted by the Kahal.
Shavua tov

Sat Dec 13, 10:31:00 PM 2008  

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