Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Conservative Judaism: one name, two movements

I'm posting now, while I still can--my first of two rounds of eye surgery, the cataract surgery, will take place this Friday, and I've been told that using the computer will hurt my eye for a while thereafter.  Here are a couple of other posts that I just published:
~  Avraham, Sarah, and family--this story makes no sense
~  Great Balls of Fire" :).

And now, on with the show.

The Jewish Theological Seminary, formerly the only seminary training Conservative rabbis and cantors, teaches a halachic version of Conservative Judaism.

But not even all their own graduates abide by it.

I've seen JTS-ordained rabbis eat bagels without doing n'tilat yadayim (the ritual hand-washing required before eating bread) and without reciting Birkat haMazon (Grace After Meals).  I've also seen JTS-ordained rabbis make havdalah (the ritual marking the end of Shabbat/Sabbath) without benefit of Minchah (Afternoon Service) beforehand, and, on one occasion, even make havdalah too early, because the rabbi's kid had a party to attend.

As for the Conservative Jews in the pews, I haven't forgotten the simcha (religious celebration) I attended one Shabbat in a Conservative synagogue at which half the people at our table were sharing photos on their cell phones.  We're no better--we traveled there by motorized means, and had one cell phone (turned off) and some money with us, in case of emergency, since we weren't within walking distance of home.

I've certainly known JTS-ordained rabbis whose observance was barely distinguishable from that of Orthodox Jews.  But as for observant Conservative laypeople, my own experience is that they're as rare as hen's teeth.  Even the folks from my own shul (synagogue) who wouldn't travel on Shabbat--mostly deceased, at this point--might buy baked goods from a local bakery not under rabbinic supervision.

So what distinguishes Conservative Judaism from any other non-Orthodox variety? Our congregants prefer a more-traditional liturgy (albeit often egalitarian and often with musical instruments on Shabbat and Yom Tov), we don't accept patrilineal descent, and our rabbis don't perform weddings unless both would-be spouses are Jewish.  Once we give up any of the above, what will become of those of us Jews in the pews who don't want a quickie one-hour Shabbat morning service (with, for example, three-verse aliyot, or only three aliyot, and no Musaf Amidah prayer), and don't want to break our Yom Kippur fast at 4 PM?  And as for our clergy, should we just close JTS at that point and be done with it?


Blogger Sarah Yentl said...

ha, I finally discovered what distinguishes american conservative judaism and continental european reform judaism...we usually don´t do musaf!

Tue Nov 10, 09:36:00 AM 2015  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Ah, so that's the difference. We've taught one another something.

Fri Nov 13, 01:09:00 PM 2015  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>