Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Is This the End of the Conservative Movement?

An interfaith wedding ceremony (Forward)
I’m not trying to pile on. But the handwriting is on the wall. Not that we needed to see the handwriting  since it is happening right before our very eyes. From the Forward:

(A) growing number of Conservative rabbis — members of the denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly …are deciding to preside at interfaith weddings.  

This was all but predictable. Some Conservative rabbis have been doing this under the radar for quite some time. Only now it seems to have become far more common. And despite opposition from their leadership, it seems to be on the verge of becoming the norm.   

US Jewry in its current incarnation of a non observant secular majority is doomed to extinction. This is not news. The vast majority of American Jews are so fully assimilated, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a Jew and non Jew. Both in appearance and lifestyle. And most Jews like it that way. Not that I can blame anyone for wanting to fit in. Assimilation tends to preclude discrimination. Difference fuels suspicion and prejudice. Why not simply avoid it by being like everyone else in every respect? Perhaps.  But that comes with the huge price tag of the eventual extinction of American Jewry as we know it.

None of this is new. Pew Research has thoroughly examined this phenomenon and has found that over 70% of non observant Jews marry out. And most of the rest don’t care much about their Judaism either. (Yes, there are exceptions. But that’s what they are: Exceptions. The majority will  determine the future.)

Interestingly the Conservative leadership realizes that intermarriage is a ticket out of Judaism and forbids their clergy from performing  - or even attending interfaith marriages: 

The Conservative movement itself first considered the issue of interfaith couples and marriages in the 1970s. It has since stepped up efforts to welcome interfaith couples married elsewhere, but the prohibition on Conservative rabbis performing those marriages has stood. 

But that is increasingly being honored in the breach: 

Dario Feiguin, a rabbi for nearly 40 years, recently officiated at his first interfaith wedding… 

Feiguin, of Congregation Kol Shalom on Bainbridge Island, is one of a growing number of Conservative rabbis — members of the denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly (RA) — who are deciding to preside at interfaith weddings...   

“There are members of the RA doing it under the radar right and left,” said Rabbi Rolando Matalon of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, who recently left the RA over the issue… 

(The) question is increasingly divisive within the RA, which has some 1,600 members worldwide. Some rabbis have resigned from the RA over it. Others have been kicked out for officiating at interfaith ceremonies. 

If things keep going in this direction it will spell the end of the Conservative movement. It isn’t me saying that. It is some of the most important Conservative clergy saying it. Those who still oppose It like Rabbis David Wolpoe, Elliot Cosgrove  and Felipe Goodman understand what is at stake for their movement: 

(Goodman) fears that officiating at interfaith weddings will make Conservative Judaism irrelevant. 

“The moment we do it the line between Conservative and Reform movements will be completely obliterated. If we do not hold on to the values we hold dear, like endogamy, then I don’t know what future we can have” as a denomination, he said. 

What all of this means is that about half of the children born of such marriages will not be Jewish. And Conservative rabbis are increasingly hastening the demise of their denomination and American Jewry as we know it. 

I agree with Rabbi Goodman. But I don’t think it is an ‘if’. It is a ‘when’. It is just a matter of time when his fear will be realized. The handwriting is indeed on the wall. The Conservative Movement has no future. 

That leaves 2 denominations: Reform and Orthodox. Both of which are growing. But the growth of a movement that changes the definition of who is, and is not a Jew so radically cannot be fairly said to be growing. Saying for example that non Kosher animals are Kosher animals does not make it so. Reform Judaism has just about defined themselves out of Judaism. 

That leaves the future of American Jewy in the hands of Orthodoxy. I do not say this to gloat or in any sense of triumphalism. I say it as a reasonable prediction based on my observation of the current status quo of American Jewry and the direction it is going - versus the direction Orthodoxy us going.