From the NY Jewish Week
Toward A Passionate Conservative Judaism
By Rabbi David Lerner
In case you’ve missed the newsflashes, the Conservative movement is in trouble. The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-2001 has sounded the alarm of the impending demise of what once was the largest religious movement in American Judaism.
These days it is in vogue to bash Conservative Judaism’s focus on halacha, Jewish law. Law is passe, so 20th century. Apparently no one believes in law anymore. At the Rabbinical Assembly convention in Houston last March, speakers lined up to take potshots at the movement calling itself “a halachic movement.”
The noted author Rabbi Harold Kushner stated, “When I was a rabbinical student, the chancellor of the seminary was a Talmudist and we advertised ourselves as a historical movement. Two generations later, the chancellor of the seminary is a historian and we define ourselves as a halachic movement. I am not sure how that changed.”
Is this correct? The movement always espoused halacha, utilizing Jewish law to guide its religious decisions, even if the members of Conservative synagogues did not always observe all of its mitzvoth, commandments.
A few weeks ago, at the United Synagogue biennial convention in Boston, the attack on halacha continued full force. Professor Neil Gillman spoke at length about how Conservative Judaism is not a halachic movement. He claimed that given that most Conservative Jews do not keep halacha strictly, this phrase “halachic movement” is a mere slogan “by rabbis for rabbis to make them feel more authentic.” [more…]