When Donna Levine told her mother she had converted, the response was that she would burn in hell. A friend encouraged Levine to join Jews for Jesus. She had to explain to this friend that, unfortunately, that wouldn’t work.
On Dec. 25, at its international convention in Boston, United Synagogue Youth (USY), the Conservative movement’s 20,000-member youth group, elected Michael Sacks, a senior at Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, as its new international president. The next day, Sacks and 30 other USY members from the Far West region joined a crowd of more than 1,000 — most of them teenage members of the youth group — in Boston’s Copley Square for a rally to end gun violence.
In the age of 140-character tweets and 38-second video clips, the Conservative movement is putting its foot down with a nearly 1,000-page reference tome, “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews.”
The so-called “kishkes issue” -- what does President Obama, deep down, really feel about Israel -- is now being addressed at the highest level by Obama himself.
The Conservative movement, through its Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, has taken a historic step in acknowledging that deaf and hard-of-hearing people are entitled to stand with the Jewish community as equals. Not only did the law committee vote to recognize the users of sign language as equals, it also issued a mandate, or teshuvah, that synagogues and organizations must strive to be accessible to all.
Listening to Conservative rabbis talk about their movement is like witnessing an intervention. They talk of “saving” Conservative Judaism – and sometimes they blame the parents when things go wrong. “Reform rabbis speak positively about their movement and less positively about their synagogue, while Conservative rabbis speak positively about their synagogue and less positively about their movement,” said Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md., paraphrasing a refrain he says he has heard often from Reform and Conservative colleagues.
In a sign of continuing friction among Conservative Jews over the issue of homosexuality, a ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the first anniversary of the decision to admit gays to the Jewish Theological Seminary was held away from the campus of the movement's main educational institution there.
At 72, Rabbi Harold Kushner, the best-selling author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," leads a life that most of his rabbinic colleagues can only dream of. But the author of more than a half-dozen books, several of them best sellers, is not without regrets -- a topic he addresses in his most recent book, "Overcoming Life's Disappointments," published in 2006.
Over the past couple of decades, the Conservative movement has been in a steady decline. A couple of years ago, one of the leaders, in his outgoing speech, described the movement as suffering from "malaise" and a "grievous failure of nerve."
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When Susanne Shier first heard about the mikvah, the ritual immersion bath that's part of the conversion process, she was a bit leery.
"I got nervous about it," she told The Journal before her immersion in March.
>Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) was arguably the leading Jewish intellectual institution in the United States. It was home to a cadre of scholars whose research and publications in the areas of Bible, Talmud, history and Jewish philosophy helped shape the thinking of a large cross-section of American Jewry.
Rabbi David Wolpe has removed himself from consideration for the job of leading the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York. Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Westwood, had been widely considered a frontrunner for chancellor at JTS, the central institution in Conservative Judaism.
In early November, I spoke at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. The topic was "The Future of Conservative Judaism." I prepared for the talk by asking colleagues, friends and congregants to define Conservative Judaism in one sentence. It was a dispiriting experience.
As the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies (ZSRS) at the University of Judaism (UJ) in Los Angeles completes its fifth year, it marks not only a transition within Conservative Judaism but the emergence of Los Angeles as a center for Jewish intellectual life. While it used to be that the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in New York City was the one center for training Conservative Rabbis (with the University of Judaism as an appendix established in 1947), the development of the ZSRS reflects a maturation of the UJ as its own entity, much like a younger sibling emerging from the shadows of an accomplished older child.
Norman and Lela Jacoby are talking about Camp Ramah again.
Dorothy Richman finished her rabbinical studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York this week, and she's about to start her new life. She's off to Honduras next month, leading a group of teens on a summer service program. They'll wind up in Israel in August. After that, her plans are open.