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I'm a little upset with the Conservative movement.

Trying to counteract the loss of membership and vitality in one of Judaism's principal groups, the Conservative movement yesterday launched what its leaders said will be an aggressive effort to convert to Judaism the gentile spouses and children of Jews who have married outside the faith.

Full article here

someone from WJ said, and I agree,
"I read with great interest the previous article posted about the Conservative movement. In the end, I agree with Meyers at the end of the article - conversion alone won't save Conservative Judaism, nor is it the central issue with which they're truly grappling. But obviously others may disagree - is it worth breaking with centuries of tradition to proselytize, and risk pushing away interfaith couples entirely?"

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
tevarin
Dec. 8th, 2005 03:07 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I like the idea of trying to build up the Conservative movement by recruiting more Jews. If someone is encouraging a non-Jewish spouse to convert, it should be to make a better marriage or a better environment for Jewish kids, not to boost census numbers.

Let the Christians and Muslims go out and try to convert the world; we've got more important tikkun olam to work on.
metahoss
Dec. 8th, 2005 05:27 am (UTC)
This could be either good or bad depending on how it's implemented. Would I like to be welcomed and/or encouraged to participate to some extent in religious life? Certainly. On the other hand, aggressive encouragement to convert sounds potentially unfriendly. Plus, it's pretty far from the attitude I've gotten from Conservative rabbis.

I imagine that with such a localized decision-making structure (individual rabbis/congregations making decisions, everyone thinking for himself, as opposed to, e.g., the Catholics with their Pope), this would be a tough policy to enforce.
subjectivity
Dec. 8th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC)
Extremely interesting move. I finally had a chance to read the article. A few points stick out to me.

"The move is a break with a centuries-old Jewish tradition of shunning conversion efforts, an aversion traceable to the hostility that such efforts generated in countries with Christian or Muslim majorities."

I always had the impression that Jews didn't proselytize going back to the beginning, but that just isn't true. Even if you think about Bible stories, Jewish men were constantly converting wives and forcibly converting people in towns they conquered. I don't know much about these efforts that the article mentions, but if this is so then it's not so much that Jews didn't want to proselytize, it's just that it didn't work and so eventually we gave up and became more insular, like, 'we didn't want you anyway.' That said, certainly it's been hundreds of years since it was on the table.

"The Reform movement has been gaining intermarried families in which the Jewish spouse was once Conservative but no longer felt comfortable in a Conservative synagogue after marrying a non-Jew, according to the population data and demographic authorities. Orthodox Jews maintain the tradition of discouraging conversions, while the Reform movement welcomes non-Jews who wish to convert. It is also fully accepting of intermarried couples, a position the Conservatives are far from adopting."

This is true. The Conservative movement has been wishy-washy about interfaith marriages, so people have been getting mixed signals.

"He called on clergy and lay leaders to make visits and telephone calls to invite gentiles married to congregants to participate and have their children participate in Jewish life.
The suggestions proposed making special efforts, including scholarship offers, to encourage unconverted children who have a Jewish parent to participate in Jewish youth organizations and to visit Israel, to encourage and deepen their sense of positive Jewish identity."

As much as they were labeling it "aggressive," scholarship offers and invitations to participate are not the same as preaching on the streetcorners or telling people they will go to Hell if they don't convert.

I really don't see any problem with and would appreciate the Conservative movement being more open and welcoming.

"statistics that indicated that only 22 percent of children of two Jewish parents marry out of the faith, compared with 74 percent of children with only one Jewish parent."

hmm... I wonder how reliable these statistics are. I'm guessing that these days it is more than 22 percent.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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