Conservative Judaism: A Community Conversation
The Jewish Theological Seminary

Response to "Looking Back, Looking Forward" From Charlie Schwartz

Chancellor Eisen has laid out a daunting, yet attainable task for Conservative Jews. We are to embody the motto "Tradition as change," in place of "Tradition and change." We are to zealously stake out a middle path steeped in intellect and spirit, commandedness and innovation, in the hopes of navigating away from the destructive polls of fundamentalism and apathy. All this while strengthening the ideals and institutions that form the historical structure of our Movement. I agree with the chancellor when he writes, "Conservative Judaism now, as much as ever, has the message and the means to make a major impact on the ways Jewish tradition is taught, practiced, and revitalized in North America and beyond."

And this is what we are doing. It is Jews who grew up or were educated in the Conservative Movement who are at the forefront of the Jewish renaissance underway in North America and beyond, although not always from the confines of the Movement.

rom invigorating Jewish learning at places like Mechon Hadar and Congregation Netivot Shalom, to innovating prayer within communities like Kavanah and the Kane Street Synagogue, to defining what it means to actively pursue justice through organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights, AJWS, Encounter, and Hekhsher Tzedek, the Conservative Movement provides the foundation for a vibrant, dynamic, and diverse Jewish landscape. It is these innovations, ideas, and efforts we as a Movement must continue to inspire, embrace, and learn from. The chancellor’s vision for the future of the Conservative Movement is challenging, but the seeds of that vision have been planted and have begun to blossom.

The technologist Alan Kay is famous for saying, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it," providing a corollary to Hillel’s ancient aphorism, "If not now when?" Now is this time to realize this vision, to continue to be inspired by the ideas, passion, complexity, and faith of the Conservative Movement, and to transform these ideas into the communities, institutions, and Judaism the world so desperately needs.