Judaism: Requiem for a Movement
Rabbi Berel WeinRabbi Berel Wein is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator, admired...
There is a dangerous trend that exists in the fringes of the Modern Orthodox Jewish world to imitate these errors of the Conservative movement.
In an article that appeared two months ago in the Jewish Review of Books, Daniel Gordis wrote about the sorry state of the Conservative movement in the current American Jewish scene. The Pew Report documented, with a great body of anecdotal evidence, the demise of this once most numerous and powerful movement.
I also bemoan this fact of American Jewish life. I have long felt that a great deal of the responsibility for the apparently inexorable demise of the American Jewish community lies with the failure of the Conservative movement in preserving the Jewish identity and self-worth of its lay adherents.
Instead it seems doomed to extinction as the title of Gordis’ article indicates. I feel that it is not an exaggeration to state that the failure of the Conservative movement to maintain itself over the past decades has contributed greatly to the sorry state of non-belief, disloyalty and lack of spirituality, which characterizes current American Jewish society.
Gordis emphasizes how the (in)famous decision of the Conservative movement in 1950 to allow its congregants to drive to the synagogue on Shabbat not only helped destroy the Shabbat but also contributed to the destruction of the movement itself. People instinctively saw through the sham and realized that if it was permissible to drive to the synagogue than it must also somehow be permissible on Shabbat to drive to the golf course.
There are many Orthodox Jews who are not really halakhically observant in all forms of technical requirements. Nevertheless they realize that Orthodoxy stands for basic principles and historical beliefs that remain valid and uncompromising in its demands on its adherents. The Jew who drives his automobile to attend Shabbat services at an Orthodox synagogue is aware that he or she is not observing the Shabbat as it should be observed.
There is a dangerous trend that exists in the fringes of the Modern Orthodox Jewish world to imitate these errors of the Conservative movement. Feminist fetishes, women rabbis, condoning what the Torah specifically forbids, and disregarding lessons of past history and current conditions will in no way guarantee the survival of the Jewish family, the Orthodox synagogue or the general Jewish society.
A clear definition of what we are, a delineation between true Jewish values and passing current fads and a sense of response to the existential questions of life – who I am, what am I doing here, and of what value is my existence – is the basic core of Jewish belief, theology and history.