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Conservative Rabbis Agree That Jewish Education Needs Overhauling to Be Relevant

Five hundred Conservative rabbis meeting here appeared to be in general agreement today that Jewish education in America needed a major overhauling to make it more relevant to contemporary issues if it was to develop a commitment to Judaism among contemporary youth.

The issue was the subject of spirited discussion at the 69th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical arm of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Stanley Kessler, of West Hartford, Conn., cited examples of lack of commitment among students in his own congregation’s school to bear out his charge that the Jewish “educational establishment” had failed in its primary goal. James Sleeper, a Yale senior and a graduate of Jewish schools, told the assembly that “there is a huge gap between what our best young people are experiencing and what is being presented in the classroom as Jewish education.”

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said “Jewish education in our open society presents difficulties unknown to our ancestors.” He added, “We must continue our efforts to improve curricula, techniques and materials, but we must not belittle the success that is bringing an ever larger proportion of our Jewish young people into our schools to challenge both our method and our content.” Rabbi Raphael Artz, director of Camp Ramah in Palmer, Mass., found the very deficiency in Jewish education a sign of present growth and a challenge for future developments.

Rabbi Judah Nadich of the Park Ave. Synagogue in New York, said “The Bible has suddenly become a living document, exciting for teachers, children and even parents. The study of the text leads directly to discussions of decision-making on moral and ethical issues in contemporary living.”

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