Call Mounted to Modernize Halacha to Make It Relevant to Contemporary Life

Delegates representing Conservative Judaism in 26 countries heard calls today for pressure to modernize halacha–Jewish religious law–to make it applicable and relevant to contemporary life. Addressing the eighth biennial convention here of the World Council of Synagogues, the international representative body of Conservative Jewry, Prof. Ernst Simon of Hebrew University declared. “Never in history did halacha change without pressure. It is pressure that will bring change.” Dr. Simon, who lectures at the Students Center of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in Jerusalem, said there was a significant religious awakening in Israel, especially in the kibbutzim and among youth who for years were distant from their Jewish religious heritage but are now, especially since the Six-Day War, seeking to come closer to their Jewish roots. Dr. Pinchas Peli, of Seminary’s Jerusalem section agreed that many Israelis are seeking in return to their Jewish heritage but cannot identify themselves with the present religious establishment in Israel which has assumed the corpus of a political party. He said the answer for such Israelis must be the Conservative movement and called on Conservative Jews in America to help expand the movement’s activities in Israel. There are presently only four Conservative congregations in Israel, one each in Haifa, Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Nathanya. Leaders of the congregations have charged that the Orthodox establishment has been placing obstacles in the way of the development of Conservative Judaism here.

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