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Conservative Jewish Foundation Organized in U.S. to Help Movement Survive in Israel

A Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel has been established in the United States to seek financial help from the American Conservative movement for the Conservative movement in Israel, according to Dr. Gerson Cohen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the major American Conservative educational institution. He said the projected annual budget for the Foundation is $1 million.

“We have established many institutions in Israel, all affiliated with the Mesorati (traditional) Movement,” the Conservative-sponsored movement in Israel, Cohen said. He said Israeli Jews “in overwhelming numbers have flocked to these organizations — synagogues, camps, schools — demonstrating their need for precisely what we offer.”

Dr. Cohen said that “American support for these institutions is essential if they are to survive. Certain pressure groups in Israel, who try to deny qualified non-Orthodox professionals the right to function there, place our institutions in jeopardy and threaten Jewish solidarity.” This was understood to be a reference to the official status of Orthodoxy as the only recognized religious group in Israel and the rejection by the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate of the authority of Conservative and Reform rabbis to function as such.

“Therefore, Conservative Jews in this country must increase support for our program in Israel, and strengthen those institutions which offer Israeli a valid religious choice between rigid Orthodoxy and rampant secularism,” Cohen said.

GORDIS NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

He said Dr. David Gordis, vice-president of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, the Seminary west coast affiliate, has been named executive director of the new Foundation, Rabbi Morton Leifman, Seminary assistant chancellor, has been named executive secretary at the Foundation, he said.

Cohen said the Foundation “is charged with, providing that support. Gordis and Leifman will be working with a board of directors which I will chair, and on which all branches of the Conservative movement will be represented.”

A Seminary spokesperson said the Foundation office will be located temporarily in Los Angeles, pending choice of a permanent site. She also told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that 101 Conservative rabbis have made aliyah of whom 15 are retired. She said the other 86 rabbis were active as pulpit rabbis, camp counselors, teachers and administrators.

HOPE TO TRAIN SOBRA RABBIS

Gordis said he hoped that “we shall soon be training native Israelis for the rabbinate, using as our model the same high standards of scholarship and the same dedication to authentic interpretation of Jewish tradition which have always characterized both the New York Seminary and its west coast affiliate.”

He said another project with a “high priority” in the Foundation program is establishment of a kibbutz “with a Conservative religious orientation” which would provide “an educational center serving Conservative Jews in Israel and visitors from the Diaspora.”

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