Conservative Judaism: Broadening The Tent


Kudos to Arnold Eisen for recognizing the opportunity to broaden the Conservative tent and provide leadership to a growing number of people who do not feel a denominational affiliation should trump their own sense of values and Jewish identity (“JTS Chancellor Charting New Course For Outreach,” May 21).

The Orthodox community in particular seems focused on keeping its tent small. The demographic explosion of the Orthodox right, and the progressive shift of its leadership from synagogue to yeshiva have invigorated efforts to centralize Orthodox authority and limit the progressive voices from within.

Recent issues of women’s leadership and conversion have been well covered. But perhaps the most significant snub to the left wing of Orthodoxy is the Rabbinical Council of America’s aversion to admitting Chovevei Torah graduates as members. It seems fairly likely that Chovevei Torah is not a flash in the pan, rather an indication of a growing population among Orthodox day school graduates (especially among those who do not attend yeshiva or Yeshiva University after high school) who seek a community that validates their sense of tradition and ritual but does not come at the exclusion of their broader sense of equality and of right and wrong.

If Orthodoxy continues to exclude its own progressive element, Eisen and JTS may well be the beneficiary of this disenfranchised demographic.