Is Conservative rebranding enough?

The Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary insists his movement can be revitalized – that it is distinct and fills a religious-communal void.

By ELLIOT JAGER
April 12, 2016 12:19
Arnold Eisen

Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. (photo credit: COURTESY JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY)

 
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ON A chilly February evening in Jerusalem, Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York ‒ the public face of Conservative Judaism ‒ arrived at Congregation Ramot Zion in French Hill to talk about the future of the US Conservative movement. The mood was upbeat. The Netanyahu government had just voted to establish a permanent prayer space near Robinson’s Arch, adjacent to the Western Wall plaza, where Conservative and Reform Jews could hold egalitarian services.

The audience of about 50 mostly comprised Israeli Anglos active in the country’s Conservative (or Masorti in Israel) movement and a smattering of Israeli-born progressive rabbis, including top Reform leader Uri Regev. Shunted aside by the machinations of Israel’s hyper-pluralist political system, ignored by most Israelis who are overwhelmingly non-practicing Orthodox, manipulated by the Machiavellian tactics of successive Israeli premiers, and confronted with unwavering antagonism from the state-empowered ultra-Orthodox rabbinate, Reform and Conservative leaders have had to make common cause in the courts and Knesset.

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