Last Tuesday evening there was a presidential debate and a Yankees playoff game. But more than 250 people turned out at Park Avenue Synagogue to hear, and participate in, a discussion on “The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Judaism,” a major work published last spring by the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the movement.
Sponsored by the RA and The Jewish Week, the program featured a discussion about how the 900-page book, almost a decade in the making, came to be and who is its intended audience.
Rabbi Martin Cohen, the editor of the volume, said he would like to see it on the shelves of every Conservative home, since its more than 30 essays deal with the nexus between Jewish law and everyday life, with topics ranging from family relations to modern technology to the environment.
Fellow panelist Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the RA, said that Jews from all denominations and walks of life would find the book of value, and the third panelist, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, reflected on how the book touched on the public sphere as well as the ritual sphere.
Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt moderated the panel.
For the second half of the 90-minute program, audience members chose among four clustered areas in the auditorium, each featuring four rabbis discussing, in brief, the chapter they contributed to “The Observant Life,” and welcoming questions and comments.
With 16 rabbis holding court, the room was filled with the spirited sound of Jewish learning and engagement, prompting one rabbi to comment to a friend, “I never thought this event would be more dynamic than the Yankees,” who lost 2-1 that night.