Rabbi Jerome Epstein served the Conservative movement for many years with distinction. I am glad that he has recognized the movement’s decline, but his “solutions” are the very same concepts that have led to its attrition and decline (“Key To Conservative Survival: Returning To The Core,” Opinion, April 18).
As a committed Conservative Jew, an officer of my congregation, and a member of the first Brit Kodesh class for mohelim at the Jewish Theological Seminary, I am more then eager to formulate solutions. To “expect” Conservative Jews to live a life defined by halacha, or to “impose” and set forth expectations and obligations for synagogue members, will not work. What has to be in the forefront of “solutions” is inclusiveness. That is to reach out to the entire community — interfaith families, same-sex families, singles, young married couples, and empty nesters. Each of theses groups have to find a place in the synagogue, whether it be different kinds of worship services, opportunities for tikkun olam, or learning possibilities that would appeal to all levels of Hebrew and Judaic knowledge.
Moreover, we have to revisit the issue of rabbis and cantors officiating, with some format, for an interfaith wedding. If all of these inclusive pathways are accomplished in some form, then we can first talk about a life defined by halacha, Jewish law. When people are well into these different avenues for a meaningful Jewish life then can we perhaps ask for some obligation to attend services once a month, or participate in a tikkun olam project or perhaps some learning opportunity.
The “style” of religious services and programs has to evolve in this century just as it did in the last century, and the synagogue where I belong has been trying to do just that. The “core values” that were important in the last century may still be important, but have to be fine tuned with the reality of the 21st century.
Miami, The writer is a mohel.