Wrong Story
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Wrong Story

Uriel Heilman’s JTA report gets the facts right (mostly) but the story wrong when
writing about Conservative Judaism and The United Synagogue of Conservative
Judaism (USCJ) in “Amid Identity Crisis, Conservative Judaism Pays for
Rebranding” (Dec. 4).

While the article is ostensibly about our recent convention, Shape the
Center, it focused instead on a separate project — a branding initiative —
and a rehashing of the Pew data. In fact, the convention was marked by
interactive workshops offering practical solutions to many of today’s most
pressing issues, including LGBTQ and special needs inclusion, leadership
development, millennial engagement, interfaith families, financial stability
and more.

The article references the analysis of Steven M. Cohen to demonstrate a
decline in the number of self-identified Conservative Jews, but this research
also showed, as United Synagogue CEO Rabbi Steven Wernick noted in in his opening session
speech, that “while the quantity of Conservative Jews has diminished, the
quality of Jewish involvement of those continuing to engage has stayed
relatively strong.”

Engagement was actually the theme of Rabbi Wernick’s speech, contrary to
what was reported in the article. He shared some of Cohen’s statistics and
then identified teenage engagement as a keystone habit of thriving
congregations.

USCJ has recently begun a branding initiative in order to sharpen our focus
and expand our reach, effectiveness and influence, but this certainly was not
the predominant story of the convention. Twelve hundred Jews gathering over
five days to influence the future of Conservative Judaism, and it’s
unfortunate that JTA instead relied on a click-bait headline and a tired
narrative of decline.

Director of Marketing and Communications,

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

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