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