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Rethinking Conversion Policy

When one of the country’s leading Conservative rabbis states publicly his discomfort with a major policy of the movement, it warrants attention and consideration. In a Shabbat morning sermon, Elliot Cosgrove, rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, shared his thoughts about conversion, interfaith relationships, and the status of non-Jewish family members in Jewish families.

Rabbi Cosgrove said he has seen that love trumps religious affiliation, with the result being that few families are immune from the situation of a child coming home with a non-Jewish partner and wanting to be married in a Jewish ceremony. The policy of most Conservative synagogues requires the non-Jewish partner to complete a conversion program, often lasting a year or longer, but the rabbi feels couples see it as putting obstacles in their way. If the non-Jewish partner does not convert in advance, Conservative rabbis will not officiate at the wedding but encourage conversion after the fact. Read more »

The Problem With Prayer Services

“Can there be spirituality, ritual observance, without thought or moral reasoning? It can be done. It’s being done. Prayer recitation, the chanting of the tropes of the sacred texts, fluency with words and cantillation replaces religious inquiry. The ritual gesture turns surrogate for theological meaning. Read more »

Eliminate Dues

Many Jews don’t join synagogues because they can’t afford, don’t want to pay, or resent the high cost of being a member. The cost of tickets for High Holy Day tickets has the same effect. The result is that a very high percentage of Jews don’t ever go to synagogues and do not attend High Holy Day services. These Jews are basically lost from the Jewish social community. Before our eyes, we are seeing a repeat of the Ten Lost Tribes and we have been unsuccessful at saving them from eventual disappearance. Read more »

Is Synagogue Affiliation Important? Should it Be?

In my area of Florida, the Southeast portion, which includes Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach, a recent survey said that 85% of the Jewish population there is unaffiliated with any synagogue.

Most of the Jews in this area are from New York and other East coast areas and they are thought to be a wealthy segment of the national Jewish community. They often consider themselves Jewish and they have the money to join, yet they choose not to.

Could it be that synagogues don’t offer much to attract them? Read more »