The challenge for Conservative Judaism

Right now there’s a war going on where Israel is defending herself against an awful terror threat from the genocidal theocratic regime in Gaza and from unremitting hostile lawfare on the diplomatic front.

Worldwide, anti-Semitism of all stripes is surging. The demographics of the Conservative US Jewish community challenge its viable future.

And now, at this sensitive moment, Mr Arnold Eisen, the head of Conservative Judaism’s flagship institution JTS, shares his thoughts with the world; an OpEd in a flagship institution of the US media, the WSJ.

His subject?

“Efforts to discourage intermarriage have failed. It’s time to bring more non-Jews into the faith”


What an argument! The bottom line is that Conservative Judaism is, by and large, failing to engage young people and retain their commitment. Why would non-Jews be interested in a Judaism that cannot even retain Jews?

Of course, there is also the elephant in the room. There is a branch of Judaism that doesn’t have a problem with intermarriage. Maybe the Conservative movement could learn a few things from the Orthodox?

I support conversion. The barrier for conversion in Conservative Judaism is already minimal. And yet we have many young Jews married to non-Jewish partners for whom even this minimal level is too much.

I understand the dynamic of liberalism that lead to such modes of thought in the Conservative Jewish community. But the reality is that Conservative Judaism faces more serious problems and deserves leaders with more courageous and creative visions.


If you want the (very) bottom line

For those who need a pop culture explanation.

Click on pictures for links.

Howard Stern explains (succinctly and with profanity). Also points out the existence of anti-Semitic Jews (see next point):

Howard Stern

Are Jews helpful in your anti-Israel rants? A flow chart to help you decide.

use jews

People of the earth!


Sing it out:


Joan Rivers, doing what she does best – brutal honesty (although one has to admit that Egyptian TV is undoubtedly more brutal).

Joan Rivers

TV talk show host Bill Maher: “I feel terrible for a Palestinian child who dies, but if it’s your father, your brother, your uncle who’s firing those rockets into Israel, who’s fault is it really? Do you really expect the Israelis not to retaliate?”

Bill Maher

The situation above ground:


Shelter your children from bombs or your bombs with children?

moral equivalence

It is a very anxious time. From the safety and comfort of Ithaca, it is hard to find the words to adequately express the worry and concern that everyone in Israel be safe and to know what, if anything, we can do to help here in the US.

I’m posting a link to two eloquent statements, the first an OpEd in the Times of Israel from Shmuley Boteach, calling on President Obama to demonstrate responsible and moral US leadership.

Mr. President, my Kids are in a Bomb Shelter

and the second, a clip of a speech from the Senate by Sen. Chuck Shumer, a commentary on the falsehood of attributing any moral equivalence between Israel and the ideology of the genocidal Arab war against the Jewish state (click on picture for link).


For an insight into the responsible party behind the degeneration of the security situation, these tweets from Gershon Baskin, the Co-Chairman of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, paint the sad reality.

Hamas is the political entity that governs Gaza. The leaders should be indicted for war crimes, not just for indiscriminate targeting of civilians, but for the horrific use of children as combatants and hostage shields. The fact that this terrorist organization treats its own children and civilians in this brutal fashion is horrifying.


An open condemnation of the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir

We unequivocally condemn the horrific murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. It was unjustifiable under any circumstances. The killing was reprehensible and we hope that the criminals who did this sickening act are found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.Israel is a country run by the rule of law. There are reports that Jews have been arrested for this crime. If a trial finds that Jews are indeed guilty of this unconscionable killing, our condemnation is redoubled. The idea that Jews could do such an act fills us with shame and horror.The people who murdered Mohammed do not represent us in any way. It is not enough to dissociate ourselves from the dreadful act; we must also ensure that crimes like this are never repeated.

Just as the appalling murders of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar do not in any way justify the hideous murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, neither does the murder of Khdeir justify the violence, terrorism, destruction and incitement we have seen over the past few days against Israelis and Jews.

We hope and pray that everyone, Arab and Jew, lives in peace and security in the region.

For a complete list of signatories, see this link.
Many thanks to Elder of Ziyon.

Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar

The transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eulogy at the funerals of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar on July 1st, 2014.


Iris and Uri, Bat-Galim and Ofir, Rachel and Avi, Dear Yifrach, Shaer and Fraenkel families, the honorable President and President-elect, distinguished participants and all who join you in grief.

Over the past 18 days, the images of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were engraved on the hearts of all the people of Israel.

The citizens of Israel have come to know their faces, and although we regrettably did not have the privilege of meeting them as we had hoped and prayed, the magic of their smiles captivated us, as did their gentle spirit and youthful joy.

Three gifted, innocent and upstanding boys were struck down by evil murderers who, with unspeakable cruelty and without batting an eye, violated the ancient decree: “Do not lay a hand on the boy.” (Genesis 22:12)

Dear families, your sons drew their moral values from you as they grew and set out on their own paths, which were cut short.

This day has spontaneously become a national day of mourning. The entire nation prayed for the boys’ return. The entire nation witnessed the noble spirit and inner strength of the parents, the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, the grandparents and the rest of the family. The nation immediately recognized the depth of your roots and your strength of spirit. You have taught us an unforgettable lesson – a lesson in faith and determination, unity and sensitivity, Judaism and humanity.

The entire nation joined together and was again reminded of who we are, why we are here and, no less importantly, what great strengths we possess. The light you radiate shines even brighter in contrast to the horrific darkness of those who seek our destruction – despicable kidnappers of children, heinous murderers whose brothers rejoice at the spilling of innocent blood.

A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion. This is the secret of our strength; it is the foundation of our unity.

Throughout the history of our people, we have proven time and again that even when faced with the greatest of tragedies and the deepest agony and despair, the force of life that pulses in us overpowers the murderous aspirations of our enemies.

I would like to say a few words to you, Rachel, Bat-Galim and Iris. You have taught the entire world the meaning of a mother’s cry, a mother’s love. Blessed are boys

fortunate enough to have such parents and such families, and how tragic the fate that tore you apart – an incomprehensible evil.

I want to thank all the citizens of Israel for lending a hand and for your spirit of volunteerism and unity.. I especially wish to thank the soldiers of the IDF, the people of the Israel Security Agency, the Israel Police, the Border Police and all the volunteers for their tireless efforts, day and night, to find the boys.

And I wish to express my appreciation to all the people of Israel who have shown generosity of spirit and deep solidarity with three beloved families who came into our lives and into our collective consciousness through no choice of their own.

We bow our heads in deep sorrow, but we also remember the Jewish people’s simple and ancient truth – “In your blood you shall live.” (Ezekiel 16:6)

Today, as we bring our boys to eternal rest here in Modi’in, the birthplace of the Maccabees, I recall the words of Yitzhak Tabenkin from over 60 years ago at the grave of Yitzhak Sadeh: “A tomb in the history of Israel is not always a sign of weakness. From David’s Tomb, from Rachel’s Tomb, from the tombs of many others, we have drawn the commandment to live. We will now draw strength from this tomb. Today, we are dedicating a tomb that teaches us how to live.”

I know, dear families, that even our nation’s warmest embrace cannot erase the searing agony, the terrible pain that will continue to torment your souls long after the official grieving period is over. I know the pain of bereavement, and there is none worse. But I also know that life has a force of its own, like a river that sweeps us forward and grants us the power of renewal and hope.

And the entire nation, which cries with you and embraces you today will continue to stand by your side and offer comfort and solace.

We will always remember Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, the pure hearted boys who will stay forever young. We will remember them, and with God’s help, we will be comforted in the building of our cities and our land.

May the memory of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali be etched in our hearts forever.

Honor their memories


From Rabbi Steinsaltz, head of the Mekor Chaim high school, where two of the boys were students:

“People will light memorial candles, recite prayers, and attend vigils. Our boys were killed al Kiddush Hashem, because they were Jews. Therefore, to best honor their memories – indeed, to confront evil – we must act always as proud Jews, in our deeds and through our lives.”


Klal YisraelTo reiterate. This is not political. This is not regional conflict. It is anti-Semitism.


Read more here and here.