Conservative group calls for greater role in movement’s future

Conservative group calls for greater role in movement’s future

NEW YORK — The leadership of the Conservative movement’s synagogue arm has acceded to a request for an “urgent” meeting from a new coalition of clergy and laypeople to discuss new strategic directions for the organization.
Ray Goldstein, the president of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, told JTA that the meeting could take place as early as next week.
“I look forward to working with this group,” Goldstein said. “I’m really excited about having their passion and willingness to work to strengthen the United Synagogue, and through the United Synagogue, the Conservative movement.”
The proposed meeting was triggered by a letter sent to Goldstein last week by a group of Conservative synagogue leaders which asserted that only fundamental change in the United Synagogue would enable its future success.
“We don’t believe that it can happen if ‘business as usual’ reigns, with merely a change in the identity of the leadership,” the letter stated.
The Conservative movement, once the nation’s largest synagogue denomination but since overtaken by the Reform movement, has been anguishing over its future for years. But a major leadership overhaul — at present, the three major arms either have recently installed new leaders or are preparing to — has sparked hope that the movement’s fortunes are primed for a turnaround.
The United Synagogue is nearing the conclusion of an effort to replace its retiring, longtime executive vice president, Rabbi Jerome Epstein. In 2007, Arnold Eisen assumed the chancellorship of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld will take over the Rabbinical Assembly this summer.
About 50 rabbis, cantors and synagogue lay leaders, brought together under the banner of Hayom: Coalition for the Transformation of Conservative Judaism, signed the letter to the United Synagogue.
The group, which includes well-known pulpit rabbis such as David Wolpe of Los Angeles and Gordon Tucker of New York, was formed over the summer in reaction to Goldstein’s decision to keep the selection of a new United Synagogue executive strictly an internal process.