In last week’s Chronicle, there was a letter to the editor extolling the virtues of Chabad while sharply criticizing the Reform and Conservative movements. While I’m a Conservative Jew and love my synagogue, I also support with words, and at times actions and money, other Jewish movements, including Reform congregations and Chabad.
We shouldn’t be in the mode of tearing down Jewish movements. I’m glad when people find a home in Judaism, wherever it is. We need to support one another.
No one synagogue, no one movement, is going to appeal to all Jews. Diversity in Judaism is a good thing. The author states that the Conservative and Reform movements need to do less with cultural and social justice in order to become more relevant. I couldn’t disagree more. There are Jews yearning for that kind of social action from their synagogues. I’m glad there are synagogues that offer that. Certainly there are ways for Reform and Conservative synagogues to improve. However, the one thing they don’t need to do is to become more like the Orthodox or Chabad. Those other options already exist.
Close to home, my synagogue — Beth El Congregation of the South Hills — is not becoming less relevant. Our membership is growing, not declining. We have strong leadership, both professional and volunteer. We have diverse programming, including social action and adult education. No one is denied membership because of inability to pay dues. That said, we will never be the synagogue that someone who wants an Orthodox or Reform setting will want to join. And that’s a good thing.
The threat to Jewish movements is not losing their members to other Jewish movements. It’s having them become unaffiliated with all movements. Our efforts should be toward building up and supporting all Jewish movements.