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Conservative Judaism's Problem? It's too Conservative.

When the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism recently announced its rebranding, affirming Conservative Judaism as “dynamic and authentic,” it had the potential to be a turning point for the movement. Its earlier tagline, “tradition and change,” not only was uninspiring, but also failed to capture the very humanity of our people’s search for meaning and connection at the heart of Judaism. This new phrase—more than just a word-shift—contained a message of a living breathing Judaism; for me, the phrase “dynamic and authentic” most closely expresses what I believe Judaism has been for centuries, and how the Conservative Movement can be the best resource we have to accessing Judaism’s dynamic rhythms, its authenticity of connection. Not long after this step forward, however, the movement then reaffirmed its ban on intermarriage in a letter signed by all four major movement leaders. This letter wasn’t just a reaffirmation of its commitment to traditional Jewish law. For most non-Orthod…

The New Idolatry

I want to tell  you a story about a long-time friend of my parents.  I will refer to him as Joe.  They have known each other for many decades.  Practically grew up together.  He’s in his eighties now.  He has survived lots of health crises, including many years of respiratory problems, Type 2 Diabetes, and triple bypass surgery.  Several years ago, my family was visiting with his family.  We had a wonderful time all together.  We ate  out at different restaurants a few times. And Joe loved a good meal.  Time and again, he ordered truly, decadent meals:  grilled cheese done to perfection for lunch. Deep fried chicken for dinner.  Lasagna another night.  For breakfast he ordered gooey cinnamon buns heaping with cream-cheese icing.  And when he got the most amazing donuts for us all, and then ate half the box, followed later by cheese fries, I finally felt the need to say something to good old Joe.

“Hey, Joe,” I said.  “I really hope I’m not out of line here, but you know all these wonder…

Seeking the Good

I remember when I first started working at Adas Israel.  I can’t begin to describe the honor it was to be offered this job; what a joy and a thrill it was to come to work as the new Senior Rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation, one of the great flagship synagogues of American Judaism!  The spiritual home of world leaders, thinkers, and influencers doing extraordinary things for this country and for the world.   
My first year here was a dizzying array of Adas in Your Neighborhood receptions, meetings with leaders and minyanim and parents and countless interest groups.  I recall realizing very early on that to be the rabbi of a synagogue like this is also to be part politician.  I began to joke that at times, I felt like the mayor of a small city!  
I distinctly remember concluding a meeting one morning, maybe a week into the job--the fifth of the day and it wasn’t even noon yet--and each meeting was more fraught and high stakes with synagogue and staff politics than the last.  I looked at m…

The Deadliest Poison: When Anti-Semitism Infects Liberalism

This past summer, the national Black Lives Matter movement released an official platform outlining several of its policy proposals in its efforts to end the war on black people in this country.  Among its proposals, it used the platform as an opportunity to attack Israel, calling it an “apartheid state.” The platform also stated “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”  Last January, at the annual National Gay and Lesbian Creating Change Conference in Chicago, a pro-Israel reception was initially shut down by the conference organizers, bowing to pressure from anti-Israel groups.  When the reception eventually got the green light, their event was stormed by an angry mob trying to shut down the Jewish and Israeli event following their Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services.  Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the rabbi of the LGBT congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NY, and an …