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Conservative Judaism's Future

Conservative Judaism's Future

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Published by kjworrell4731
My response to the question, "What must the USCJ become in order to foster a healthy institutional Conservative Movement focused on touching Conservative Jews' lives?" ShefaJournal 5669:2 (Aug 2009)
My response to the question, "What must the USCJ become in order to foster a healthy institutional Conservative Movement focused on touching Conservative Jews' lives?" ShefaJournal 5669:2 (Aug 2009)

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Published by: kjworrell4731 on Feb 01, 2010
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Conservative Judaism's Future
In answer to the question, "What must the USCJ become inorder to foster a healthy institutional ConservativeMovement focused on touching Conservative Jews' lives?" Irespond:
An organization which voices a clear, detailedphilosophy, mission and vision for Conservative Judaism
 This would include but go beyond slogans to detailing theexpectations, obligations and benefits of Conservative Judaism's philosophy and lifestyle across its full spectrum.(Although Rabbi Jerome Epstein did set out principles andideals[1] [2], I don't see these principles and ideals clearly integrated into the organization or movement as a whole.)
A resource providing top-down support for grassrootsinitiatives
 Supporting the local-needs driven, creative initiatives of rabbis, cantors and lay leaders by providing assistance suchas affordable dynamic speakers to help engage specificdemographic groups (college students, seniors, families etc)more fully in Conservative life; technical assistance inestablishing multi-tiered modern communication andoutreach structures, etc.
A springboard for an actively Conservativecongregational leadership
USCJ could offer financial incentives (such as a percentagereduction in USCJ fees - not direct payouts) for congregationswhere ALL
board members have participated in a structuredpersonal dialogue about Conservative Judaism's mission,vision, lifestyle and philosophy via an interactive,introspective workshop NOT just classes. People must beboth
informed and engaged for standards to have meaning. The objective should be to have them commit to measurableprogressive growth in observance along their own personal
path within the Conservative halachic stream - notnecessarily adopting a rigid observance protocol. This would involve USCJ developing and producing materialsfor use by rabbis to begin this dialogue with their boards ona local level along with USCJ hosting of regional and nationalgatherings (live as well as phone/web conferences) gearedspecifically for Conservative board/committee members
A gateway to Conservative Jewish learning
USCJ should be the direct source and an access point foraffordable, accessible, structured, short-term (4-12 weeks)live and/or online learning opportunities for Conservative Jews and those interested in exploring Conservative Judaismranging from programs along the lines of the now defunct JTS Adult Education classes to those more akin to YeshivatHar Etzion's Virtual Beit Midrash [3] or even Our LearningCompany's [4] telewebinars that could be offered for anominal fee ($10-$75)In addition to providing links to other organization's (JTS,Zeigler, Conservative Yeshiva, congregational offerings, etc.)or independently developed Conservative Jewish studyopportunities, programs could be developed by leadingConservative Jewish educators and leaders (in conjunctionwith JTS and Zeigler) and either taught by them viarecording/text with discussions led by others (i.e. currentrabbinic students, Conservative Jewish educators, etc.) ortaught directly by others from their materials.(We see some of this at Ziegler and JTS - "Walking With God"[5], podcasts [6],and PDF lectures [7] - but much more is needed and I would like to see it in partnership with USCJ)
A foundation on which to raise up future generations
USCJ should be involved in the development of movement-wide, rather than just localized, base standards for studentsin Conservative Jewish religious schools, much like secularSOLs (not pass/fail but evaluation), aimed at providing afoundation for an informed, engaged and distinctly
Conservative lifestyle post bar/bat mitzvah and confirmation.In addition to academics, standards should include aminimum requirement of active participation incongregational life (services, holidays, etc) including bothyouth oriented content (i.e. Junior Congregation, Kadima,USY, etc.) and age-appropriate interaction with thecongregation as a whole.In closing, overall, I see three general paradigms forcongregations:Professionally led and professionallydriven/motivated (where the rabbi/cantor is thedriving force behind congregational participation orattendance)Lay led and lay driven (this is the independentminyan structure)Professionally led and lay driven (professionalseducate and support an active, self-motivatedmembership) This third paradigm is what I think a healthy Conservativecongregation should be for the movement as a whole tosurvive. I believe the points listed above would help USCJand its individual congregations and organizations reach thispoint, thus providing a strong foundation for the enduring,sustainable growth of Conservative Judaism well into thefuture.Karla Worrell

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