September 19, 2019

Antisemitism Is Strengthening American Jewish Identity

The year was 2000, and Michael Steinhardt had just dropped a bombshell that nearly brought an otherwise dignified conference to blows.

“I tend, in my dourest moments, to consider both the Reform and Conservative Jews as historic accidents in the 21st century and suspect, before the end of this century, they will have disappeared,” he said.

Steinhardt, along with Edgar Bronfman and Charles Schusterman, was in Chicago at a meeting of STAR: Synagogue Transformation and Renewal, which was ostensibly designed to find ways to get young people back into synagogue pews.

This and similar statements by Bronfman had understandably irked Rabbi Eric Yoffie, then-president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Undermining non-Orthodox synagogues was not the way to encourage experimentation.

“I’m not going to get into a pissing match with Rabbi Yoffie over whether the Reform movement is a good movement or not because that’s not the point,” the secular Bronfman told me. “The point is, we have a crisis and I don’t care how we go about getting young people involved in their Jewishness.”

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