October 13, 2019

Word of Advice for the Conservative Movement

“This past Erev Shavuot, my 18-year old daughter and I were walking together to the Tikkun L’eyl Shavuot at a nearby Modern Orthodox synagogue. For the past five years, my rabbinic colleague at that synagogue has invited me to co-lead a midnight learning session with him, and my kids come along to join their friends at the teen programing.

As the child of a Conservative rabbi, my daughter has seen the ins and outs of the congregational rabbinate for her entire life. She also attended a Modern Orthodox day school from early elementary through high school, where she recently graduated as senior class president. We have always taught our three children to honor all Jews, particularly those who observe differently than we do. For years, I have explained that every Jew is on a unique derekh (path), and each moves along at their own pace. My role as a rabbi is to show them the very best that Judaism has to offer along the way, and to encourage their every step. Throughout the years, we have hosted Jews of all backgrounds around our Shabbat and holiday table.

My kids have learned not to look askance if someone checks their cell phone during dinner, or walks into our house without a yarmulke. Our message has consistently reinforced ahavat Yisrael, the paramount importance of genuinely loving our fellow Jews. They also have come to understand why I chose the Conservative rabbinate. My three kids appreciate my commitment to both serious, traditional observance and principled egalitarianism. They find the open-minded, non-judgmental religious space that we occupy to be refreshing. They respect the way their mother and I make ourselves available as role models of Jewish life, in marked contrast to how most of our congregants live. However, something my daughter said on Erev Shavuot really struck me.”

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