Is the Conservative rabbinate incompetent or does it just have contempt for the membershp?
Here's a link to the original article:
But don't take my work for it, here it is in his own words (with some commentary by yours truly in italics):
There is another statistic that the Jewish community must ponder these days,
and that is the number of children who will receive no religious education. The statistics are interesting. They show growth in the area of Reform Judaism, but they also show growth in zero Judaism – that is, Jews who feel no need to identify with any one denomination or give their children any religious education. What is that all about?
Zero Judaism ... religious education -- “Not identifying with any one Jewish denomination” is not the same as “Zero Judaism.” Of course, I would understand why the leaders of the institutions of a Jewish denomination might be worried that Jews would try to make a Jewish life outside of a denomination.
What it is, is secularism. Secularism is an approach to life in which God is, at best, marginal if not completely absent from the way in which we arrive at our decisions and our moral posturing. God’s chosen have become a profoundly secular group. That is not to say that we are atheists, but even when we believe in God, the belief does not manifest itself in any practical, measurable way
Secularism – It is not a problem for Conservative Judaism that those who wish not to affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination are infected with secularism. If there's a problem for Conservative Judaism, it's that the people who do affiliate with the Conservative movement are mostly secularists, whereas the rabbis have a philosophy that's closer to Orthodoxy. This problem could be solved by changing the attitude of either the rabbinic leadership or the lay membership.
. . .
The root problem is a way of looking at life that has rendered God marginal.
. . .
In order to understand the peculiar behavior of Jews over the past two centuries, we need to consider our interactions with a hostile, Christian Europe during the past 200 years. For centuries, Jews had been sequestered from non-Jews, living in their own communities or within small towns, shtetlakh. The French Revolution, and, more generally, the Enlightenment, brought with it the doctrine that all men are equal, and even the people who heretofore had been very
Hostile, Christian Europe during the past 200 years - Over the past 200 years, “Christian” Europe (and America, for that matter) has become progressively less Christian and less hostile to Jews. The Holocaust is obviously an exception, but I believe it was an aberration and not reflective of the general social trend over this period.
Jews had to be treated equally -- More importantly, individual Jews now relate to the general government directly, rather than through the self-governing, semi-autonomous Jewish communities. This is the essential dilemma of the Jewish people in the modern era – how to maintain a Jewish identity when it’s not forced on you.
This was a big problem for Christian Europe. However hostile the landscape, Jews sought to make integration a reality through accommodation.
We were deemed cliquish, so we abandoned Jewish nationhood.
We abandoned Jewish nationhood -- Actually, Jewish nationhood was taken from us by the authorities, who now prefer to deal with their subjects as individual citizens rather than members of a corporate class or internal sub-nation. The modern era has taken the “middleman” (in the case of the Jews, the autonomous kehilla) out of government. However, I suspect that most modern Jews have seen that as liberation, not as a loss.
We were dismissed as uncultured, so we became prominent supporters of the arts.
We were thought of as linguistically challenged, so we shunned Yiddish.
And since we were hell-bound due to our Judaism, we exercised various options in getting “undamned.”
We exercised various options in getting “undamned.” -- I find it hard to believe that many Jews ever worried about going to Hell because they didn't accept Jesus. It might be one of the few points of philosophy that unite Orthodox, secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews. Jews know that rejecting Christianity is not a ticket to Hell; they’re certainly not going to modify Judaism because they’re worried of what Christians think on that regard.
One option was to convert to Christianity.
Another option was to reform Judaism to render it acceptable to the Gentile world.
And one option was to opt out entirely
One option -- The option to reform Judaism to make it palatable to Jews who found it hard to accept many traditional practices, attitudes, and beliefs in the light of scientific evidence and modern philosophical thought has been omitted from this list. This is making Judaism acceptable to secularist Jews, not making it acceptable to the Gentile world.
In order to secure our future as Conservative Jews, we have to reclaim our Jewishness with vigor. We need not abandon secularism, but we must take charge of it.
We need not abandon secularism, but we must take charge of it. --This statement is a total contradiction. The point seems to be that secularism allegedly dilutes religious Jewish commitment. Conservative Judaism is a religious movement. The obvious implication is that if Conservative Judaism is to survive into the future, Conservative Jews will need to abandon secularism. Period. Don't beat around the bush, Rabbi Rank! Sure, saying this will alienate your membership, and possibly cause problems at contract renewal time, but if you aren't willing to stick to your guns, keep quiet.
Most Jews who belong to our synagogues believe in God, but it is most likely the God of Newton, Einstein, and Watson
Newton, Einstein, And Watson – Newton's religious views may be closer to traditional Christianity than you give him credit for, Einstein's main contribution to theology was his remark that “God doesn't play dice with the universe,” and, as far as I know, Watson's religious views are unknown, at least to me.
It is a God Who has set up the universe but does not intervene in its workings;
a God Who commands all people, but not One Who commands Jews.
A God who commands all peoples, but does not command the Jews -- A God “Who has set up the universe but does not intervene in its workings” is not a God who would command any people, let alone Jews.
a God Who may be out there somewhere, but not One Who is right here, right now.
In order to reclaim the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Reclaim the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob – Do we really want to “reclaim” such a God?
The God of Abraham, who promised Abraham his descendants would be a great Nation, when all Abraham asked for was an heir (Gen 15:2-6), and the God to commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22);
The God of Isaac, who was more interested in ensuring that Isaac stayed in the Land of Canaan (Gen. 26:2-5), than in providing guidance to Isaac and Esau about what behavior was needed in order to pass on Isaac's tradition (Gen 25:27-34);
The God of Jacob, who, again, was more worried about His prestige than about the fact that Jacob was raising his children in a manner that would cause dissension and heartbreak (Gen 37).
I think I'll stick with the “God of Newton,” thank you.
the God Who took us out of the House of Bondage,
The God who took us out of the House of Bondage – God's actions with regard to the liberation of the Israelites showed that He was mainly interested in upholding His prestige against Pharaoh and demonstrating His power to the nations of the world.(Ex 3:19-21;Ex 10:1-2;Ex 15:14-16). Helping the Israelites was a secondary objective, and, as the story unfolds, was conditional on the Jews accepting an onerous Divine Law under duress. (The children of Israel were underneath Mount Sinai and God threatended to drop the mountain on them if they didn't accept the Torah. -- Don't take my word for it, the story is in the Talmud.)
we must abandon three dangerous theological myths.
The first is belief in a God who utters only universal truths but cannot speak to Jews in particular.
This is a repetition of the theme that the God of Newton must be abandoned.
The second damaging theological myth is the accusation that God is uninvolved in our lives.
Another screed against the God of Newton, what makes this one any different from the first "myth?"
Unfortunately, it’s the abuse of freedom that forever reminds us just how free we are. We are free to abuse God’s home and God’s creatures. It is Torah that teaches us to make better choices.
We may be angry with God, but when we curse God, we do irreparable damage to Judaism. Through our curses of God, we, in a sense, render God impotent. By rendering God impotent, we make God irrelevant. By making God irrelevant, we undermine the entire foundation of mitzvot upon which Conservative Judaism rests
We undermine the entire foundation of mitzvot -- The foundation of the mitzvot is not our fear of God's power, it's that we find personal benefit from the mizvot.
African tribal rite -- This line of argument is one of the oldest red herrings in the book. It's one thing to be outwardly respectful of other people's rituals, even if you personally believe they're nonsense. It's quite another thing for someone to sit quietly by when fanatic members of your own community are forcing observance of rituals that you believe have no value or basis in the tradition. As an example, I'll point out the typical Conservative rabbi's attitude toward the requirement to eat only glatt kosher meat or Yoshon baked goods, or tovel their plates and silverware. “Everybody stricter than me is a fanatic; everybody more lenient is a heretic.”
Will there be Conservative Judaism 20 years from now? I would say that we not only have a future, but we have an opportunity to re-create ourselves in such a way as to revitalize the lure of the center.
But the way we go about securing the future is by reinventing the present. What we really need is a program of Reverse Assimilation2 in which we look back to the lives of our Great Bubbes and our Great Zeydes3 and figure out which part of the baby we inadvertently threw out with the bath water. God will most certainly bless the work of our hands, but our hands have a lot of work to do.
Our Great Bubbes and our Great Zeydes – My paternal grandparents were both completely secular freethinkers. My maternal grandparents eventually affiliated with the Conservative movement, but my formerly Orthodox grandfather made a lot of compromises with his religious practices. If these people, who saw firsthand traditional Jewish life in the shtedl, assimilated, why would one expect anyone of our generation to want to reclaim it? Frankly, having read historical accounts of Jewish life in the shtedl, I believe that it was all pretty much bathwater, the baby had the good sense to get on the first boat to America.