Ron Moses is an alumnus of the Wexner Heritage Houston ’06 group. He is the immediate past president of Congregation Brith Shalom – a Conservative synagogue, and recipient of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston’s Ben Susholtz Young Leadership Award in 2009 and the Maimonides Award for State of Israel Bonds in 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com
I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. Conservative Judaism, as we know it, has failed. Conservative theology purports to marry Jewish tradition and modernity. We have, for the most part, adopted modern ideas and sensibilities. We blend easily into our American society and succeed in every facet of our culture. What happened to tradition? What happened to the Shabbat observant, kosher eating Conservative Jew? Conservative Judaism is supposed to be a halachic movement – do we really keep halacha or even engage in halachic study? Save for a few shining successes such as the Ramah camps, the Conservative movement has been silent. As I have participated in many leadership conferences and seminars it has become apparent to me that the vast majority of the Jewish leadership has Conservative roots. Yet few of us Jewish leaders take Shabbat or Kashrut seriously. The best way to engage in the tradition/modernity discussion is to develop the necessary skills. If we don’t embrace Torah and Talmud study, we are relinquishing our place at the table of Halachic discourse.
Now for the good news. There are people who do care about our tradition and who also share a modern view of the world. It is rare and special to find an observant, pluralistic, egalitarian community dedicated to high level text study, and halachic living in one place. I found it in Mechon Hadar, a non-denominational yeshiva in New York City. At this yeshiva, students of all ages and backgrounds actively engage in Talmud study on multiple levels. Regardless of one’s Hebrew or Talmud background, the Beit Midrash crackles with energy and passion as arguments are proposed, discussed and challenged. Last summer Hadar began a program called the Executive Seminar, which allows professionals to come join the Yeshiva for an intense joyful week of learning, with the outstanding teaching characteristic of our Wexner Heritage classes. In fact, its three founders are alumni of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. It was one of the highlights of my Jewish leadership journey. I look forward to returning this summer from July 10 – July 15. I hope other Wexner Heritage Alumni will join me there.