Jul 17, 2009

Marketing, Content, and Seeking in the Conservative Movement.

Shalom Chevreh,

Just a pre-Shabbat thought [based on a conversation taking place on ShefaNetwork] about marketing, content, self-definition and seeking in the Conservative Movement.  

I believe that we, the self-select people who are paying attention to this conversation, are seekers.  We aren't the same, we don't all wish for one thing - but we have a significant amount in common - much more than a successful marketing approach would demonstrate. 

Conservative Judaism is not an institution - it's an approach to life.  It isn't the only magnificent approach to life, but it is a magnificent one.  It isn't the only authentic Jewish path, but it is a Jewish path to God and to a better world.  

What makes us unique, I believe, is our "nostalgic" connection to Halacha and our commitment to being open to change.  As opposed to the Orthodox Judaisms out there, (which roughly agree that the Torah and Tradition are clear mandates FROM God), and as opposed to Reform Judaism (which roughly believes that Judaism is readily malleable), as opposed to Renewal (which completely defies predictability), and as opposed to Reconstructionism (which is a never-ending and almost infinitely variable conversation on communal practice), Conservative Judaism offers a stable framework of "anticipatable Jewish spirituality" - we do not worship form, but we believe that without the grounding Halacha offers us, we are simply floating.  We are, I believe, determined to remain anchored as we seek the sacred.

Marketing this nuanced idea we celebrate is a task to be addressed - one that must be guided with as much passion (yes, from the 'top') as we can muster.  There isn't time for the "committeed-to-death" approach of Emet Ve-emunah - that only kept us from really having a conversation as a movement, because the wordsmithing that committee did ultimately remained an internal conversation.  One example: There are two editions of Emet Ve'Emunah (one blue, on red).  The earlier edition talked about the nightmares of "Hiroshima and Auchwitz."  Once that edition was published, there was an outcry against putting both in one sentence.  And so there was a new edition published.  

I believe a healthy marketing approach would be designed to provoke reaction in an educational framework.  Let's ask if Egalitarianism belongs at the forefront of our ideology.  Let's talk about morality in halacha.  Let's talk about God.  Tension is an authentic part of the ambiguous larger conversation - but I believe the time has passed during which it should be the final word on our self-definition.  We can hold polarities in tension better if we decide to finally state explicitly that which has been largely implicit - Conservative Judaism is an exciting, rooted way to live a Jewish life. 

We, as a Movement, can become this safe sacred space - a place that can be described as stable and dreamworthy - one we can't wait to share.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
-- www.netivotshalom.org
-- www.shefanetwork.org
-- menachemcreditor.org

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