Nov 3, 2009

Shmirat HaGuf: Caring for the Body of Conservative Judaism

Shmirat HaGuf: Caring for the Body of Conservative Judaism
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

When you care about someone or something, you do what you can, and perhaps more, to make sure they thrive and endure.  Caring isn't easy, it isn't simple, and it is demanding.

I care about Conservative Judaism.  I've grown up in its schools, shuls, and camps.  The melodies of my davening, the flavor of my teaching – everything I do as a rabbi, as a Jew, as a person – began as a gift of Conservative Judaism's ideas, programs and teachers.  I have overflowing love and gratitude in return.

Which is why I'm part of a fight for its future.

There is a large difference between Conservative Judaism and the Conservative Movement.  One is a system of ideas and commitments; the other is a series of institutions born during particular moments in attempts to give the dream a body, a vehicle for becoming real.

We believe in the eternity of the soul, that a life doesn't require a body to be connected to this world.

But that's not good enough.

Conservative Judaism lives today in a constellation of institutions, some of which function well, and some which do not.  What is important to remember, as the vitality of each is assessed, is that each was born to respond to a specific need.  As conditions (and therefore needs) change, institutional realities must shift.  And while that's not how things usually work – institutions fight change at all costs – it is necessary to look beyond institutional survival if each is to truly function as a living body for the spirit of Conservative Judaism.

We can't know what comes next in the life of Conservative Judaism. 

But, as with Noach, starting with a redemptive part of what was is one available path as the spirit of Conservative Judaism reemerges.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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