Caffeinated musings on my place within Judaism, feminism and community. Pontification on political and social topics. Definitely not decaf.

18 July 2006

Slip-sliding Away

So the Columbia University alumni magazine just published an article, which featured outgoing JTS chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch. And, I’m troubled.

It’s not that he didn’t say anything that I didn’t already know. And I’m not covering any new ground here. I’m still stuck.

Driving on Shabbat was the death knell of the Conservative moment. It wasn’t the ordination of women as rabbis (although it’s not something I’m at all comfortable with). It isn’t gay marriage or non-kosher cheese, either. (Although I should add that the cheese problem is a biggie for me. I don’t hold by Conservative kashrut.)

My concern is more holistic – it’s about keeping a community together. Once you tell people “sure live in the ‘burbs or anywhere you want,” it’s a short leap to soccer on Saturdays and side trips to the mall.

There’s something wonderful about having your neighborhood pulse to the rhythms of the Jewish year. You look out your kitchen window in the fall. You see your sukkah and the one next door. You see your neighbors walking to shul. Your kids run from house to house on Shabbat for playdates.

OK, so this is idealized. We aren’t the only Jewish family on our block but this bucolic image isn’t quite our reality. Yes, most of our friends live in a one or two-mile radius. Yes, there are Shabbat playdates and our hevra meets most Saturday afternoons for a picnic at a local park.

And, many of our friends are sort of that mainstream, middling Conservative. They say they keep Shabbat – and they watch tv or go skiing in the winter on Saturdays. They keep say they kosher – and they’re label readers.

I realize I’m being judgmental. Fine. I’ll own that. I’m far from perfect. I’ll own that, too.

Nevertheless, I have a problem with this wishy-washy movement that is Conservative Judaism. What my real problem is: is my laziness or my inability to get off the dime.

I really want to be a member of a Modern Orthodox shul. And, there isn’t one here. In my neighborhood there is a Conservative shul, a Reform temple and Chabad. To be fair, I really like Chabad. They do a lot of cool things and their new mikvah rocks. Still, I don’t feel all that comfortable davening there.

So I continue to go to the LCS (local Conservative shul) in spite of the fact that while the rabbi is a nice person…well…it’s a gender thing. I continue to go to the LCS because my family all wants to go together. I continue to go to be a part of “my” community. I continue to go because they put out a full lunch – so that’s one more meal I don’t have to prepare and the kids love that they can count on bagels, cream cheese and tuna. (I should add that I wouldn’t necessarily bring the food back to my house since I don’t hold by the kitchen…)

And, where does this leave me? I can’t always beg off and stay home on Saturdays. Plus, this isn’t the message I want to convey. At the same time, I’m tired of the overt to the point of overkill egalitarianism. I wish there were options and frankly, I’m too tired to go out and start my own shul. Plus, my learning isn’t that solid. So I feel stuck.

Calgon, take me away.

Now back to thinking about which side dishes to serve on Friday night.


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