Rabbi’s Table Jan-Feb 2024: Convening the Conservative Movement
Not a conference. Not a convention.
In early December in Baltimore, I attended the Convening of the Conservative Movement, the first time in 20 years that all Conservative and worldwide Masorti organizations came together. We were rabbis, cantors, educators, executive directors, lay leaders, USY teens (including our own Miranda Rotstein!), young adult leaders. There were Americans and Canadians, Israelis, and a prominent rabbi from Berlin!
We were there to… convene. And although this gathering had been on the calendar for 2 years, nobody could have predicted the desperate need we all had to be with like-valued people, people who have been pained and worried sick since October 7. It was good just to be together.
Here are some highlights:
· A moving Movement-wide evening of prayer for Israel, its soldiers, and those who remain in captivity, culminating in a conversation with Michael Herzog, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, led by Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg, COO of the Rabbinical Assembly and USCJ.
· Two beautiful mornings of musical tefillah to start the day, one led by the rock star artist Eliana Light and the other by two cantors (who are married to each other, and one of whom is also a rabbi). I learned some new melodies and really enjoyed the soulful wakeup.
· Performances by Rabbi Debra Sacks Mintz & Ensemble and by Divas on the Bimah, all of whom are Conservative clergy.
· Sharing breakfast with other alumni of Nativ, the Movement’s gap-year program in Israel. I was a participant on Nativ 19 (in 1999-2000), and I staffed the program in 2004-05. There was someone there from Nativ 6 (!) and another who had just returned last spring! It was great to share our experiences.
· A live show of Who Knows One?, where I was one of three contestants… and I won!
· Smaller sessions focused on topics such as the future of intermarriage in the Conservative Movement, the role of patrilineal descent, how to cultivate and care for donors, and learning from entrepreneurial rabbis who have created different organizations to care for people at critical times in their lives—during their 20s and 30s, during their engagement to be married, while expecting a baby.
· Meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.
We often hear others (or ourselves!) bemoaning the state and the future of Conservative Judaism. We may be smaller than we used to be, but I have to tell you, there are really amazing things happening within our Movement. I felt proud to be a Conservative Jew and a Conservative Rabbi even more than usual.
Next year, the rabbis are already slated to convene in Israel. But perhaps the following year, you will consider coming with me, and we can share this experience together.
Rabbi Ita Paskind