With apologies to Michael who hates when I post comments, I thought Becca’s comment in Phoebe’s post is simply terrific and deserves to be seen by more people:

So much complicated stuff, so little time.

Standing on one foot, then:

1) Neither libertarianism nor Conservative Judaism necessarily regards itself as a compromise or hybrid “middle way,” though that’s sometimes where others place it on the spectrum.

Committed libertarians & Conservative Jews (I’ve been the former & have sympathies; I am still the latter) see them as coherent wholes that are internally consistent. (i.e., Libertarianism = not a hodge-podge of social liberalism + fiscal conservatism, but a commitment to greater individual freedom and less government intervention in both social and economic realms.)

2)”I’d thought that libertarianism meant that nothing could be outlawed unless it involved harming other people.”

Presumably, then, those who are convinced that a fetus is a person are anti-abortion/pro-life. Now, whether a “pro-life libertarian” proposes to carry out this opposition to abortion through governmental legislation against abortion (which, you’re right to say, most libertarians are against or at least mighty wary of–though unless you’re an anarcho-libertarian, you generally admit some minimal role for the state, so it’s not inconceivable that you’d see this area as one where the state should act) or through some other means of voluntary action–that would presumably need to be clarified by the self-proclaimed “pro-life libertarian” in order to know exactly what they mean by the term.

3) Phoebe writes: I’m wondering a) if Shapiro’s correct that the movement’s in decline, and b) if so, why that is, and what could/should be done about it, if anything.

Again on one foot:

a) Depends on what you mean by “in decline”:

Has it lost synagogue/affiliating members, primarily to Reform Judaism rather than Orthodoxy [look at the 2000-1 NJPS numbers etc.]? Yes. Dreadfully/disablingly? No.

Does it have internal tensions? Yes. Is this a new thing or unique to this movement? No

I wouldn’t say Conservative Judaism as a whole is “in decline” (this is not the Fall of Rome or the Temple), but it’s got plenty of challenges to confront–as does the Jewish community as a whole, and as do we all.

b) Lots of things! But what could/should be done depends, of course, on what you think the problem is! The Shefa Network is one group that’s talking about these issues, from various points of view in the Conservative community.

If you think that what’s wrong is that synagogues are big & impersonal & have little sense of community, you either start independent minyanim of various sorts or work to make synagogues more engaging and full of spirit.

If you think that what’s wrong is that Conservative Judaism is dragging its feet on making real and necessary substantive change on GLBT issues, then you do things like create Keshet Rabbis and tackle the substantive halakhic issues.

If you think that the problem (or a problem, at any rate) is muddleheaded apologetics about gender issues and whether/how it’s halakhically defensible to be “traditional AND egalitarian” rather than “traditional BUT egalitarian,” you write articles like Will the “Real” Judaism Please Stand Up?.

If you think that what’s wrong is that the movement is driving the intermarried away (whether that’s into Reform Judaism or non-observance/non-affiliation), you focus on keruv (drawing near: outreach, engagement) of intermarried families.

If you think that what’s wrong is that intermarried families aren’t serious enough about Judaism or Jewish continuity, you emphasize converting the non-Jewish spouse and promote edud rather than keruv.

Or you wash your hands of it and say it’s no longer your battle–
If you think that too much halakhic change is the problem, you split off from the
USCJ and go UTJ or become Orthodox. If you think too little halakhic change is the problem, you go Reform or Reconstructionist.

There’s nothing inherently small-c conservative or boring about the Conservative movement, nor is a gray-flannel-suit kind of dull moderation mandated by being in the middle of someone else’s spectrum. If Conservative synagogues or institutions are humdrum, that’s something to be dealt with–but its not a necessary consequence of Conservative ideology or approaches to Jewish life!

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  • This was an excellent response to Phoebe’s post but I’m with Michael on this. I’d rather we avoid reposting comments in whole. You may want to perhaps point to link directly to the comment (send me an email and ask me how – it’s easy) after quoting relevant parts of it and adding a little commentary. But reproducing an entire comment – without even using a more tag – only rewards those who don’t read reader comments thus missing out on gems like this.

    And did I mention the more tag?

  • Dude, if you say “more tag” one more time, I’ll never use it again. Besides, this comment was worth its own post. Look at how hard she worked on it! I count 10 links and absolutely no talk about people’s intelligence or lack thereof.

    Besides, if I piss Michael off a little, perhaps he’ll write a post or two…

  • Thanks, themiddle, for thinking what I write is of interest. 🙂

    And ck, could you please enlighten those of us who are still struggling with tags: what is a more tag & how is it used?

    Many thanks!

  • “Dreadfully/disablingly? No.”

    WHAT!!?? I worked for the Con movement for 6 years, a regional director for 3 and have friends who are graduates of JTS Rab school (applied myself). The movement was, at best, a rabbinical one, that was necessary during the 60-70’s. In general, I noticed a complete lack of Jewish/shul attendance other than the 3 day a year shtick we all do. The movement is dying, and folks like N. Gillman aren’t afraid to say so. My prediction is a hybrid of Reform/Cons w/i the next 50-100 years.

  • Shtreimel:

    Clearly you & I go to different shuls. 🙂

    Even when I wasn’t observant to the extent that I am now, I did a lot more than “the 3 day a year shtick,” and so did most Conservative Jews I know.

    As for whether the movement is dying or will be here in a century? Maybe so, maybe no: I make no pretense to being a navi (or, rather, a neviah). There are certainly those out there who, like you, think that in the next 50-100 years there won’t be Conservative Judaism as a separate movement any more, with one segment of it combining with Orthodoxy on the right (“Conservadox”) and another combining with Reform on the left (“Reformative”). I don’t think that’s so likely, but my world won’t end if it does. I care about the ideals embodied by the Conservative movement, not about the movement per se. (Besides, if the movement imploded I’d probably just go hang out with the Reconstructionists, who get ignored by the mainstream anyway…)

    Much of the post-NJPS-data response seems to me to be simply fodder for exaggeration. Yes, the fact that the Conservative movement accounts for 33% of synagogue members in the 2000-1 NJPS rather than the 43% from 1990 should be of concern to Conservative Jewish leaders–but still, if you have 1/3 of the American Jewish synagogue-member population, it’s pretty hard for me to see that as evidence that the movement is “dying.” Nor do I understand anything I’ve read by Neil Gillman to be a statement to that effect. (Would you care to point me to what you have in mind?)

    I am similarly disinclined to believe that American Jewry or diaspora Jewry will disappear/die out in the next century–but there are a good number of Zionists who believe this to be the case.

    Only time will tell!

  • The Conservative movement is dead and is stupid from the get go. Once again creating Gentiles that think they’re Jews. and Telling Jews that what happened in the Torah is most likely make believe, and then tell them to not intermarry which clearly becomes racism. The Torah is real, everything is legit. Stop making stupid versions of this.