Saving Conservative Judaism Means Keeping it Distinct from Reform

Earlier this month, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism—the body that governs the denomination’s congregations—changed its polices to allow individual synagogues to accept non-Jews as members. (In most cases, these will be spouses or children of Jewish congregants.) To Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, the decision reflects a fateful step in the ongoing dissolution of the differences between Conservative and Reform Judaism, which, if continued, will sap the former of its vitality:

[W]hile it is highly questionable whether Conservative synagogues will gain members by greater outreach to intermarried couples, it is almost certain that there will be losses of both a qualitative and quantitative nature from doing so. It is already the case that some Conservative rabbis allow an interfaith couple to have an aufruf—a pre-wedding [celebration that takes places during Sabbath prayers]—in their synagogues and allow public congratulations to interfaith couples on their engagements and weddings. Has this helped the movement gain adherents? There is no sign this is the case.

Parents who feel strongly about their children marrying Jews will lose the support of a synagogue community that reinforces their views on this matter. These parents will have to work twice as hard to buck the growing trends. As intermarriage escalates, it will be difficult enough for the Conservative movement to maintain its 73-percent in-marriage rate without synagogues [making that harder by] acting in ways that seem to suggest there is no greater virtue in two Jews marrying each other than in a Jew marrying a non-Jew.

In areas with large Jewish communities, parents seeking to pass on some form of traditional Judaism to their children and grandchildren may simply go elsewhere if their synagogues go too far down the intermarriage outreach path. We can assume that these parents will be among the most dedicated and serious members in a Conservative synagogue, those who often form the core of Shabbat attendees and exert an influence on the religious norms of the community. Their departure will alter the spirit of Conservative synagogues considerably.

Finally, assuming these outreach efforts become common in Conservative synagogues, rabbis who stand their ground and refuse to go along will have a more difficult time getting hired and retaining their jobs. The same phenomenon occurred in the Reform movement when it decided to give rabbis the choice of performing intermarriages.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Intermarriage, Reform Judaism, Religion & Holidays

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy