How Conservative Judaism Got Everything Right but Religion

Reflecting on his intensely Jewish upbringing, with parents who were active members of a Conservative synagogue and who sent him to Conservative day schools, Gil Troy wonders why neither he nor his brothers remained loyal to what was once American Jewry’s largest denomination. Rather than move to Reform or lose their synagogue affiliation altogether, Troy’s brothers both became Orthodox, while he himself observes Shabbat and kashrut, even if he prefers the term “traditional.” Troy tries to explain why the once-vibrant movement “flopped.”

Conservative Judaism neutered the most powerful forces that historically kept Jews Jewish. Worshipping their new promised land, lay Conservative Jews turned binding Jewish law into pick-and-choose Jewish folk-law. Judaism’s systematic way of life suddenly offered a smorgasbord, not a predetermined menu. God became a pen pal at best, never a police officer nor a higher authority.

Conservative Judaism schooled us in basic Americanism, treating religion as voluntary, pragmatic, almost transactional. These elective traditions were nice, fun, lovely, meaningful; consecrated by history, but obviously not sanctified by God. Words like holiness, sanctity, spirit, soul, even belief, were exotic strangers in our homes, schools, and synagogues.

When it came to prayer, we learned communal singing, not what it means to commune with God. As for God, He—or She—was MIA. One rabbi told me that his bar- and bat-mitzvah kids usually believed in God, but their parents didn’t; so by sixteen, the kids caught up.

In biblical terms, it was Conservative Judaism’s godlessness that failed; our God was never jealous but flexible, eminently adaptable.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism

The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law