In his book Judaism in a Digital Age, Danny Schiff challenges the conventional wisdom that Reform and Conservative Judaism face steeply declining membership because their leaders have been either too strict or too lenient, offering an alternative explanation. Rabbi David Wolpe elaborates in his review:
[The liberal denominations] were created in the 19th century to answer a question Jews no longer need to ask: how do we become modern? Or to take [a] 20th-century version of the question: how do we become American? . . . [B]y the late 20th century, liberal Jews took America for granted (my immigrant congregants notwithstanding). The primary default identity was no longer Jewish; it was American—and thoroughly modern.
Schiff, an ordained Reform rabbi, believes that Judaism must now respond to an entirely different set of questions, arising from the Internet, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies. Wolpe writes:
Schiff’s answer is surely right in its broad outlines. He knows that the core elements of Jewish life—“engaging with God, Torah, Israel, Jewish law, and Jewish time, as translated into patterns of living structured by mitzvah, halakhah, and mores”—must endure for there to be authentic Judaism. But the future can be energized, he suggests, not simply by reiterating the centrality of old forms of Jewish practice but by applying Jewish ideas to emerging ethical concerns.
Judaism, he argues, must find ways to rearticulate and apply the values that emerge from its profound theological humanism in a future in which those values will be endangered. . . . He doesn’t, [however], tell us much about what Jewish texts and ideas should be drawn upon in answering these questions or why the postmodern world will require specifically Jewish answers.
Jewish traditions may indeed have important things to say in the transhumanist future, but first we non-Orthodox Jews have to get there—as Jews. And doing so may require worrying less about, say, the nanotechnology of even the near future and more about the conscious practice of mitzvot and study of Torah in the present.