Letter | Differences among denominations will make us stronger
Regarding the Forward’s recent article, “Will Jewish denominations survive the pandemic: 30 rabbis weigh in,” whether we ultimately see the collapse of denominations or their preservation, clergy must be well trained to unite diverse Jewish communities. The strength of any community lies, not so much in the capacity of its members to agree on issues, as in their capacity to disagree – in healthy, constructive ways that deepen their bond. Students training for the rabbinate and cantorate must be able to teach healthy ways to disagree.
I am a rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, N.Y., a pluralistic seminary training rabbis and cantors to serve all Jews. For almost 65 years, AJR has trained students to cherish – and learn from – different perspectives, whether we ultimately adopt those perspectives for ourselves or not. The denominational affiliations of AJR faculty and students reflect the diversity of the Jewish people as a whole.
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Since long before the COVID-19 pandemic, AJR has used video-conferencing technology to bring together students and teachers from across the United States and abroad – to study, pray, meditate, celebrate and provide comfort – using a wide range of Jewish approaches. Regardless of where our students are – physically, theologically or spiritually – we learn how to create community among Jews with different religious outlooks and practices. An essential lesson I have taken from AJR is that our chief concern should be – not whether denominational divisions will endure – but what strategies we can use to help assure that inevitable differences within communities will make those communities stronger.
Nicole Belson Goluboff