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Letters

September 3, 2010

Post-‘Conservative’ Jews Need a New Name

Changing the Conservative movement’s name to “Masorti” would be beneficial because it is Hebrew and could thus be comfortably used by Jews affiliated with the movement worldwide. At the same time, “Masorti” more than adequately describes the character and thrust of the movement, that is, to be traditional in thought and practice (“Name Game: How Traditional Is The Conservative Movement?” August 6).

The original name “Conservative” was useful when the movement was founded, because it emphasized conserving Jewish tradition and practice at a time when Reform seemed to be moving to change everything. Now, however, the main thrust of the Masorti argument is that it is traditional, yet with a spirit of change.

At the same time, there is a need to devise and promote a new slogan or phrase that would characterize the Masorti movement. Earlier terms such as “tradition and change” contrasted with the Orthodox “Torah-true” and Reform “prophetic Judaism.” Toward the end of the 20th century, the slogan “traditional-egalitarian” took hold among many. This phrase is still apt, but others such as “authenticity and integration” and “dynamic Halacha” might be considered.

Fostering passion in a movement defined by moderation is particularly difficult. But promoting Masorti Judaism around the world with a unified name would be one important step toward strengthening the critical center of contemporary Judaism.

Rela Mintz Geffen
Philadelphia, Pa.

The writer is a former president of Baltimore Hebrew University.


We don’t need to make this so difficult. Politics may have co-opted the term “conservative” so it now carries implications that don’t apply in a religious context, but the word’s original meaning remains relevant and on-message.

If this branch of the religion was founded by people seeking to “conserve Jewish observance,” then isn’t this movement “Conservation Judaism”? Aren’t its adherents religious conservationists? Such a name change doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue so it might take a bit of getting used to, but adopting a minor lexicographic edit has to be easier than trying to introduce a Hebrew term like “Masorti” into English.

Jacob Jackson
Needham, Mass.


A Wedding Lesson From the Deli World

With regard to Chelsea Clinton’s recent wedding ceremony (“Wedding Blues: Rabbis at Odds With Their Rules,” August 13), I would suggest that if many of us enjoy “kosher-style” delis, we shouldn’t be upset by a “Jewish-style” wedding.

Lew Schneider
Waban, Mass.


Conversion Dispute Signals Larger Danger

A July 30 headline states “As Conversion Bill Stalls in Knesset, Jewish Diaspora Leaders Can Claim Victory.” But it is now very clear that the hiatus arranged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a hollow victory, as the chief rabbinate has no interest in relinquishing any control — halachic or political — over conversions

This is not just a religious issue. This is another element of the effort to turn Israel into a theocracy, a much greater danger than displeasing American Jewry.

That we in the United States have greater freedom to practice Judaism than those in Israel is unacceptable. The Israel we have worked with and on behalf of — the Israel we pray for — is a democracy, not a theocratic state.

Shoshana S. Cardin
Baltimore, Md.

The writer is a former president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a former chair of the United Israel Appeal.

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