During his five weeks in Israel as a Bronfman Youth Fellow, Cole Aronson was a man in the middle. As an observant Jew, he related to the Orthodox participants for whom it’s customary to pray daily. But as a liberal Jew – he’s a member of Ohr Kodesh Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Chevy Chase – he shared the egalitarian beliefs of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist majority.
I wrote about Cole here. In the article, I didn’t include his thoughts about Conservative Judaism, but I thought they were interesting – and timely as the Conservative movement prepares for such conversations at its centennial, held in Baltimore in October.
He said that the majority of the 26 participants were not interested in praying the morning service. And so Cole, a 16-year-old who probes deeply into such matters, found a flaw in the pluralistic approach of the program: Letting everyone do his or her Jewish thing prevented the Orthodox participants, particularly the Orthodox boys, from meeting their religious obligations.
He sees in this situation a shortcoming in Conservative Judaism.
“Conservative Judaism demographically is not doing too well,” he said. “A lot of Conservative Jews don’t know texts,” he said.
He said his experience “convinces me that it’s important to strengthen a strand of Judaism that cares about the little things of Jewish observance, that makes Jews unique from gentiles — and treats women equally.”
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