April 2019

By Michael Stiefel Alperin

 We heard from Rabbi Joel Roth who is a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary and is part of Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Roth expounded to us on what the Conservative Ideologies and practices are at WeWork. He also explained that the backbone of the Conservative Movement is following Jewish Law and went into depth on the 4 pillars of Conservative Judaism. He went into detail explaining the difference between Conservative and Reform Jews is that Conservative Jews follow Chalacha while it is an option in Reform Judaism. He said that Chalacha is like a chess board but is strictly set up and Orthodox Judaism has frozen that chess board in the way it was. Rabbi Roth concluded that the conservative system is a continuation of the Rabbinic Tradition. This really made an impact on me as I see myself as a Conservative Jew.

I really enjoyed Rabbi Roth’s session because it gave me a new perspective on the Conservative movement. As the son of a Reconstructing Rabbi, I grew up in many different synagogues from Renewal as a very young child to, Reform, Reconstructing and Conservative, but we mostly went to a Conservative Synagogue. The Conservative movement was a big part of who I was as I was very active in USY. Still, I didn’t really think about Chalacha as the base for the Conservative Movement. I only knew that we were just more traditional than Reform Jews and more egalitarian than Orthodox Jews. Even through my first years of college when I experienced Chabad and Modern Orthodox Judaism, there was still ambiguity about Conservative Judaism.

I appreciated Rabbi Roth’s explanation of what it means to be a Conservative Jew because it solidified what made the movement that I have the most connection with different from the other ones I had experienced. Now I see that I don’t want a frozen chess board of Chalacha like Orthodoxy, but I also want to acknowledge and follow Chalacha to the best of my ability.