In his essay The Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, identifies “The centrality of modern Israel” as the first core value on his list. “For Conservative Jews, as for their ancestors, Israel is not only the birthplace of the Jewish people, but also its final destiny…. Its welfare is never out of mind. Conservative Jews are the backbone of Federation leadership in North America and the major source of its annual campaign. They visit Israel, send their children over a summer or for a year and support financially every one if its worthy institutions.”
As diaspora Jews our relationship with our beloved homeland has been sorely challenged by the actions and statements of the current temporary Government of the State. What are we to do, who love Israel but are mad as heck at the Government?
One legitimate and appropriate way of working toward a solution is for us to be more directed in our Israel-bound tsedaqa (philanthropy). This means that we must directly fund our Conservative and other institutions that work to promote the ideals of the “Beautiful Judaism” that is growing steadily in Israel and that work for and according to the ideals of democracy.
This also means that we must insist that our UJA dollars be earmarked to support the causes we really believe in. The recent UJA offer to “double” direct funding of Masorti-Conservative and Progressive-Reform institutions is not serious because that almost amounts to twice nothing. If the Israeli Government is able to spend $700 million on non-Conservative religious institutions that seek to disenfranchise us and in many cases promote explicitly anti-Zionist messages, then we have to question to what extent the Government needs our money to provide social services. Do our donations merely take the pressure off the Government so they can free up funds log-rolling unaccounted millions that go to institutions that deserve not a shekel? We need to continue our involvement as leaders of UJA and Federations and through that system make building a religiously and politically “Beautiful Israel” a priority.
And at home it means we must make Conservative institutions such as BEKI, Camp Ramah, Ezra Academy, United Hebrew School and the Jewish Theological Seminary our top priorities. It is here where the “tire meets the road” and a new generation is trained in what “Judaism” was, is and will be. As we redouble our own efforts to build a strong Conservative community in Greater New Haven, let us be appreciative of the heritage created for us here by our elders and ancestors, and let us be proud and ever-growing Conservative Jews.