May 24, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Ismar Schorsch: One Man, Eighteen Years, Two Articles!

JTS tonight is celebrating the 18th anniversary of Ismar Schorsch's ascension to the helm of the lead Conservative rabbinical school with a fancy $1000-a-plate tribute dinner (slogan: 1 Man. 18 Years. Infinite Reasons) and a more affordable interview with various members of the press, Jewish and otherwise.

So far I've found write-ups by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and by the New Jersey Jewish News, whose editor, Andew Silow-Carroll, summarized the exchange in email as follows:

I don't know if I agree with Ismar, but I was impressed, now that I think of it, how he was honest throughout the discussion -- or at the very least never answered a question with relentless hasbara, as many another institutional execs would do. In fact, except in celebrating the educational achievements of JTS, he didn't have an answer that didn't sound downbeat. For example, asked about Masorti in Israel, he kvelled about the Tali schools, but added that the movement couldn't make any inroads in synagogue life. That was a typical exchange.
Andy's column, entitled "Minimalists, maximalists, and other centrists", puts the Chancellor's remarks in the context of Andy's own experience in a Conservative synagogue.

JTA  produced something more along the lines of he-said-she-said, a tone accurately conveyed by the headline and lead paragraph:

Schorsch marks 18 years at JTS, some say movement lacks leadership
By Joe Berkofsky
NEW YORK, May 19 (JTA) -- Rabbi Ismar Schorsch blasts the Bush administration for going to war in Iraq, and predicts that his Conservative movement will not alter Jewish law to accommodate homosexuality.

"For the Conservative movement, the issue is whether one can be politically liberal and religiously conservative," Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, said in a mid-May interview with JTA. "I happen to think that' possible and tenable."
What strikes me in that first quote is Schorsch's acceptance of a left-right spectrum as a valid way of measuring both political and religious ideology. Is it really that simple?

I wonder what you think, about the articles, Rabbi Schorsch, and the past 18 years of Conservative Judaism, after reading both articles. Let's take advantage of my new comments section, and discuss!