On My Mind: Arnie Eisen

Archive for May, 2011

Jewish Peoplehood and Israel

/ 27 Iyyar, 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

Conservative Judaism was founded because of a unique commitment to Jewish peoplehood and it retains that commitment today. In 1845, when Rabbi Zacharias Frankel called for a set of changes meant to conserve Jewish tradition in the new conditions of modernity, he insisted that synagogue worship should continue to be conducted largely in Hebrew and that traditional prayers for the messianic return to Zion should be retained. Frankel believed that the work of covenant to which Jews are called requires a people—spanning the generations and the continents—that knows itself to be different from all others; in his view this was all the more true in the modern period as Jews began to take full advantage of greater engagement with the societies and cultures of which we were a part. The language of the Jewish people and the collective hope of the Jewish people were crucial to finding the right balance between being a part of—and apart from—the nations among whom Jews dwelled. Both were essential to the “positive-historical Judaism” that Frankel envisioned and have remained so.
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Community

/20 Iyyar, 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

Covenant requires community: vital, caring face-to-face communities that are the building blocks of the global community linking Jews across the generations and around the world. The task of building, maintaining, and transforming local communities remains one of the greatest challenges confronting Conservative (and every other form of) Judaism today. Fortunately, it is also one of our greatest blessings. What I most love about Conservative Judaism, I think, is the quality of the face-to-face communities in which it has enabled me to participate: the joy and depth of the relationships it has afforded my family and me as we walk the path of Torah.
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Covenant

/15 Iyyar, 5771

Chancellor Arnold Eisen

What does Conservative Judaism stand for?

To me, that question is better phrased, “Where do we stand, and with whom?” The answer, to Conservative Judaism, has been clear. We are the heirs to the Jewish story that began, according to Torah, with Abraham and Sarah. We stand at Sinai, with every previous generation of the children of Israel, and reaffirm the promises made there to God, to one another, and to the world. I believe—humbly but firmly—that the Sinai Covenant continues in 2011/5771 through us. Participation in the set of relationships set forth in Covenant adds immeasurably to the meaning and purpose of our lives. The fact that the Covenant at Sinai established a people simultaneously with a relationship to the Holy One stands at the heart of Conservative Judaism today and in the future.
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