Remarks from the President

Recently the question of Jewish Continuity has been in the news because of a demographic survey published last year in the United States. According to the survey, intermarriage in America is approaching 70% amongst non-Orthodox Jews, and almost 60% overall. Typically, in Canada we are 10 years behind U.S. trends, but trending nevertheless.

For those who believe that all Jews have a place and a mission in this world, this news, has impacted like the anguished cry of the shofar, and its sound has continued to reverberate. Although this is not the first time in history that intermarriage has been identified as an enemy of Jewish Continuity, it may be the first time that a high rate of intermarriage is occurring in a culture/society/ country that doesn't discriminate against Jews. We live in a country where Jews no longer feel threatened, where young people intermingle like no other society before it. We live in a country that is the least anti-Semitic in Jewish history. We live in a country where we are protected by a government that is an unabashed adversary of anti-Semitism and a strong ally of Israel. We live in a country that has adopted important Jewish values. And we live in a country where Western religions generally are seemingly less relevant in our daily lives.

We are no different. Our numbers are shrinking. By contrast, and it is an important contrast, in Israel Masorti/Conservative Judaism is growing. That intermarriage here has increased in the face of the efforts made by virtually every significant Jewish institution to reverse the trend, suggests that we must take a new approach to what we think being Jewish and more particularly being a Masorti/ Conservative Jew is.

If this examination occurs and we move towards a different, more inclusionary approach, the question as to "Who is a Jew" here and in Israel will require a new non-Orthodox definition. Masorti/Conservative Judaism has always preached tradition and modernity. In Israel, those Jews as defined by tradition are called "secular" by us. Yet most lead vibrant Jewish lives with Jewish values enjoying Shabbat, Chaggim, and life cycle events. In Israel Masorti Rabbis are community builders as well as spiritual leaders. Here the latter. Perhaps it is time to recognize that our Jewishness, our peoplehood, is defined more by the life we lead and the values we pursue than our membership in a shul.

If you have heard this clarion call, and are concerned let's together re-examine our definitions, and remodel our traditional institutions so that they work for us in this new reality. While we are doing so, let's at the very least, preserve our Masorti/Conservative foundation in Israel by supporting Masorti's growth there. After all, our tenets, our fundamental beliefs, which also include Zionism and Tikkun Olam are as important today as they ever were. Let's stand up for Conservative Judaism and a more inclusive approach. Let's stand up for Jewish Continuity. Let's stand up for Masorti.

Chag Sameach!

Ron Hoffman
President, Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism