Thoughts from the Director
Richard S. Moline
I'd simply like to share some random thoughts with you this month. Since I don't have a blog, this
is my outlet – at least for this issue of KOACH-ON-CAMPUS. I stress
that these are my personal observations and do not necessarily represent the views of KOACH
- The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Conservative Movement recently
approved responsa dealing with issues related to Gay and Lesbian Jews. While these t'shuvot
(responsa) have generated predictable controversy, one issue stands out for me. Conservative
Judaism is the only denomination which has the ability to struggle with this issue (and more) in
such a way. To others, either the issue itself or the decision making process is pretty "black
and white." While we may choose to agree or disagree with any of the decisions of the CJLS, it
is clear to me that our approach to halakhah (Jewish law) involves serious consideration of the
power of the Divine, an understanding of humanity and a true pluralistic approach. We can yell
and scream about how much time particular decisions have taken, about the fact that things have
gone too far or not far enough, but we shouldn't take lightly the integrity involved. And while
there is a trend toward non-denominationalism today, in talking to more and more people, it's
clear that it's not the ideology to which people object, it's the institutions we need to
reexamine. That's something those of us in the system should not take lightly.
- The Holocaust Denial Conference in Teheran is old news by now. So are the pictures of the
members of the Neturei Karta sect shown with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Neturei Karta represents a
small number of anti-Zionist religious Jews who do not recognize the State of Israel. They
contend that Jewish sovereignty can only be established with the arrival of the Messiah. While
members of the sect don't deny that the Shoah took place, they claim that it served as an "excuse"
to establish the State of Israel. Their attendance at the conference was appalling. I know this
will not sit well, even with those who disagree with them (which, I presume, is most of us), but
I think they should be excommunicated.
- By my count, there are well over 100 institutions in North America where one can, at the very
least, minor in Jewish Studies. This is an amazing development. It wasn't that long ago (in the
scheme of things) when Jewish students on certain campuses had to sneak into Hillel if they didn't
want certain friends to find out and hid many of their outward expressions of Judaism. Today,
things are so different. My humble opinion is that no matter what your major, you should find
time to take at least a couple of Jewish studies courses during your academic career, regardless
of your field of study. These courses can provide an approach to Jewish learning that many have
never experienced – and may never have the opportunity to experience again. It's not afternoon
religious school! And yes, I know many supplemental religious schools are good, but it's inherent
in the system that any kid who puts in a full day at school would often be rather doing anything
but sit in another classroom for a couple of hours.
- The Jewish community is taking a good look at how college students express themselves Jewishly
– a very good move. Many are redefining what it means to become involved in Jewish life – another
good move. In doing so, those who are already involved in a variety of "standard" Jewish
activities might become marginalized – a very bad move. I would encourage those who are looking
for alternative methods of Jewish expression to be bold. I would encourage those who find meaning
in being involved in KOACH, in Hillel and in a myriad of other Jewish institutions to also be bold
– keep making noise and advocate for what is rightfully yours – a place under that big tent.
Reactions? I'd love to hear them: email@example.com. Have a great month!