Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Conversion Crisis" Panel Discussion on May 17 in Manhattan!

If you're near NYC or can get here on Sunday, May 17, there's a three hour panel discussion you don't want to miss. 

Conversion Crisis: Is the System Broken? will host two of the biggest names in conversion, in addition to the President of the Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ):
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Rabbi Marc D. Angel
Rabbi David Novak

Rabbi Riskin and Rabbi Angel have done a lot for conversion candidates and converts, and I'm personally really excited to get to hear them speak for the first time! 

Did I mention it's technically free? ($10 suggested donation.) Go to the event page for more details and to RSVP.

UTJ may sound familiar. It did to me, and that brought up a few warning bells in my mind, so I think it should be addressed in case this history is important to you. As I understand the history, the UTJ was originally formed as a "right-wing" conservative movement, so to speak. Some people were concerned about the increasing lack of dedication to halacha as the conservative movement has traditionally defined it. Personally, I was really impressed with a lot of the writing they used to put out because I believe it reflects what the conservative movement is supposed to be, and I used to be conservative. (I was already conservative at the time of reading most of those materials, if I remember right.) 

I hadn't heard anything from them for a couple of years, and when I saw this post, I thought maybe I was remembering the name of that organization incorrectly. A friend confirmed that is the same group, but their FAQ and other documents now describe themselves as "trans-denominational" and emphasize a break from the conservative movement and from all movement labels. I'm throwing this out here in case you are opposed to supporting the work of such a group (better to warn you now than find out when you arrive) or if as a conversion candidate, you're afraid of how attending one of their events could harm you. I personally believe this would not harm you, especially given the respect generally accorded to Rabbi Riskin and Rabbi Angel (even by those who disagree with them). Nothing's a given, especially when rabbinic politics is involved, but I think no one would be penalized for attending this event. If you were to be punished for attending, I'd see that as a red flag that something is off and perhaps you should consider a new rabbi(s). But if you're really very worried, get approval in advance from your sponsoring rabbi. 

So come. We'll hang out and maybe even learn something! 


  1. The UTJ was originally the Union for Traditional Conservative Judaism.

    Around 1990 CE they became Orthodox, and deleted “Conservative” from their name, which leaves us with: the Union for Traditional Judaism.

  2. thank you for posting. I'm very involved in this program and your description of UTJ is largely accurate. we use transdenominational because the labels of Conservative and Orthodox have lost most of their meaning. In terms of UTJ's relative quiet of the past couple of years, we were hurt by the Great Recession and decided to approach our recovery much like a tree in the winter, which while bare of leaves is actually quietly regenerating new life for a spring blossoming.
    As for Sunday's program, we, like many, are frustrated by the harsh resistance against conversion candidates in the Orthodox world and are hoping to galvanize support for a more moderate approach that actually has much stronger halakhic precedent than today's barriers.