Call on The Conservative Movement to Enact Exclusive Policies Regarding Membership in The Jewish Community

The JTA Story saying that USY dropped the ban on interfaith dating is NOT CORRECT:

The USY constitution was amended to speak in positive language, to be more inclusive overall and to include anti-bullying and anti-lashon hara items. USYers in leadership roles are still expected not to inter-date.

As the USCJ leadership wrote:

“Let us be clear, USY continues to affirm the value and practice that those in leadership positions should date Jews. The change in language, attached, represents the teens’ desire to state this standard in a more positive, welcoming and non-judgmental way. In no way is this language to be understood otherwise.”

(Full Text At The End Of This Post)

However, this still raises a fundamental problem that the Conservative Movement and American Judaism continues to struggle with. I believe that it becomes obvious by the differentiation between secular and Jewish life which one USYer mentioned in the JTA article, “if we choose in our secular life to date someone who is not of the Jewish religion…”

You only have one life. You can not differentiate between your secular life and your Jewish life. Moses Mendelssohn said be a Jew at home and a Frenchman in the streets and we see that that did not work.

Historical lessons illustrate that appeasement will not yield inclusivity. “Above all else, to thine own self be true.”

As the Conservative Movement tries to be “more welcoming,” I believe they are compromising the core of who they are.

I call on the Conservative Movement’s leaders to have the courage to come out with a unified statement in favor of the preservation of our tribe, our nation and our religion through its exclusivity, not inclusion of non-Jews. I realize that this is not a popular position, however, at this juncture in Jewish History, I urge you to think of the consequences in a historical context – I challenge you to examine any other Jewish community since the beginning of the Diaspora and find a community that survived (as an identifiable Jewish community) through intermarriage and assimilation. What is needed now more than ever is a hard-line position which establishes the boundaries of who we include in the Jewish community. Do not be like the peddler who continually drops his price to make a sale until he has no profit and nothing of value. Be proud of who you are and the tradition you represent. In the name of that tradition, conserve it and come out strong and clear against intermarriage and have the strength and wisdom to enact policies which reflect your position.

JTA Story Falsely Reporting That USY Allows Inter-Dating

USY drops ban on Interdating

By Uriel HeilmanDecember 23, 2014 2:12pm

NEW YORK (JTA) – United Synagogue Youth voted to relax its rules barring its teenage board members from dating non-Jews.

The amendment was adopted Monday in Atlanta at the annual international convention of the Conservative movement’s youth group. The change affects the 100 or so teen officers who serve on USY’s national board and 17 regional boards. The thousands of teens who participate in USY programs have not been subject to any such bans.

After some debate at the convention, the USY board also elected not to adopt a controversial proposal to alter requirements that teen board members be Sabbath and holiday observant when it comes to travel, public functions and taking school exams.

While the newly adopted amendment does not include a ban on interfaith dating, it does state that members should “model healthy Jewish dating choices.” The dating amendment goes on to say: “These include recognizing the importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem Elohim (in the image of God).”

The change on dating policy reflects where most young Conservative Jews are when it comes to dating outside the faith. Some four in 10 Conservative Jews who have married since 2000 have married non-Jews, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jewry.
Jordan Dinkin, a USY member from Reisterstown, Md., said she considered running for her region’s board when she was finishing up her junior year of high school until she learned that USY rules precluded board members from dating outside the faith. Dinkin, 17, has a non-Jewish boyfriend.

“It disappointed me a lot that I had to give up that opportunity because of my secular life,” she told JTA. “Obviously people who are active in USY are people who are passionate about their Judaism. I believe that as a progressive youth movement, if we choose in our secular life to date someone who is not of the Jewish religion, I don’t see why there should be limitations within USY.”

The constitution that sets standards for USY was written several years ago by the 15- to 18-year-olds who lead the movement, and it always has been their prerogative to change them, according to Rabbi David Levy, the professional director of USY and director of teen learning at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The vote tally on the new amendment was kept secret, but the teens who supported the change wanted to ensure that the movement does not come across as judgmental of families who should be welcomed into the movement, Levy said.

“While we maintain the value that dating within the faith is key to a sustainable Jewish future, we want to be positive and welcoming to USYers, many of whom are from interfaith families,” he said.

The movement’s educational programs will continue to promote the importance of dating within the faith and committing to creating Jewish families, Levy said.
The USY vote comes weeks after Wesley Gardenswartz, the rabbi at one of the nation’s largest Conservative synagogues, Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., floated a plan to his congregation that would allow him to officiate at interfaith weddings in cases where the couple committed to raising Jewish children. He later dropped that controversial element of the proposal.

The Conservative movement officially frowns on intermarriage, forbidding its rabbis from officiating or even attending interfaith weddings. In practice, however, synagogues generally are welcoming of interfaith couples, with some granting membership to non-Jews, and some Conservative rabbis have attended interfaith weddings.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the policy change does not reflect a change in USY’s values.

“It continues to recognize what we know to be true: encouraging Jews to marry other Jews is the most successful path toward creating committed Jewish homes,” Wernick said in a statement. “At the same time, we can’t put our heads in the sand about the fact that we live in an incredibly free society, where even committed Jews will marry outside the faith. If they do, we must welcome them wholeheartedly and encourage them to embrace Judaism.”

USCJ’s Response:

December 22, 2015

Statement on USY’s 64th Annual International Convention

International Board Adds Ethical Principles to Leadership Standards, Affirms Religious
Observance and Importance of Jewish Dating.

This week more than 750 teenagers, 150 young adult staff members and 300 volunteers from
across North America are gathering in Atlanta to celebrate USY’s 64th International Convention.

Our teens are extraordinary. They inspire us by their energy, commitment, ruah, wisdom and

You may have recently read a headline in the Jewish press about USY standards. Those
headlines are incorrect. We want to make sure that we set the record straight about our
USYers’ discussion and decisions regarding their leadership standards.

Let us be clear, USY continues to affirm the value and practice that those in leadership positions should date Jews. The change in language, attached, represents the teens’ desire to state this standard in a more positive, welcoming and non-judgmental way. In no way is this language to be understood otherwise.

We want you to understand that for almost a year the full International Board of USY plus
regional presidents have been contemplating a series of amendments to their leadership
standards. The issues they chose to discuss were Shabbat observance, dating, bullying, and
lashon harah. To do so with the greatest sincerity they created a process in which they
requested input from the international and regional youth commissions, their peers, regional youth directors and Rabbi Wernick who is USCJ’s mara d’atra. In requesting Rabbi Wernick’s input they also asked if he would consult with a number of rabbis, which he did.
Having gathered all their input, they met several times to discuss and debate the issues on the table. As witness to these discussions, we can tell you that they were serious, substantive, thoughtful and respectful. That a group of teen leaders would conduct themselves in such a way is in an of itself a powerful example of the character of our teens who lead USY. It is also demonstrative of the depth of their commitment to Judaism. We all have much to be proud of!

When it came time to vote the amendments on the table failed. The teens themselves wanted a stronger expectation of each other to Jewish observance and living. At the same time, they
wanted to add to the standards a strong statement regarding their zero tolerance of bullying, lashon harah and other ethical behaviors.

And they wanted language regarding dating that upheld our value regarding Jewish dating, yet recognized a more welcoming and non-judgmental worldview. It even went a step further and called for respect in all relationships.

So a new amendment was proposed that simply expanded the current standards to include their anti-bullying and lashon hara positions, and replaced the previous language on dating with the current version.

It was this amendment that was adopted and about which the press is currently writing.We hope you will join us in congratulating our teens for their commitment to Judaism, their teen understanding of the role of leader as dugma and for their maturity.

Rabbi Steven Wernick – CEO
Richard Skolnik – International President
Rabbi Dave Levy – Director Teen Learning
Dr. Cindi Hasit – Chair, Teen Learning Committee
Aaron Pluemer – USY International President

Previous Standard:

* It is expected that leaders of the organization will refrain from relationships which can be construed as interdating.

New Amendments:

* The Officers will strive to model healthy Jewish dating choices. These include recognizing the importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem Elohim (in the image of God).

* The Officers will foster a safe and inclusive community. USY leaders should serve as the
embodiment of USY’s Zero Tolerance policy towards bullying, and create a welcoming

* The Officers are expected to hold themselves and each other to the highest ethical standards.

This includes refraining from Lashon Hara (gossip) and treating others with Kavod (respect).

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