THE OLD DEMARCATION lines that have long defined Judaism are becoming
obsolete. People rightly speak of today as a “golden age” for Judaism
in America, yet the two largest denominations, Conservative Judaism and
Reform Judaism, both relatively liberal, are shrinking.
The Conservatives, who accounted for more than half of all
synagogue-affiliated Jews only a few decades ago, do not bother to deny
it. An atmosphere of decline is palpable in some of their synagogues.
The Reform, with some 1.1m fee-paying members and another million-odd
who they say identify themselves as such, do deny it. They have tried
hard to fudge the figures, changing the rules to accept those born of a
Jewish father and a Gentile mother as full-fledged Jews and welcoming
mixed Jewish-Gentile couples into their congregations. But Steven Cohen,
a professor of sociology at the Reform’s own Hebrew Union College,
thinks that both the big liberal movements are losing more than 1% of
their members each year.
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