I had never been to their community or synagogue but somehow I felt I had something to lose. I felt a sense of cognitive dissonance and a chance meeting with a Rabbi I trusted set things right. I told him I was invited to a family wedding in a conservative community and I felt uncomfortable going because it would somehow infringe on my religious views and practices. The Rabbi assured me that ‘attending a family celebration was a good idea and not to be missed. Family is family!’ I’ve been thinking about this for a while and have come to realize that the basic problem was a lack of knowledge.
First, despite differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews there is common ground. The Bible is still important and viewed as a guide to life; there is a strong need for social involvement or what many call Tikkun Olam and there is a genuine love for the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks tells the story that someone returning from a Hillel Conference in the U.S. notices that their were four separate prayer services according to denomination but they all prayed the same style (nusach) -Carlebach.
Although there might have been a reasons for the split between the Orthodox and Reform communities in the 1800’s today it seems that we have more in common and our paths are on a collision course. The conservative synagogue I visited was full of energy, people who were curious and interested, a community on a self discovery journey between themselves and their Jewish heritage. Only the ten commandments were etched in stone. Perhaps this is the message we have to reaffirm. We are all on a journey on how to serve God and the Torah is our guide. If Chassidut was about approaching God from a different angle then Reform to me was about stepping back and refocusing and not about a disconnect. All these movements are important because they give focus. Its ironic that while the Temple stood in Jerusalem, there were no chairs. Everyone was moving, interacting and discovering. Everyone served God but not necessarily the same way. Perhaps now is the opportunity to hear the other side. We don’t have to pray together but we can hear and get to know. Its ironic that we wouldn’t think of talking to the other side on our own initiative but travel to another part of the world and visit a Chabad House and all of a sudden we spend Shabbat talking with Jews who are complete strangers. If their was “a time to rend; then now is the time to sew” as King Solomon mentions in the Book of Ecclesiastes. After all, family is family!