At one time, Conservative Judaism boasted being the largest denomination in America. During the post-war era, nearly 40% of all Jews identified as being Conservative. Decades later, the movement has found itself with dwindling membership, a change in its senior leadership, and increasing division within its ranks – as part of the movement steers toward a more traditional approach, while others drift toward a more Reform, or less traditional approach to Jewish life.
In the early years of Conservative Judaism a century ago, according to Cosgrove, “Americans were seeking to make sense of their lives as immigrants.” Now, “This story is over. We’ve arrived. We’re here.” The question Jews ask today, he said, is not “how to arrive in a secular culture, but how to cross back over to tradition.”
According to Rabbi Wayne Dosick, in his book Dancing with G-d:
Despite all of Judaism’s outward manifestations of success in America, the vast majority of Jews are ‘voting with their feet’ … The contemporary Judaism we have created does not speak sufficiently to searching Jewish hearts and does not sufficiently nourish hungering Jewish souls; it has become, for far too many, stale, hollow, and irrelevant.
If Judaism is to survive into the future it will need to reinvent itself. Guided by the past, it must find a way to provide a spiritually meaningful path for the next generation. It will need to overcome the modern obstacles of intermarriage, over-institutionalization, and find a way to include numbers of non-Jews (especially those intermarried into the Jewish community). Messianic Judaism is not the only movement wrestling with these issues.
We must learn from one another, and those communities that are enjoying success with the next generation. The Judaism of the future will not necessarily reflect the Judaism of today, but if we do not begin striving for it now there may not be a Judaism for tomorrow.