As talk of a “post-denominational” Christianity is increasingly common, the same phenomenon appears to be taking place in American Judaism.
In an overview of non-Orthodox Jewish groups in Commentary magazine (September), Clifford Librach finds a growing convergence between Conservative and Reform Judaism. Conservative Judaism is moving to the left to meet Reform’s position on matters such as gay rights, while Reform “may be moving right to meet Conservatism on ritual matters like Sabbath and prayer.”
In other words, traditional denominational distinctions don’t seem to be holding. This is reflected in the new way many rabbis are being trained. Established schools, such as Hebrew Union College and Jewish Theological Seminary, are now competing against other institutions producing rabbis “for a Jewish public moving into a post-denominational phase.”
These schools include the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York. There is also the phenomenon of “private ordination,” where rabbis across the country are being ordained by three other cooperating rabbis working with standards established by and for themselves. The reason given for these new arrangements is that mainstream schools are too narrow and authoritarian, and “that their singular power needs to be checked by more `democratic’ mechanisms.
The anti-establishment mood is not a passing one, and may become more significant as increasing numbers of congregations puzzled by what many already regard as peculiarities of outmoded doctrinal divisions, begin asking why institutional and “movement affiliations should matter.”
(Commentary, 165 E. 56th St., New York, NY 10022)