4 thoughts on “Conservative Judaism Embraces Gay Rabbis–and It Doesn’t… – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. What is Reconstructionist? Is that the same as Jewish Renewal? Here in the bay area we have Bayt Tikkun (Michael Lerner), Kehila, and Chochmat Halev – there may be others. I thought these were all Jewish Renewal. I went to the Aquarian Minyan a couple of times with my husband – Wavy Gravy was a celebrant, and that says it all. Aquarian Minyan appeals to me because it’s oriented to many other traditions of mysticism, especially female-centered and earth-centered ones. But my hubby didn’t like it.
    Anyway, I’m just trying to place “Reconstructionist”. Thank you.

  2. Hi, Leila. I may not be the best person to answer your question, but as the beginning of an answer:

    I don’t know as much about Jewish Renewal as I should, but it’s not the same thing as Reconstructionists. Recunstructionism is a movement deriving from the theology of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, who taught at JTS (the main Conservative movement seminary) in the mid-20th century. Kaplan had a naturalistic Jewish theology — something which, having read (in) it, *I* would call atheist in the traditional sense, although he (and Reconstructionists generally) would I believe strongly deny the charge. It is in turn influenced by John Dewey and other American pragmatist philosophers. Reconstructionism is now its own movement, although much smaller than the Reform, Conservative & Orthodox movements; it is generally held to be to the left of Reform. Since it’s small, Reconstructionist synagogues aren’t nearly as common; I’ve never actually been in one, only read about them.

  3. It’s a bit hard to describe but the best way to explain it is that Reconstructionism is very close to Conservative in that it uses a traditional liturgy in Hebrew and adheres to religious-theological tradition. The difference between the two is that Reconstructionism eliminates all references to the supernatural from prayers. So the afterlife is out, visions of the Almighty having human dimensions are also verboten. It’s a rationalist version of Conservative Judaism.

    But in practice the main way the two movements are different is that Reconstructionism fully embraces social justice, egalitarianism and progressive values, while this gets short shrift in many Conservative synagogues. Having belonged to & worshipped at many Conservative & Reconstructionist synagogues, I find worship & worshippers at the latter to be more interesting, creative & thoughtful. Just a hipper crowd.

    Jewish Renewal is quite different. It has a more mystical, hippieish mystique. You won’t find meditation or women dancing in trance while tapping on tambourines at a Reconstructionist synagogue as you would at a Renewal synagogue.

    I believe Burt Jacobsen was or is the rabbi at Kehilla. I used to be friends with him back when I lived in the Bay Area. I never belonged there but always liked what they did.

    Speaking of mysticism, if you ever have a chance to meet an old friend & teacher of mine, Danny Matt, you should. He lives in Berkeley & used to teach Jewish mysticism at GTS. Then he wrote a monster translation of the Zohar & still does nothing but this (it’s a BIG book). Doesn’t even teach anymore. But he gives paid lectures & that must be how he supports himself (though the book prob. brings in income as well). He is a great lover of Jewish mysticism & a splendid person.

  4. Richard,
    Your links e-mail still give me a different article than the e-mail notes. For instance, IDF gores to the Conservative/Reconstructionist/Progressive article.

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