Seminary chancellor visits B’nai Amoona

BY KEREN DOUEK, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Dr. Isamar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, joined Congregation B’nai Amoona the weekend of June 10 to meet with the congregation and celebrate the 80th birthday of Rabbi Emeritus Bernard Lipnick.

Schorsch’s last visit to the congregation had been for Lipnick’s retirement weekend in 1991, “so now, 15 years later, he returns at his retirement, as it were, so the tables are turned,” Lipnick said.

Schorsch, who announced last June that he would be stepping down at the end of this month, said he thought 20 years was a good term to serve as chancellor, and that he is looking forward to doing “some harvesting.”

“I have developed a number of intriguing topics and ideas I would like to complete, so that was my main reason for stepping down,” Schorsch said. “I still have my equipment and I would like to be productive in different ways.”

As part of the birthday celebration, the creation of the Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Foundation for Conservative Judaism was announced, which Rabbi Carnie Rose described as “a foundation separate from B’nai Amoona to enhance the relationship between Congregation B’nai Amoona and JTS and the various arms of the Conservative movement.”

According to Lipnick, Sandy and Gloria Spitzer and Adele Roman gave a significant sum of money to the congregation for the purpose of establishing a closer relationship between the congregation and the seminary.

During his visit, the chancellor also met with the Rabbinical Assembly of St. Louis, the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, the board members of the other Conservative synagogues in town and the board members of Solomon Schechter Day School.

Rose said Schorsch spoke with a “spirit of inclusivity which I found to be very refreshing, motivating and inspiring,” and that he was also bold in many of his statements, such as endorsing a position that the Ramah summer camps would accept children who are not defined as halachically Jewish, and that he hoped the day schools would adopt a similar position.

“He didn’t announce it as an edict,” Rose said, “but rather as a recommendation, hoping this would open up the movement and expand the possibility of people who are of that quasi-Jewish status within the Conservative movement to consider halachic conversion.”

According to Schorsch, intermarriage is a tremendous challenge facing the entire Jewish community, and Schorsch noted that “the decision to redefine who is a Jew by the patrilineal principle has not stemmed the attrition. Only 8 percent of the children coming out of intermarried families identify as Jews when they become adults.”

Schorsch said his own response to that problem has been to make Jewish education a top priority.

“I do not think that a religious movement in American Judaism can survive without making Jewish education its top priority … The challenge of the Conservative movement is to make sure the products of serious Jewish education come back to the Conservative synagogue, and I think that is a problem we face together.”

Rose said he and the congregation found it very inspiring to hear Schorsch speak of the centrality of the synagogue to the future well-being of American Jewry.

Keren Douek is an assistant editor and can be reached at [email protected]

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