In her 1996 presidential address Organized Religion in a Voluntaristic Society, Nancy Ammerman mentions how Conservative Judaism emphasizes commitment as a spiritual journey rather than as an either/or facet of modern life. My experience with Conservative Judaism confirms this notion, and this characteristic of the religion is a huge part of what has drawn me to it.
Because nobody forced the religion upon me or insisted that I must have certain beliefs to call myself Jewish, I have always felt at home at synagogue, which set a solid foundation to build off of as a young adult. Since then, I have developed genuine interest in studying the mitzvot and adhere to as many as I can in my daily life. This contrasts with others in our class who described their religiosity as declining, but they came from different backgrounds– it is easier to feel welcomed in a religious community when you don’t feel judged or looked down upon for failing to achieve total piety. It’s not that the standard for piety is lower, it just takes intention and the implications of modern society into account. If I came from a religious background in which they required you to totally buy in right away, there is a good chance that I would be on a completely different spiritual journey than I am today.
Before reading Ammerman’s work, I didn’t realize that this emphasis on the journey was particularly a feature of Judaism. It makes me wonder when this ideology began, and whether it was a response to a decline in Jewish followers or an existing facet that helps explain the rise in Conservative Judaism today.
*********So sorry this is late, I forgot to post and I’m just hoping to avoid a zero!