The Newest Generation of Religious Leadership for Our Movement

The graduates of the Conservative movement’s rabbinical schools will continue to motivate and inspire as they step into their new roles in pulpits, schools, Hillels, and elsewhere in the Jewish world.

by Debbi Kaner Goldich

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Everyone joined in the celebration at the JTS ordination.

When I was a child in the 1950s and ’60s, rabbis were all middle aged men. My beloved childhood rabbi, Jerome Weistrop, and those I met traveling to a USY kinnus each weekend in different shuls in the Boston area all looked the same to me. But I never realized this fact until I started to participate in the Torah Fund Campaign of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism more than 25 years ago.

As our movement began to include women in religious roles, so did the pictures of the seminary students in The Torah Fund Guide that I received as sisterhood Torah Fund chair. As the seminaries’ student populations started to include older, second career students who also needed to support their families, so did the Torah Fund materials giving us new reasons to donate. And, as Women’s League reached the two million plus dollar donation mark each year, we showed our collective ability by sponsoring projects that supported both the students and the institutions of higher learning of the Conservative movement.

Just before Shavuot, Women’s League President Carol Simon, Torah Fund Executive Director Rabbi Lilly Kaufman and I attended ordination ceremonies for 24 new rabbis and two cantors at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. The leadership and administration of both schools paid tribute to Women’s League and Torah Fund for its more than 93 million dollars donated over the last 72 years.

Experiencing these ceremonies up close renewed my pride at being part of the Conservative movement. Diverse in the way they looked, their ages, and how they choose to practice their new roles, the graduates were united in their desire to serve the Conservative movement. They will become directors of campus Hillels, pastors in facilities for older congregants, researchers and educators, as well as pulpit rabbis and cantors. Watching the love they had for each other, for their teachers and for Judaism was, for me, a spiritually uplifting experience. Particularly moving was seeing several rabbis sponsor and bless their own sons and daughters as the next generation of rabbis.

It has always been the students who motivate and inspire me to continue the work we do together. Every year, thou-sands of sisterhood members donate to Torah Fund to ensure scholarships, programming and special projects for students at the Jewish Theological Semi-nary, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Schechter Institute, and Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano.

The Torah Fund Campaign of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism is one of the oldest continuous funds for the benefit of Jewish education. Please consider supporting Torah Fund. If you gave before, it is time to give again. If you never gave, it is time to start giving. The institutions of higher learning of the Conservative movement need your support now more than ever so that we can ensure that these new clergy, and the students who follow, will be prepared to serve our communities. As we support the diversity of our clergy, we also support the diversity of our movement.

Torah teaches us that we are created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image, however diverse that image may be.

Debbi Kaner Goldich is a vice president of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and chair of the Torah Fund Campaign.