Denominational Judaism

by Teri McGuire - KOC Assistant Editor - Binghamton University | Posted on June 9, 2013
Teri McGuire

For years I have struggled when explaining my beliefs to my peers. I remember being on the bus home from elementary school and being asked, “You’re Jewish, so you must go to Hebrew school with Rachel, right?” When I would try to explain that I went to a different Hebrew school from said Rachel, my classmate seemed confused. Weren’t we both Jewish? Why did we not go to the same “temple”? The first thing that would come to my mind was that I was “Conservative” and Rachel’s synagogue was “Reform”. These words were ones I heard throughout my entire life, but I can guarantee you that I had no idea what they meant.

What made my Judaism so different from Rachel’s, and why did it matter? I did not know then, and I am not sure I knew years later when I was an active member of United Synagogue Youth. Although I finally wrapped my head around what it really means to be an observant Conservative Jew on Nativ, the Conservative Movement’s gap year program in Israel, there are still a few questions that loom in my head when it comes to the differences between all of the movements. I could spend hours questioning and debating the different movements, but instead I would rather focus on the positive side of the different denominations: community.

What is Judaism about, if not community? I can confidently assert that it was my years in USY, where I made connections that will last a lifetime and gave me a sense of belonging that created my love for the Conservative Movement. In my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than the company of people who believe in the same things that you do. My love for my movement began because of the people it has brought me to, and over time I have developed a real sense of spirituality and belief in the ideals that the Conservative Movement holds. However, no matter my personal beliefs and desire from my Jewish life, I cannot help but respect the other movements for their acceptance of a community, and their ability to achieve the magic of common beliefs.

Tamuz 5773

Denominational Judaism