Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 64, No. 20, Ed. 1 Thursday, May 20, 2010 Page: 2 of 24
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2 I May 20,2010
TEXAS JEWISH POST £ SINCE 1947
JTS head charting new course for outreach
By Gary Rosenblatt
NEW YORK (N.Y. Jewish Week) —
Call it chutzpah or commitment
— or a combination of both.
Even as the Conservative move-
ment is losing members left (to
the Reform) and right (to the Or-
thodox), literally, the chancellor
of the Jewish Theological Semi-
nary is setting his sights not just
on survival but on expanding the
school's focus, "carefully but bold-
ly," throughout North America.
Arnold Eisen, completing his
third year in his post as head of the
educational and spiritual center of
the movement, is launching a cam-
paign to roll out "a new JTS mis-
sion that defines our purpose and
sets our future direction," with an
emphasis on "learning, leadership
Considered too low-key until
now by some critics, Eisen plans
It means a great deal!
to enlarge his duties as a spokes-
man for "what Judaism has been
and can be," and take on the role
of "intellectual leadership."
In an exclusive interview with
The Jewish Week three days be-
fore the JTS commencement on
May 17, at which he formally an-
nounced his vision, the chancel-
lor explained its development and
goals with passion and conviction,
including providing his own view
of what he considers the most im-
"Here's the vision headline,"
he said toward the end of the
90-minute discussion; "This great
institution, long known for its
distinguished scholarship and in-
novation," like establishing Camp
Ramah and The Jewish Museum,
"now will bring its resources of
learning to bear in new ways on
the needs of the North American
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Eisen acknowledges that the
Conservative movement, once the
largest of the four Jewish denomi-
nations, has shrunk, and that its
numbers continue to decline. But
while some say the movement's de-
mise is inevitable, if not imminent,
Eisen says he remains an optimist
and chooses to measure success
"by quality rather than numbers,"
looking to "the potential for major
"Instead of counting our losses,
let's seize the moment," he insists,
while agreeing that the moment
is one of urgency and in need of a
large dose of innovation.
Eisen, 59, a longtime religious
studies professor at Stanford Uni-
versity prior to coming to JTS, and
only the second of its seven chan-
cellors not to hold rabbinic ordina-
tion, is banking his reputation and
legacy on this plan to reach "Con-
servative Judaism and the vital re-
ligious center of North American
JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen is launch-
ing a new movement with an emphasis
on learning, leadership and vision.
He defines that center as includ-
ing Orthodox, Reform and unaf-
filiated Jews who are serious about
deepening their Jewish knowledge
The key to success is to make
better use of what JTS, established
in 1886, has long been best known
for — its scholarship. "First-rate,
excellent scholarship" is at the core
of his vision, soon-to-be policy, of
Eisen noted that the Conserva-
tive establi shment is already reach-
ing Jews outside of the movement
through its Camp Ramah, about
20 percent of whose families are
not affiliated as Conservative, and
a slightly lower percentage of fami-
lies whose children attend Solo-
mon Schechter day schools.
With an estimated 20 percent of
American Jewry apparently unin-
terested in affiliation of any kind,
and another 20 percent highly in-
volved (and mostly Orthodox),
Eisen's target audience is what he
calls "the big middle," which he
hopes to reach by stressing the
importance of a balanced center,
and by adding thoughtful, relevant
see JTS, p.21
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Wisch, Rene. Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 64, No. 20, Ed. 1 Thursday, May 20, 2010, newspaper, May 20, 2010; Fort Worth, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth188293/m1/2/: accessed June 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .