Monday, July 23, 2012

Op-Ed: To thrive, Conservative movement requires continuity in college

A Conservative Jew, I am a third-generation member of Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, N.J., was very active in the movement’s United Synagogue Youth and helped create a presence for Koach, the movement’s college program, at my college, Pace University. My grandparents and parents have instilled strong Jewish values in me, and I hope to see the Conservative movement thrive for many generations to come.

I am worried, however, about the Conservative movement’s commitment to my age cohort.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism announced in early June that it would be putting Koach on hiatus for the indefinite future. Within hours, students from across North America, including myself, formed the Save Koach initiative. Thanks to the efforts of many, USCJ gave Koach a reprieve, allocating it $100,000 and giving the program until Dec. 31 to raise an additional $130,000.

Koach is essential to the future of Conservative Judaism. While a great deal of time, money and effort is consistently committed to pre-college programs including Solomon Schechter day schools, Ramah camps and USY, young Jews by themselves cannot make the leap from being Conservative Jewish high school students to becoming committed Conservative Jewish adults. If we do not provide an infrastructure of involvement for Conservative college students, we run the risk of losing a generation of Conservative Jewish members and leaders. 

Sustaining and eventually increasing funding for Koach will allow the Conservative movement to survive and flourish for generations to come.

Many have asked, “Where do we go from here?” -- Douglas Kandl*, JTA

* Douglas Kandl is a junior at Pace University, where he is president of Hillel, which he helped establish, Koach representative and a Hillel Bridging the Gap fellow.

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