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Rabbi Diana Villa


During an Interfaith (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) Conference, there was a conflict between the Conservative and Reform Jews. The Conservative and Reform Jews tried to work out together a Shabbat Shacharit prayer service. Both parties argued about if the amidah should be said in silence or not, if the Torah reading should include all aliyot or be reduced to three, and if to add the mussaf. The Reform Jews were in the majority, so it was decided that that there would be three aliyot, the amidah was said aloud and the mussaf would not be said. The Conservative Jews then decided not to participate in, and even not to visit, this Shacharit prayer service.

I am bothered because I thought both sides should have been able to compromise based on the idea of Klal Yisrael - especially in a situation like this, a one-time conference, which means a long-term decision was not being made. In addition, I was bothered by the fact that the Conservatives were willing to visit a Muslim prayer service, but then they boycotted the Jewish prayer service.

What is the Conservative halacha concerning such a case?



Halakhically a Shabbat service must have seven aliyot. Some congregations have a triennial cycle of reading, in which only one third of the Parashah (Torah portion) is read while maintaining seven aliyot. This could have been a possible compromise.


There is also the possibility of reading out loud until the keddushah, and after the keddushah all continue praying silently. This is known as "hoiche keddushah." This could also have been a halakhic compromise.

As far as Musaf, the Conservative participants could have prayed it silently even if the whole congregation didn't say it. Even with the service as it was accepted by a majority, the Conservative laity could have chosen to be present and not to take part of those parts with which they didn't feel comfortable.


I feel this is not really a halakhic problem. It's a communal problem and if you would have discussed the options with halakhically knowledgeable people, you might have solved it differently.



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