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When it was enacted, was the Conservative Movement's driving teshuva (the one that allowed driving to and from shul on Shabbat) designed for people who had already moved to the suburbs, far from synagogues, or for elderly synagogue members who became infirm and could no longer walk to shul?

Was the driving teshuva meant to bring back (or keep connected) the members who had already moved miles from any synagogue, or was it meant to encourage people to move to places distant from a synagogue?

  • To say to drive for people who moved to othe suburbs is bad than to say them to go to church if there is no synagogue – kouty Sep 18 '16 at 14:26
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    Can you edit in a link to the responsum itself or literature about it? Does it not state its own motivations? – Isaac Moses Sep 19 '16 at 14:38
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    The first and second paragraphs seem to present different dichotomies to resolve. It would seem to me that whether the target was people who had moved or people who had aged in place, the point was to "bring back (or keep connected)" those who were now too far from their congregations to walk. Encouraging people to move further out would be a third possibility, not an equivalent of one of these two. Could you please edit to clarify? – Isaac Moses Sep 19 '16 at 14:42
  • An interesting point is that the Israeli Conservative movement gave a responsum that said it was forbidden The wording of their responsum may shed light on your question. – sabbahillel Sep 20 '16 at 19:37
  • @sabbahillel To what aspect of the Golinkin teshuva do you refer. – Yehuda W Sep 20 '16 at 19:53
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According to my uncle, who is a Conservative rabbi, the psak was issued for a few reasons. It should be noted that he does not like it, although were he to attempt to pasken that his schul not hold like it, he'd probably be fired.

In the decades immediately after the War, many of the Jewish communities in inner-city neighbourhoods started moving out to the suburbs, along with their schuls. When a particular schul in Detroit moved, it left behind its older membership, who were now several miles away by foot. The rabbi (whose name I do not recall) paskened that his congregants could drive to schul on Shabbat, due to the new distance and the advanced age of many of those who remained in the older neighbourhoods.

Thus, it was meant to keep older and infirm members in, rather than to bring more affluent members back.

My uncle's analysis is that this let the genie out of the bottle (so to speak). While the intention is clearly to make ritual observance easier for the non-religious masses, the result was a general tendency towards extraordinarily lax standards for the laity and a reinforcement of the divisions between them and their JTS-educated rabbanim. JTS rabbinical students of that time were held to nearly Orthodox standards, up until the acceptance of women into the rabbanut.*


*This last point is an observation of my father's. He attended the List program at that time, although he was at the time (and still is) strictly Orthodox.

  • This answer does not agree with the answer given by Shalom. – Yehuda W Sep 18 '16 at 18:13
  • @YehudaW, considering that the world views of our sources differ so broadly, I'm unsurprised. R' Rakeffet was one of the more Charedi talmidim of the Rav, whereas my sources are people who studied with people who taught and/or knew the Detroit rabbi who issued the responsum. My uncle is from Detroit FWIW. – Noach MiFrankfurt Sep 18 '16 at 19:40
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    I heard from a C rabbi who was on the law committee, though not yet for this ruling, that the teshuva allowed driving to the nearest synagogue, not anywhere else. What the people did is of course another matter, but it sounds like a closer O shul should have been relevant. – Monica Cellio Sep 18 '16 at 20:40
  • @MonicaCellio That is not correct. The word nearest is not part of the teshuva. See usy.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/halacha-map.pdf. On rereading this material, it seems the answer to my question is that the driving teshuva driving teshuva was meant to bring back (or keep connected) the members who had already moved miles from any synagogue. – Yehuda W Sep 18 '16 at 23:58
  • @Yehuda thanks for the correction and link. I've been carrying a misunderstanding around for a while; glad to fix that. – Monica Cellio Sep 19 '16 at 4:57
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As a historian, Rabbi Rakeffet has an mp3 about it where he says that Joe Average Conservative Jew was already living pretty far from the synagogue and driving when the responsum was written.

  • This answer does not agree with the answer given by Noach MiFrankfurt. – Yehuda W Sep 18 '16 at 18:13
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    But what was the reason? This just states what some facts on the ground were @YehudaW – Double AA Sep 18 '16 at 20:43
  • @DoubleAA I do not understand your logic, AA. If C Jews were already living far from a shul before the teshuva was issued, it was not the driving teshuva that led them to live there. – Yehuda W Sep 18 '16 at 23:49
  • @YehudaW The question asked if it was "designed for people who had already moved to the suburbs, far from synagogues, or for elderly synagogue members who became infirm and could no longer walk to shul?" – Double AA Sep 18 '16 at 23:50
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    @YehudaW Knowing where people lived doesn't tell us what the intentions of the committee were. It could be average Jews lived far away AND the responsum was aimed at helping old people who still lived close. – Double AA Sep 19 '16 at 14:12

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