Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, RA Executive Vice President, has recently been a featured speaker at a number of public events.
On November 21, Dr. Steve Bayme of the American Jewish Congress moderated a panel on the Israeli Chief rabbinate shared by Rabbi Schonfeld and Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah at Sutton Place Synagogue. Rabbi Schonfeld emphasized the need for the community to organize around equal funding for all streams of Judaism. Panelists also responded to questions about frameworks that would arise should there ever be the political will to eradicate the institution of the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Schonfeld outlined and evaluated possible frameworks in which Israel could maintain a religious organization consistent with the principles of freedom of religion and conscience for the sake of Israel’s national Jewish character.
On November 25, Rabbi Schonfeld spoke about the meaning of the recent Pew Foundation report on American Judaism with Dr. Steven M. Cohen and Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, moderated by Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week. Rabbi Schonfeld evaluated several points of crucial interest to the vitality of Jewish religion in America, pointing out the need to distinguish among the streams rather than creating the false dichotomy of “Orthodox and non-Orthodox” individually (thanks here to RA Past President Rabbi Alan Silverstein; see this article for his definitive exposition on the subject). While recognizing important challenges facing the Conservative Movement and others, Rabbi Schonfeld presented a strong assessment of the success that Conservative Judaism’s characteristic intensive focus on education yields, such as a 73% rate of endogamy and the fact that one-third of school-age children are enrolled in day school. In her public talks, Rabbi Schonfeld educates the public about the many ways in which Conservative Jews and institutions engage a broad swath of the Jewish public through education, advocacy and mediation of diverse views. She also elucidates our Movement’s often hidden investments in resources designed to ensure a vibrant Jewish future.
On December 9, Rabbi Schonfeld spoke at the Jewish Women International’s Women to Watch gala in Washington, DC. As the only woman leading a denominational organization and one of the very few women leading a major Jewish organization, she is called upon to support and inspire young women entering the Jewish professional and voluntary spheres. Rabbi Schonfeld spoke on issues of women’s leadership, mentorship and the role of Jewish tradition in shaping young women’s personal and professional lives. As a 2011 recipient of the Women to Watch award, it gave her great pleasure to be invited back to share her insights with other women who are making an impact in various professional and Jewish roles.
Rabbi Schonfeld is regularly asked to participate at panels and events covering matters of Jewish life, Israel affairs and Jewish approaches to public policy.