THIS STATEMENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN INTENDED TO ARTICULATE A PRINCIPLE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM. TO EDUCATE THE CONGREGATION IN CONNECTION WITH THIS PRINCIPLE AND, HOPEFULLY, IN A POSITIVE AND AFFIRMATIVE SPIRIT ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO FOLLOW IT.
We would like to share with you a decision made by the Professional Staff of Congregation Beth Shalom, and presented to the Board of Trustees at its June 1981 meeting. Please read this carefully. This decision may affect you and we would like you to understand it fully, hopefully, in the affirmative spirit in which it is intended.
The Conservative Movement strongly believes in the consistency of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding, and the Kashrut of the meal which follows it i.e., the festive meal (Seudat Mitzvah) should be Kosher. This is because our tradition clearly states the meal is an integral part of the religious event itself, whether served an hour later or a day later. The Standards for Synagogue Practice of the Conservative Movement state:
The meal served following any religious ceremony should be regarded as an integral part of such ceremony and should, therefore, be in keeping with the spirit of such ceremony and be planned accordingly. (Article IV, Section 4).
If the meal is indeed a religious event, then it should be consistent with the religious standards of Conservative Judaism. It should neither violate Kashrut (as we, the Professional Staff, define Kosher to include a fish, dairy, or vegetarian function) nor violate the Sabbath.
Moreover, even if one does not normally observe the Dietary Laws, there are other good reasons for planning a Kosher Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding. These events are quasi-communal, usually involving significant numbers of participants, both Jews and non-Jews. The style of the party can be understood as a statement of Jewish communal values, not simple private preferences. Also, these are "once-in-a-lifetime" events which are the very essence of Judaism and should, therefore, confirm to its highest standards. Finally, quality Kosher catering is readily available at Congregation Beth Shalom and in the Chicago area.
With all of the above in mind, we the synagogue staff have decided that we must actively, by our example, affirm the consistency of the Religious Ceremony and the Kashrut of the meal thereafter. Therefore, while we will continue to officiate, we will no longer attend a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding party, which is not Kosher or violates the Sabbath.
If you have any questions about this matter, we would welcome the opportunity to answer them and discuss and clarify this issue for you. Please feel free to call.