Posted on | December 21, 2010 | By Judy Resnick | 61 Comments
I have been a B.T. since 74. This is how I remember the Conservative and Orthodox Jewish worlds of the 60s and 70s.
Orthodoxy was a lot less extreme right-wing at that time, and Conservative Judaism was a lot less extreme left-wing.
People were actually able to describe themselves as “Conservadox,” which would be nearly impossible to do nowadays.
Many Conservative Jews at that time kept some form of Kashrus and Shabbos, while there were married Jewish women, even Rebbetzins, who considered themselves Modern Orthodox but wore pants and did not cover their hair.
Most Jews had families of only two or three children (birth control was never discussed but unofficially practiced in some form by even strictly Orthodox Jews) and all Jewish children were pushed to attend and graduate college.
All Jewish boys, whether religious or not, were expected to support their families, and so were steered to become doctors, lawyers and dentists; girls were encouraged to pursue female friendly jobs like teaching as a sideline to their most important job, raising Jewish children and running a Jewish home.
Holocaust survivors never talked about their experiences, preferring instead to look ahead to the future generation of Jewish children rather than look back at the awful past.
The only hint was in the names of the Jewish children: e.g. Michael would be for the grandfather Mordechai who had died at Auschwitz, Linda for Leah the grandmother who had perished at Bergen-Belsen.
All Jews, Orthodox or Conservative or Reform, fervently supported Israel and bought Israeli products and State of Israel bonds.
Orthodox Jewish men wearing felt hats and dark suits were indistinguishable from the Conservative and Reform Jewish men of the 1950′s, as all men at that time wore felt hats and dark suits.
Few Orthodox Jewish men had beards, as all needed to go out and earn a living in a society that was hostile to bearded men; however, nobody asked a sheilah of a Rav as to which brands of electric shaver were kosher to use or not.
What ultimately changed the Orthodox Jewish world was that Jewish education, being low-paid, ended up attracting only the extreme right-wing, rebbes and morahs who pushed an extreme right-wing Orthodox Judaism on their students, for better or for worse.
Conservative and Reform Jewish education dwindled from the hated every afternoon Hebrew school down to once-a-week Sunday school down to a couple of Bar- and Bat- Mitzvah lessons at age 12.
Meanwhile, soaring crime and declining academic standards at public high schools sent concerned Orthodox Jewish parents to yeshiva high schools with demanding double curricula in secular studies and limudei kodesh.
Originally published as a comment.