Is participating in the religious activities of a conservative synagogue in any way preferable to non-participation and non-affiliation with any Orthodox shul whatsoever?
Now this question is not so simple. There certainly is no question, that we should not encourage any conservative or reform place of gathering. That has to be a principle that we don’t yield on. However, if you meet a child who lives in the Long Island community where there’s no synagogue except a conservative one and otherwise he might fall into the hands of missionaries, then you can direct him where to go if there’s no other place – you can direct him there.
But certainly, for a person who understands and doesn’t need it to save his life, he certainly shouldn’t step in because it is ossur, forbidden, to step into these places. It’s a real issur to walk into a conservative or reform place.
So is it OK, or not?
The answer is that if a person is asking such a question, then he is not permitted. If he’s able to ask such a question, if he understands that this question has to be asked, then he knows enough, and he should never step into a place like that.
If there’s somebody else, an שאינו יודע לשאול, who doesn’t know anything, and he might fall into the hands of missionaries, certainly you should direct him to a conservative or even a reform temple. Whatever Jewish temple it is. Even if it’s just for bagels and lox, and even though it’s not kosher lox. You can send him in, so that he should avoid the missionaries.
Now, if you’d ask me should he go to a reform temple to avoid a ruffian – should he go to a temple to avoid getting beaten up – this is a shailah you have to ask someone better than me. I’m not going to say yes. But to go to a temple to avoid missionaries, I say, by all means, yes, absolutely!
TAPE # 200 (January 1977)