Let me repeat my arguments here. Based on the principles of both Sephardic Judaism as well as Calvinistic Protestant Christianity, I object to schismatic denominationalism in Judaism:
As "Debate in the Middle" shows, a certain Dr. Laura Shaw-Frank, who was raised Conservative, still holds by many of the essential and quintessential Conservative beliefs, such as believing that women can be rabbis. So why is the author there troubled? So what if she doesn’t belong to a Conservative synagogue? Isn’t she serving G-d? Isn’t she keeping the Torah? She’s doing exactly what she was raised to do. What why should one care that she’s doing it under the auspices of Orthodoxy rather than Conservatism?
Movements and denominations ought to be merely expedients; what is truly essential is that one keeps the Torah, period, and your denominational affiliation ought to be relatively meaningless and irrelevant in comparison.
My mother belongs to a Reconstructionist synagogue, and she’s complained often to me that her fellow congregants, and even the rabbi will say things like, "We’re Reconstructionist, and therefore, we ...". She replies indignantly that we’re Jews who are supposed to be obeying G-d, and not our own religio-sociopolitical parties.
Actually, my stance on religious movements and denominations is very similar to the Protestant Christian one, I believe. For the Protestants, one’s loyalty is ultimately to G-d and not to any man or institution. Thus, Protestant churches tended to have very weak if not absent hierarchies. The churches were federally ( = covenantally, constitutionally, contractually) organized, with each member and preacher belonging to his church, and the church to its denomination, as a contractually-consenting members and bodies with terms stipulated by some oath or contract and by the words of the Bible. Thus, hierarchy and leadership were weak, and ultimate allegiance was owed to one’s church and denomination only insofar as it agreed with what one believed the Bible said. By contrast, the Catholics of course granted authority to the church itself, having more in common with absolute monarchy that with constitutional democracy. In fact, democracy as we know it today in America was created by the Calvinists as a response to absolutist Catholic monarchies, so my comparing Protestantism to democracy and Catholicism to monarchy is not accidental. Democracy in Europe and Lutheran Protestantism are wholly else, and I’m not concerned with them. I’m concerned rather with Calvinism and democracy in America.
As an aside, the fact that democracy was created by theocratically-inclined Calvinists and was put into practice by theocratic Puritans, indicates to me that there ought to be no contradiction between democracy and a theocracy in Israel. But that's another subject.
To be honest, I’ve been recently feeling rather proud of the fact that my grandmother (my mother's mother) was a staunch and committed member of the Plymouth Brethren, which is an entirely lay-led form of Evangelical Christianity. Unfortunately, I cannot ask her anymore, but I suspect her motivation was that we should be very wary of any hierarchies, whether of individual men or of organizations.
For in theory, all men are equal. When Moshe objected to Korah's proclamation that "All the congregation is holy", Moshe agreed in theory, for indeed, Moshe elsewhere said, "Would that all the congregation would be prophets!". Korah was wrong only because in reality, some men are brighter or more skilled or more responsible than others. But in theory, all men are equal, and so we should have as little leadership and as little government as possible, and everything should be left as much as possible to individuality and free will. Government is a concession to reality, but it remains an unfortunate one. If all men would do their duties, we'd need no government at all, and so we should strive to have the smallest amount of government that will get the job done.
It is a remarkable statement that Samuel Adams makes in his "The Rights of the Colonists", that,
The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.The Hebrew slave who refuses to leave his master, his ear is bored, and the Talmud explains that the man whose hear heard at Sinai, ‘I am the L-rd your G-d’, but who nevertheless chose a new master instead of G-d, his ear is to be bored. When the people ask Samuel for a king, G-d answers that the people, in requesting a king, have rejected not Samuel, but G-d. We see that becoming a slave with a master, and choosing a king, and renouncing one’s liberty and freedom (Samuel provides the people with a litany of the abuses of liberty which kingship will bring), are all forms of rejecting G-d, which is another way of saying avodah zara. I believe that I am a staunch political libertarian for the same reason that I am a left-wing Modern Orthodox.
One special quality of the Sephardim is that the community and halakhah as such remained strictly observant, even as individual deviants were tolerated. Individuals broke halakhah, but they never tried to change Judaism itself or institute their own new movement. Professor Daniel J. Elazar makes this argument briefly in his essay Can Sephardic Judaism be Reconstructed?, and he makes it again at greater length in his essay Religion in Israel: A Consensus for Jewish Tradition. My rabbi, Rabbi Marc Angel, makes the same argument: see his essay Religious Zionism and the Non-Orthodox and his essay "Other Thoughts about Jewish Pluralism" (printed in Seeking Good, Speaking Peace). Long story short: I abhor schismatic denominationalism, and I don’t want to strengthen this very Ashkenazi phenomenon by myself joining one of the denominations (viz. Reform or Conservative).
I am thus extremely disturbed when people display a loyalty to their denominations as such rather than to Judaism as such. It’s a form of "my nation, right or wrong", and I’m not exaggerating when I consider it a form of idolatry not different in kind from gross nationalism (which I also consider to be a form of idolatry). Idolatry is a merely a mindset, a type of cargo-cultism, in which the object of true enduring value is replaced with an expedient. Sometimes this expedient is quite proper and useful, and sometimes it is quite sinful, but in any case, the expedient is eventually mistaken for the end goal. At best, this is merely mistaken and useless (as in cargo-cultism), and at work, it is an affront to G-d and His majesty, but in any case, the basic intellectual error is the same. Cf. the beginning of Rambam’s Hilkhot Avodah Zara, where he explains idolatry as originating with people who wished to worship G-d’s "ministers" as a form of honoring G-d Himself; these worshipers, says Rambam, eventually forgot about G-d and focused solely on what had once been seen as His ministers, but who now became gods in their own rights. Astrology would be similar, except there, instead of using the stars as a way to G-d, one uses them as a way around G-d, believing that even G-d is subject to some cosmic reality greater than Himself, one which can be utilized for one’s benefit. The basic intellectual error remains the same throughout, confusing expedients and aims.
In the end, your allegiance ought not to be to the organization itself, but rather, you ought to always see the organization as merely an expedient for reaching the ultimate aim to which the organization is devoted. To be devoted to your denomination as such is at best a form of cargo-cultism, and at worst, it is idolatry.
As for Conservative Judaism being able to adapt to the times:
Academic historians may define "Orthodoxy" as being the movement of Hungarian and Eastern-European reactionism to Reform and Haskalah, thereby excluding both Sephardism and German Neo-Orthodoxy from "Orthodoxy". As Professors Jacob Katz, Menahem Friedman, Haym Soloveitchik, Michael Silber, etc. have shown, Central- and Eastern-European Orthodoxy is as much a new movement as Conservatism and Reform, and the Central- and Eastern-European Orthodox are as guilty as anyone of violating hadash assur min ha-torah.
But most people are not academic historians, and they’ll use the term "Orthodox" simply to indicate general Torah observance, punctilious obedience to the halakhah. If this means that many right-wing Conservatives are actually Orthodox, then so be it. I’ll define "Orthodox" as meaning observance of the Torah and Talmud, and if this broad definition includes many people who don’t consider themselves Orthodox, or whom the Haredim consider to be heretical, well, that’s not my concern. Haredism is a political party with precious little if anything about it having to do with G-d, but I refuse to turn "Orthodoxy" into a political party. I have a Catholic cousin who argues that since Jews and Christians believe in the same G-d, that therefore, Jews believe in Jesus whether they know it or not. Hey, if it means I’m going to heaven according to her, then fine. I won’t refuse her ecumenicism, although I’ll make sure she knows that I personally disagree with her claim that I believe in Jesus.
If Orthodoxy is defined in this manner, then Rabbi Benzion Uziel (who said he'd always rule in favor of hesed whenever possible) and Rabbi Haim David Halevi (who said that Beit Hillel succeeded over Beit Shammai because of their leniency, and who said that the Torah will survive as long as we continue to innovate new innovations and allow halakhah to evolve over time) are both "Orthodox". Similarly, Rabbis A. I. Kook, Moshe Shmuel Glasner, Tzadoq ha-Kohen of Lublin, Eliezer Berkovits, Isidore Epstein, J. H. Hertz, and others with evolutionary views of the halakhah would all still be Orthodox, because they were observant of halakhah.
Similarly, all the myriads of Sephardi rabbis who permitted evolution of and leniency in halakhah would be "Orthodox". Rabbi Yosef Messas of Morocco, for example, was so enthused by electricity that he was willing to discard all that the Torah and Talmud say, and proclaim that the Third Temple would have an electric menorah in lieu of an oil one. The Hidah proclaimed that whereas the Ashkenazim pasqen by gevurah, by contrast, the Sephardim pasqen by hesed and the Italians by tiferet.
When the Haskalah hit the Ashkenazim, the Sephardim of Western Europe (Britain, Holland, Italy, Bordeaux and Bayonne, Trieste) were not affected, because they were already entrenched in Renaissance culture anyway.
Given that all these Sephardim were not Conservative but got along just fine, what do we need Conservative Judaism for? As I asked, if Dr. Frank is keeping the Torah, what does it matter whose movement she belongs to? Are not movements, like governments, merely expedients? Henry David Thoreau (in his On the Duty of Civil Disobedience) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (in his Politics) looked forward to a day of no government anymore, and I look forward to a day of no religious movements either.