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Branches of Judaism

Conservative Judaism


The roots for Conservative Judaism were laid in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America stretch back into the 1880s, but the movement was formally organized by Dr. Solomon Schechter in 1913. Dr. Schechter raised a call for unity and foresaw The United Synagogue of Conservative Jewry to be "the greatest bequest that I shall leave to American Israel."

Dr. Schechter wanted the movement to implement certain key ideas: a) K'lal Yisrael (the whole of the Jewish community); b) a Jewry based on the North American experience; c) a Jewry related to modern living; d) a Jewry devoted to Torah, with education a major priority; and e) a Jewry normatively halachic.

Conservative Judaism maintains that the truths found in Jewish scriptures and other Jewish writings come from G-d, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human compontent. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of halakhah, but believes that the Law should change and adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism's values. The idea of flexibility is deply rooted in Conservative Judaism, and can be found within their own Statement of Principles, Emet ve-Emunah.

Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, identifies and explores seven core values of Conservative Judaism in his monograph, "The Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism." According to Schorsch, the core values of Conservative Judaism are:
  1. The Centrality of Modern Israel
  2. Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression
  3. Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael
  4. The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism
  5. The Study of Torah
  6. The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha
  7. Belief in God
Schorsch explains, "Whereas other movements in modern Judaism rest on a single tenet, such as the autonomy of the individual or the inclusiveness of God's revelation at Sinai (Torah mi-Sinai), Conservative Judaism manifests a kaleidoscopic cluster of discrete and unprioritized core values. Conceptually they fall into two sets - three national and three religious - which are grounded and joined to each other by the overarching presence of God, who represents the seventh and ultimate core value."

The Conservative Movement in Israel is called the Masorti (Masorti is the Hebrew word for "traditional") Movement. According to the Masorti Movement Web Site, the ideology of the Masorti Movement is based on three primary principles:
  1. Torah and Mitzvot
  2. Tolerance and Pluralism
  3. Zionism
Today there are about 800 congregations worldwide, representing some 1.5 million members, affiliated with the Conservative Movement.
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