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 Conservative Judaism

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Conservative Judaism - Conservative Judaism (now also known as Masorti Judaism outside of the United States and Canada) is a modern stream of primarily Diaspora Judaism. It is one of the more modern "streams" of Judaism established in the late nineteenth century as a reaction to the extreme departures of reform Judaism from Jewish religious traditions, especially the rejection of Hebrew and Kashrut (Kosher laws) and populat in the United states but not in Europe Israel or other Jewish communities. In the United States and Israel, the Conservative movement has esrablished "Masorti" (traditionalist) affiliates.

he Conservative "Masorti" movement should not be confused with Israeli Masorti Judaism which is the self-definition of laxly observant Orthodox (usually Mizrachi) Jews. Conservative Judaism was formally founded about the turn of the century in the United States by Rabbi Solomon Schechter.

Schechter wanted the movement to implement certain key ideas as opposed to Reform and Orthodox Judaism as they were then presented:

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 god, but were transmitted by humans and contain a human component. Conservative Judaism generally accepts the binding nature of Halachah, but believes that the Law should change and adapt, absorbing aspects of the predominant culture while remaining true to Judaism's values.

Conservative Jews believe that God in some way revealed His will to Moses and to later prophets, not necessarily in writing. Records and traditions relating to such events were transmitted in various forms for centuries, until the Torah was redacted into its final form, sometime around the time of Ezra (450 B.C.E.). Thus, Conservative Jews are comfortable with the findings of archeological and linguistic research and critical textual study/ Conservative Jews make use of literary and historical analysis to understand how these texts developed, and to help them understand how they may applied in our own day. Thus, they see no conflict between modern biblical scholarship and adherence to Jewish law.

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 Halachah
  7. Belief in God

 Conservative Judaism in the USA grew out of ideas first developed in Germany about 1845 by Rabbi Zechariah Frankel. In the USA. Sephardic rabbis Sabato Morais and H. Pereira Mendes founded the Jewish Theological Seminary in the 1880s, the central institution of conservative Judaism, later taken over by Solomon Schecter. Conservative Judaism is more egalitarian and flexible than Orthodox Judaism. It follows Halachah, but its rulings are more lenient than those of Orthodox Judaism, especially in issues such as conversion and equality of the sexes.

Conservative Judaism splintered into a more traditionalist wing and into a separate "stream" called Reconstructionist Judaism founded by Mordechai Kapla. Conservative Jews probably constitute about 27% of adult religious Jews in North America. (see here for an analysis based on 2001 data)  and 13% among all adult Jews by a different measure.

Ami Isseroff

February 11, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: Judaism,  Orthodox Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism, Humanistic Judaism, Jewish Renewal

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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