Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Judaism » Denominations & Sects » Conservative

Conservative Judaism began in the mid-19th century as a reaction against the Reform rabbis

The Reform movement began with the presumption that it would come to represent all of American Jewry. However, its leadership and constituency were not of one mind. It included those of impeccable Orthodoxy as well as moderate Reformers, and another group that was somewhere in between.

This third group formed the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1886, with the stated purpose of training traditional rabbis. At first, JTS was also supported by Orthodox Jews as well, but a group of wealthy Jewish supporters brought about a change in its focus to producing rabbis trained to modernize and Americanize Eastern European Jewish immigrants who were arriving in the United States in large numbers.

To that end, they brought Solomon Schechter, a world-renowned rabbinic scholar from England who was neither Orthodox or Reform. Under his leadership, JTS became the vanguard of a new movement, Conservative Judaism, which is known as Masorti Judaism outside of the United States and Canada.

Conservative Judaism was especially popular among the children of recent Jewish immigrants who were wanted to retain Jewish traditions while eliminating what they viewed as old-world vestiges.

Synagogues were established following the standard liturgy, but in which men and women sat together rather than apart, and where English readings supplemented the Hebrew prayers. Rabbis delivered sermons in English, often on the relevance of Jewish teachings on contemporary issues.

The Conservatives organized as the United Synagogues of America in 1913, which continues to be its main congregational arm in North America, while the Jewish Theological Seminary of America still serves as its rabbinic seminary.

The word conservative is intended to indicate that Jews should conserve Jewish traditions rather than reform or abandon them. It does not suggest political conservatism.

Conservative Judaism does not emphasize theology. Its early leadership believed that theology was alien to traditional Judaism. It wasn't until 1985 that the Jewish Theological Seminary developed a course in Conservative theology, and its theology is accepting of a variety of positions and conflicting views.

Conservative Judaism does uphold the concept of a personal God and Creator of the universe. Most Conservative theologians adhere to the idea of the immortality of the soul, but other references obscure the issue.

Conservatives differ on the concept of revelation, with some believing that scripture was a purely human product, others that God projected a message to the human authors, whose perceptions of this message were recorded as scripture, and still others that God inspired the authors of scripture, but that the words and message were their own.

Conservative Jews do offer fidelity and commitment to Halakha, the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from both the Written and Oral Torah, holding that Jews must observe the precepts, dietary ordinances, rituals, prayers, and the like, although it maintains that these laws have always been subject to evolution.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) serves as the central authority on Halakha within Conservative Judaism.

Beyond the United States and Canada, the Conservative Judaism movement does not have much of a presence. Worldwide, Conservative Jews are united under the umbrella organization, Masorti Olami. Masorti synagogues and communities are found in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the United Kingdom. While not officially affiliated with Masorti Olami, the Hungarian Neolog Judaism, is similar in its organization and concepts.

Its global youth movement is known as NOAM, whose North American chapter is the United Synagogue Youth.

Topics related to Conservative Judaism are the focus of topics in this category, which may also be known as Masorti Olami.



Recommended Resources

Search for Conservative on Google or Bing