Conservative Judaism

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The Conservative Judaism or Masorti Judaism (English Conservative Judaism or Masorti Judaism ) is formed in the 19th century denomination of Judaism , the historical positive from school Zacharias Frankel was born.

The movement, which would like to see itself located between Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism , has reformed various laws and practices of the Judaism designated as Orthodox , like all other liberal Jewish currents, according to their needs.

Furthermore, Conservative Judaism shares the view that the revelation of the written Torah (Hebrew teaching ) and the oral Torah ( Mishnah and Talmud ) was not given by God " literally at Sinai ", but was made by people over a longer period of time.

The holy Jewish religious writings are newly understood and reformed in Conservative Judaism with the help of historical-critical theological research that arose in Protestant Christianity.


The term “Conservative Judaism” was coined in the USA for a movement within Judaism that split off from Reform Judaism as an independent denomination alongside orthodox. In the German-speaking area, however, comparable Jewish communities are usually referred to as “liberal communities” . In Israel and Europe, conservative Judaism is called “masorti” ( Hebrew מסורתיtraditional) called. The Hebrew term is also used outside of Israel by individual conservative Jewish communities, especially in Great Britain, but also in Germany. In Hungary, communities that correspond to conservative Judaism have been called "neolog" since the 19th century. The movement of reconstructionism , which emerged from Conservative Judaism, has been its own denomination since 1968.


The aim of the movement of conservative Judaism is to preserve part of the tradition as far as it is compatible with modern knowledge and living conditions. This is based on the assumption of a historically conditioned variability of Judaism linked to the Halacha , i.e. H. to the legal aspects of Judaism regarding ethics and customs. The newly-conservative halacha is considered to be their "basic norm". In this regard, legal foundations may apply in conservative Judaism that deviate from the traditionally preserved (orthodox) halacha practiced to this day, insofar as they have received a new conservative basis in Jewish legal literature.

Members of the conservative movement are stopped, the dietary laws ( kashrut ) and rest requirements for Shabbat with some regulations are designed somewhat milder than in Orthodoxy comply. Conservative congregations also largely adhere to the traditionally preserved form of the liturgy.

There are further differences to orthodoxy in the understanding of gender roles: In addition to the neological currents, the new conservative Judaism advocates consistent equality between men and women; the conservative rabbinical seminary in New York has been allowing women to study rabbis since 1984.

Even if there is a certain proximity to Orthodoxy in observance (adherence to religious regulations) and the liturgy, decisions made by conservative rabbis are not recognized by traditional (Orthodox) Judaism, as the basis is no longer the same traditional Halacha and the Torah no more than is divinely given. Conservative converts, like other liberal converts to Judaism, have not yet been recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.


Masorti or Conservative Judaism has its origins in Germany; Rabbi Zacharias Frankel (1801–1875), to whom liberal Judaism can be traced back, is considered to be its founder . Frankel was the first director of the Jewish Theological Rabbinical Seminary in Breslau , which opened in 1854 and was the godfather of the Jewish Theological Seminary , the central institution of Conservative Judaism, founded in New York in 1886 . In the course of the 20th century, Conservative Judaism developed into the largest Jewish denomination in the USA, and since the beginning of the 21st century it has taken second place behind Reform Judaism .

The positive historical school

Frankel's speech to the Frankfurt Reform Assembly , July 16, 1845, one day before his departure.

For Zacharias Frankel, one of the main characteristics of Judaism was that it continuously adapts its religious commandments and customs to the times and circumstances and is thus historically shaped. As head of the Jewish-theological rabbinical seminary in Wroclaw, which opened in 1854, he tried to develop the foundations of a "positive historical" Judaism that would preserve the Jewish tradition as a stable element of Judaism, but at the same time enable the interpretation of Jewish law to be adapted to the changed circumstances . Frankel did not found a movement in Germany with his conservative stance within Reform Judaism.

Development in the United States

The trigger for the creation of a network of conservative Jewish communities in the US, the so-called "treifene Banquet" (does unkoscheres banquet) at the closing ceremony at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1883. Conservative graduates of the associated reform movement colleges who had protested that they were served non-kosher dishes, and some rabbis, for whom the reforms of Reform Judaism also went too far, founded an association, which some long-established Sephardic Jewish communities in the USA as well as newer Ashkenazi synagogues founded by German Jewish immigrants joined, but without a uniform religious orientation was sought. What the congregations had in common was that they advocated the integration of their members into the non-Jewish environment in everyday life, with the religious laws , the Halachah , and the liturgy, however , adhering to the traditional traditions and the Hebrew language for prayers and only the weekly sermon in the National language accepted.

In 1886 the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) was founded in New York, which developed into the most important institution of Conservative Judaism. The first president of the seminary was Rabbi Sabato Morais (1823-1897), who came from Livorno , and was succeeded by Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes (1852-1937), who had immigrated from England , and were both Sephardic Jews who had played a leading role in the founding of the seminary. Isaac Leeser (1806–1868), the founder of the first American rabbinical seminary, Maimonides College in Philadelphia , is often counted among the thought leaders of Conservative Judaism .

The JTS, which was struggling with financial problems, received support at the beginning of the 20th century from wealthy liberal American Jews who hoped that a modernized form of traditional Judaism, such as that represented by Conservative Judaism, would enable the descendants of Orthodox Jews who immigrated from Eastern Europe to integrate facilitate American society and the rise to the middle class. Under Cyrus Adler (1863-1940), Solomon Schechter, who taught in England, was recruited as academic director of the JTS in 1902, who headed the JTS until his death in 1915. Merit is attributed to Schechter for making the JTS a training facility for an entire generation of rabbis who made Conservative Judaism the largest and most important Jewish movement in North America in the first half of the 20th century. In 1913 the "United Synagogue of America" ​​was founded, later renamed the "United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism", in which the conservative communities of North America are united. The Association of Conservative Rabbis, the "Rabbinical Assembly" was founded in 1919.

In the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, Masorti congregations established themselves in Latin America, Australia and Europe - especially in Great Britain, and occasionally in Germany. They are united in the international organization for Masorti communities Masorti Olami .

Development in Israel

In Israel Conservative Judaism summed up in the 1970's foot, thanks to the immigration of American Jews in the first place, especially rabbis who belonged to the conservative direction. In 1979 the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism was founded in Israel , in which the more than 50 Masorti congregations with around 50,000 members (as of 2012) are united.

In 1984 the Seminary for Judaic Studies (Beit Midrash) was established in Jerusalem , in which Israelis are trained as Masorti rabbis and teachers. In addition, there has been the NOAM (Noar masorti) youth movement and the Tali schools since the 1970s. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) opened a campus in Jerusalem as early as 1962 . In 1984 the kibbutz Hanaton was founded.

In Israel, where only Orthodox rabbis are paid by the Ministry of Religions, since 2012 non-Orthodox rabbis have also been able to be paid by the state to a limited extent, but not by the Ministry of Religions, but by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

Development in Germany after 1945

In Germany, conservative Judaism is mainly represented in Berlin . Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it has also gained a foothold in Germany, thanks to US investments to establish German Masorti communities for Jewish contingent refugees from the former Soviet Union. With the training of the German Gesa Ederberg , who converted to Reform Judaism before her ordination, there is an incumbent Masorti rabbi in the unified congregation in Berlin. The Zacharias Frankel College of the University of Potsdam , founded in 2013, trains conservative Masorti rabbis.


Gesa Ederberg was managing director of the Masorti association from 2002 to 2008 . The Masorti Lehrhaus was also founded in Berlin in 2002. Masorti eV in Berlin maintains, among other things, a Jewish kindergarten and takes care of the linguistic and religious integration of immigrants from the CIS countries .

Ederberg has been officiating in the Jewish community in Berlin since mid-2006, initially with half a rabbi position. Since mid-2007 she has also officially been the community rabbi. Together with the cantor Avitall Gerstetter , she reads from the Torah in the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin.


The Kehilat Beit Shira - Jewish Masorti Community Hamburg eV was founded in Hamburg in 2009 , emerging from a Masorti-Minyan that had existed in Hamburg since 2008. The community has been a member of the “European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC)” since 2010.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Rela Mintz Gefen: Judaism, Conservativ, Masorti, Neolog . In: Judith Reesa Baskin (Ed.): The Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2011, ISBN 978-0-521-82597-9 , pp. 338 ff .
  2. a b c d Yaakov Ariel: Conservative Judaism . In: Dan Diner (ed.): Encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture . Volume 2., Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2012, ISBN 978-3-476-02502-9 , pp. 31-36
  3. See also: Kerstin von der Krone, The Jewish-Theological Seminary of Breslau, the “Science of Judaism” and the Development of a Conservative Movement in Germany, Europe, and the United States (1854–1933) .
  4. Pamela S. Nadell: Conservative Judaism . In: Lindsay Jones (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion . 2nd Edition. tape 3 . Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2005, pp. 1957–1966 ( behind a paywall: Gale Virtual Reference Library ).
  5. Jack Reimer, Michael Berenbaum: Morais, Sabato . In: Michael Berenbaum, Fred Skolnik (Ed.): Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd Edition. tape 14 . Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2007, pp. 471 ( online: Gale Virtual Reference Library ).
  6. Abraham Karp: Leeser, Isaac . In: Lindsay Jones (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religion . 2nd Edition. tape 8 . Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2005, pp. 5390 ( behind a paywall: Gale Virtual Reference Library ).
  7. Conservative Judaism . In: J. Gordon Melton (Ed.): Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions . 8th edition. Gale, Detroit 2009, pp. 902–903 ( behind a paywall: Gale Virtual Reference Library ).
  8. David Golinkin, Michael Panitz: Conservative Judaism . In: Michael Berenbaum, Fred Skolnik (Ed.): Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd Edition. tape 5 . Macmillan Reference USA, Detroit 2007, pp. 171-177 ( online: Gale Virtual Reference Library ).
  9. ^ Masorti International
  10. ^ John S. Ruskay: Introduction . In: John S. Ruskay, David M. Szonyi (Eds.): Deepening The Commitment. Zionism and the Conservative / Masorti Movement. Papers from a conference of Conservative / Masorti Movement Leadership held September 7-8, 1988 at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City . Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York 1990, ISBN 0-87334-059-0 , pp. viif .
  11. Religious Diversity in Israel. Success for Reform Jews Livenet May 31, 2012
  12. Reform Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson: A New Vision of the Rabbinate . Zacharias Frankel College. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  13. ^ Opening of the Zacharias Frankel College . Masorti eV. Retrieved June 6, 2014.