Religious : : Religious Committee Report
Conservative Judaism holds that the laws of Torah, Talmud and Rabbinic literature are binding on us as Jews and re- quires the following of halakhah (Jewish Law). The movement believes that G-d is real and G-d makes G-d’s will known to humanity through revelation; the revelation at Sinai was the clearest and most public of such divine revela- tions. Throughout Jewish history and continuing until today, there is a process of update and change for the laws of Torah and Talmud in keeping with different times and circumstances.
The principal founders of Conservative Judaism were Zecharia Frankel (1801-75) who founded the Jewish Theologi- cal Seminary of Breslau (Germany) in 1854 and Solomon Schechter (1849 -1915). The movement grew out of the ‘positive-historical’ study of Judaism; a continuation of religious study known in German as Wissenshaft.
Founded in 1886, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America became the flagship institution of the Conservative movement. The mass immigration of Jews to the USA from largely Orthodox backgrounds in the late 19th and early 20th century propelled the movement’s most dramatic growth period. They found comfort in the practice of Judaism that preserved much of the flavor of the Orthodoxy they were familiar with and placed it within America their new home.
After much deliberation, in 1983, the movement began ordaining women rabbis. In 1998, the movement’s updated prayer book, Sim Shalom, used by Temple Judea, contained an alternative Amidah text that includes the names of the matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah alongside the names of the patriarchs. Depending on one’s perspective, one of the movement’s most significant (or controversial) innovations was the circa 1950 ruling permitting worship- pers to drive to synagogue on Shabbos.
The outlook for the Conservative Movement is positive. While the overall number of Conservative Jews may decline, Conservative institutions like Ramah and Alonim summer camps, Schechter day schools, Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and others – work hard to build a dedicated core group with high levels of Jewish observance, engagement and literacy.
Sandy Shapiro and Arnold Miller, Co-Chairs