Last updated on: 6/25/2008 4:59:00 PM PST
What Is Conservative Judaism?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Dilip Hiro, MA, author and journalist, in the 2003 edition of The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:

"Conservative Judaism, founded in 1845 in Germany, lies somewhere between Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism. While remaining faithful to the basic features of traditional Judaism, it accepts a certain adjustment of religious practices to suit the modern age. It considers the Jewish religion, culture, and national identity as an integral whole. It regards the Sabbath as sacred, respects the dietary injunctions, encourages the learning of Hebrew, and backs the secular Zionist movement... An estimated 48 percent of the world's Jews are followers of Conservative Judaism or Reform Judaism."

2003 - Dilip Hiro, MA 

Ismar Schorsch, PhD, Chancellor Emeritus of the Jewish Theological Seminary, in a document posted to the Jewish Theological Seminary website (accessed May 1, 2007) titled "The Sacred Cluster," wrote:

"The 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) found that 26% of American Jews identify themselves as Conservative, including 33% of those who belong to a synagogue. There are approximately 750 Conservative synagogues in the world today."

May 1, 2007 - Ismar Schorsch, PhD 

The Jewish Virtual Library, on the "Conservative Judaism" page of its website (accessed July 17, 2006), contained the following explanation:

"The name derives from the idea that the movement would be necessary to conserve Jewish traditions in the U.S., a culture in which Reform and Orthodoxy were not believed to be viable. Conservative Judaism attempts to combine a positive attitude toward modern culture, acceptance of critical secular scholarship regarding Judaism's sacred texts and commitment to Jewish observance. Conservative Judaism believes that scholarly study of Jewish texts indicates that Judaism has constantly been evolving to meet the needs of the Jewish people in varying circumstances, and that a central halachic authority can continue the halachic evolution today.

Conservative Judaism affirms that the halachic process reflects the Divine will. It makes use of Solomon Schechter's concept of Klal Yisrael (the whole of the [observant] Jewish community), in that decisions on Jewish Law are largely determined by the practices of Klal Yisrael.

In Conservative Judaism, the central halachic authority of the movement, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS), will often set out more than one acceptable position. The CJLS speaks for the Conservative movement and offers parameters to guide local rabbis who turn to it for assistance. Although rabbis mostly adhere to the CJLS, they have the ability to make their own halchic decisions when appropriate."

July 17, 2006 - Jewish Virtual Library  

Judaism 101, an online encyclopedia of Judaism, on its website (accessed July 17, 2006), offered the following description:

"Conservative Judaism is best understood as a sacred cluster of core values. No single propositional statement comes close to identifying its center of gravity. Nor does Conservative Judaism occupy the center of the contemporary religious spectrum because it is an arbitrary and facile composite of what may be found on the left or the right. On the contrary, its location flows from an organic and coherent world view best captured in terms of core values of relatively equal worth.

There are seven such core values, to my mind, that imprint Conservative Judaism with a principled receptivity to modernity balanced by a deep reverence for tradition. 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 dual nature of Judaism as polity and piety, a world religion that never transcended its national origins, is unified by God. In sum, a total of seven core values corresponding to the most basic number in Judaism's construction of reality.

  • The Centrality of Modern Israel
  • Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression
  • Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael
  • The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism
  • The Study of Torah
  • The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha
  • Belief in God"

  • July 17, 2006 - Judaism 101 (Online Encyclopedia of Judaism)