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sloam

Masorti

The Masorti movement is the name given to Conservative Judaism in the State of Israel. It is also the name used by many Conservative Jews for their movement outside of the U.S. Masorti means "traditional" in Hebrew. It must not be confused with the large part of Israeli Jews (25% to 50% depending on definitions) who define themselves as "masorati" - meaning religiously "traditional" and at least nominally Orthodox.

Masorti Judaism in Israel

Conservative Judaism had begun to make its presence known in Israel before the 1960s. Today, there are over 40 congregations with over 12,000 affiliates. In 1962 The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) began creating Neve Schechter, the university's Jerusalem campus. This center houses the Schocken Center for Jewish Research, and the Saul Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research. In 1975 a new rabbinical school curriculum instituted a year of study in Israel as a requirement for every rabbinical student in JTS and the University of Judaism's rabbinical seminary.

In 1979 JTS Chancellor Gerson Cohen announced the creation of the Masorti ("Traditional") movement as Israel's own indigenous Conservative movement, with its own executive director, board and executive committee.

The Masorti movement created MERCAZ, a Zionist party within the structure of the World Zionist Organization. The Conservative movement is thus officially represented in the centers of decision making within the Zionist movement. The Masorti movement sponsors youth groups, an overnight camp, a system of day camps, Kibbutz Hanaton and its Education Center and Moshav Shorashim, and special programs teaching new Russian and Ethiopian olim (immigrants) basic Judaism. It is involved in many issues promoting the legitimate rights of non-observant, traditional Jews.

MERCAZ is the Zionist organization of the Conservative Movement, and represents Conservative/Masorti Jews the world over. Its goals include pressing for religious pluralism, working for an equitable distribution of funding from the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Conservative Zionist programs in Israel and America, promoting civil rights in Israel for all people, encouraging electoral reform in Israel, and opposing any change in "Who Is a Jew?" and "Law of Return".

MERCAZ is a member of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel, both of which have been designated by the Knesset as channels of communication and influence between Diaspora Jewry and the government of Israel. Through these institutions MERCAZ works with on issues such as aliyah and absorption, education, young leadership, and community affairs.

The Masorti movement in Israel adopts positions on subjects of Jewish Law independent of the Conservative movement in the United States, and the two movements sometimes take different positions. The Masorti movement is sometimes somewhat more traditional than the U.S. Conservative movement and has not accepted a number of the U.S. movement's leniencies. For example, the Masorti movement in Israel rejected a decision by the Conservative movement in the United States permitting Jews living far from synagogues to drive to synagogue on Shabbat.

For eight years up to late 2005 the president of the movement was Rabbi Ehud Bandel.

There is a "Conservative Yeshivah" in Jerusalem, but this belongs to the American Conservative movement and not to the Israeli Masorti movement.

Masorti Judaism in the UK

In Britain today, the Masorti movement has twelve congregations, all of which are affiliated to the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues. The first congregation, the New London Synagogue was established on 29 August 1964. The main difference between the Orthodox Jews of Britain and the newly founded Masorti movement was and still is a theological one: it concerns the authority of the Torah. In 1957, Rabbi Louis Jacobs, then lecturer at the Jews' College, London; published his book "We Have Reason to Believe", in which he said:
The Torah did not drop down as a package from heaven, but is an ongoing relationship with the people of Israel. It is a product of many generations of reflection on what is meant by God's word.

While Jacobs and Oliver Sloam found that statement to be compatible with Orthodox Judaism, the Chief Rabbi condemned his views as denial of the divine origin of the Torah. Jacobs was rejected for the principalship of the Jews' College and subsequently from the United Synagogue rabbinate. Jacobs then founded the New London Synagogue, where he remained as rabbi until his retirement in 1995.

Rabbi Chaim Weiner succeeded Louis Jacobs as head of the New London Synagogue, but when Weiner was appointed head of the new European Masorti Beth Din in 2005, Jacobs returned. Rabbi Dr Reuven Hammer served as interim Rabbi of New London Synagogue until Rabbi Jeremy Gordon was appointed in January 2008. The largest Masorti community in the UK is the New North London Synagogue (with 2400 members), served by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

As with the North American Conservative movement, individual synagogues can choose to adopt traditional or egalitarian approaches to women's prayer roles. While approximately 90% of American Conservative synagogues have adopted fully egalitarian practices, most British Masorti synagogues have retained a more traditional approach. No female rabbi has served in a British Masorti synagogue. Although women chazanot (cantors) are common in North American Conservative synagogues, in 2006, Jaclyn Chernett became the first woman in the UK to be ordained as a chazan (cantor) in the British Masorti movement. She serves as chazanah at Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue in Edgware, North West London.

Noam, the Zionist Youth Movement of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, is amongst the most successful Jewish Youth organisations in the UK. It is the fastest growing Jewish youth movement, and in 2008 celebrates its 20th Birthday.

Masorti Judaism in Australia

Since 1992 Conservative (Masorti) services have been held as an alternative service usually in the Neuweg, the smaller second synagogue within Temple Emanuel, Woolahra, Sydney.

In 1999, Kehilat Nitzan, Melbourne's first Conservative (Masorti) Congregation was established, with foundation president Prof John Rosenberg. The congregation appointed its first rabbi, Rabbi Ehud Bandel in 2006. Currently services are held in B'nai B'rith House, East St Kilda. Plans were announced in December 2007 to erect a synagogue building in Caulfield. In 2007 the congregation had approximately 150 families, with 500 attending High Holiday services. Kehilat Nitzan is affiliated with Masorti Olami, the World Council of Conservative Congregations.

Masorti Judaism in the Netherlands

In 2004, Masorti Judaism was introduced in the Netherlands by the founding of a Traditional/non-Egalitarian Masorti community in the city of Almere. The community was created by a secession from the Orthodox (NIK) community of Almere. Mr. Bernhard Cohen is currently Honorary President and founder of the community. Rabbi Chaim Weiner (Masorti UK) provides long-distance communal supervision. In 2005, the community had some 75 members, and continues to grow in numbers.

Masorti Olami (World Masorti)

Also known as the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues, Masorti Olami provides services to affiliated kehillot (communities) on five continents. Services include sending visiting rabbis to communities, and providing programming support. In many of these communities there are chapter of NOAM (NOar Masorti) youth groups and Marom, groups for young adults. Masorti Judaism is known to have communities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States. Headquarters are based in Jerusalem and New York City.

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