- For the Israeli term for "Tradition Keeper" or "Traditionalist" non-Orthodox observance, see Shomer Masoret (also known as Masorati).
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The Masorti Movement is the name given to Conservative Judaism in Israel and other countries outside Canada and the U.S. Masorti means "traditional" in Hebrew. While it resembles the conservative branch of the Reform movement in Judaism (0.25% of Israeli Jews), it should not be confused with the large part of Israeli Jews (25% to 50% depending on definitions) who define themselves as "masorati" (or Shomer Masoret)—meaning religiously "traditional"—and support Orthodoxy as the mainstream Judaism.
The Masorti movement began in Australia as a minyan at Emanuel Synagogue in the early 1990s. masorti@emanuel now has its own services on Shabbat, festivals, Monday and Thursday mornings, and High Holy Days, and is a growing part of the synagogue's membership.
Kehilat Nitzan is Melbourne's first Conservative (Masorti) congregation, formed in 1999. It offers a full range of religious services, and programs for youth, young adults, and families. In 2013, the congregation moved into its own building in Caulfield, Victoria.
From 2010 there was only one synagogue formally linked with Masorti Olami - Dor Chadash in Budapest.This is a fully egalitarian minyan and most of its members are under the age 30. However, Hungary's old Neolog congregations share their roots with Conservative Judaism; both are derived from the Positive-Historical School, while they are not organizationally affiliated with each other. The Neologs, who introduced synagogue reforms such as organs and mixed choirs in the 19th century, retain gender separation and do not count women for quorums.
Conservative Judaism had begun to make its presence known in Israel before the 1960s. Today, there are almost 60 congregations with over 15,000 affiliates (about 0.25% of the jewish population). 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 JTS instituted a year of study in Israel as a requirement for every rabbinical student in JTS and the University of Judaism's (now the American Jewish University) 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 (Camp Ramah), Kibbutz Hannaton and the Hannaton Education Center, Moshav Shorashim, and special programs teaching new olim (immigrants) basic Judaism. It is involved in many issues promoting the legitimate rights of non-Orthodox 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.
There is a "Conservative Yeshiva" in Jerusalem, but this belongs to the American Conservative movement and not to the Israeli Masorti movement.
In 2004, Masorti Judaism was introduced into the Netherlands by the founding of a Traditional/non-Egalitarian Masorti community in the town of Almere. Its synagogue is situated in the nearby town of Weesp. The community was created by secession from Almere's Orthodox (NIK) community. Mr. Bernhard Cohen is currently its Honorary President and founder. Rabbi Chaim Weiner (Masorti UK), the first rabbi to provide long-distance communal supervision, was succeeded in 2009 by rabbi David Soetendorp. In 2005, the community had some 75 members, and continues to grow.
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 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 with Oliver Sloam 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. After Jacobs' death, 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, but in 2010 the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues appointed Rabbi Daniella Kolodny as its Community Development Coordinator. Although women chazaniyot (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 chazan at Kol Nefesh Masorti Synagogue in Edgware, North West London with Oliver Sloam as back up and chorister.
Noam, the Zionist Youth Movement of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, is amongst the most successful Jewish Youth organisations in the UK and celebrated its 25th birthday in 2013.
Masorti Olami (also known as The World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues) builds, renews and strengthens Jewish life throughout the world, with efforts that focus on existing and developing communities in Europe, Latin America, the Former Soviet Union, Africa, Asia and Australia. More than 135 kehillot (communities) are affiliated with Masorti Olami in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. All of its activities are conducted within the context of the overall Conservative/ Masorti movement, in close cooperation with its affiliated organizations in North America and Israel.
- Dor Chadash Synagogue website
- Kehilat Nitzan Newsletter No 38 December 2007
- "CASH-STRAPPED CONSERVATIVES LET GO HEAD OF ISRAELI MOVEMENT" by Chanan Tigay with Dina Kraft, JTA, June 28, 2005
- The Masorti Movement (in English)
- The Masorti Movement in Latinamerica (in Spanish)
- The Masorti Movement in Israel
- The Masorti Movement in the UK
- The Masorti Movement in France (in French)
- Masorti Olami
- The Masorti Movement in the Netherlands (in Dutch)
- Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano (in Spanish)
- MERCAZ USA
- Kehilat Nitzan Melbourne Australia
- Masorti Movement in Canada
- The Schocken Institute for Jewish Research
- Saul Lieberman Institute for Talmudic Research