Masorti Judaism is an egalitarian movement, which is fully committed to halakhah, Jewish law, being open to finding new answers to the new questions arising in the 21st century.
'Masorti Judaism' and 'Conservative Judaism' are two terms for one movement. 'Masorti' is the name used internationally to refer to this movement, and 'Conservative Judaism' is the name used in the United States.
Ideologically, the movement is located in the middle ground between Reform and Orthodoxy. In Germany, there is sometimes a confusion of terms, since people might use terms such as "liberal" or "progressive" to refer to everything which is not Orthodox.
The following chart traces the development and dissemination of Masorti organizations all over the world, listed by country or region.
Germany before 1938
What we call Masorti today has started in 1854 in Germany with the foundation of the Jewish-Theological
Seminary in Breslau by Rabbi Zechariah Fraenkel. He was the creator of the so-called "positive historical Judaism".
This was not a specific movement in German Jewry, but was considered mainstream. Approximately 250 Rabbis that had
been ordained in Breslau before the destruction of the Seminary in 1939, had been
officiating in many different synagogues all over Germany. Many of them emigrated after 1933
and did officiate in synagogues all over the world.
United States of America
The day the Jewish Theological Seminary opened its doors in New York in 1886 was the founding day of the "Conservative Movement". The new movement established its own liturgical content and positions as well as institutional identity. In so doing, it clearly distinguished itself from other movements. Today, app. 40% of affiliated Jews belong to a Conservative Synagogue.
In the past 40 years, Masorti made its way into many regions of the world, including Latin America. Rabbi Marshall Meyer founded the Seminario Rabbinico in Argentina in 1962. Many congregations all over the continent do affiliate with Masorti.
In the early days, many American emigrants to Israel were Conservative, but belonged to the most convenient synagogue if they were religious. It was not until the 1970's that people felt a need to establish and institutionalize Masorti as a specific religious movement. The founding of TALI-Kindergartens and other schools was followed by that of the "Tenua Masoratit" in 1979.
At first, individual communities emerged in Europe, in the United Kingdom andin the 1960's and in 1989 in France.
In 2006, the European Region of Masorti Olami was officially established. Please refer to the
Masorti Europe website for more information.
Hungary is a unique case in its continuity. It is the only European Country where the structures have remained in place from before the war. Neologue Judaism became known with the foundation of the Rabbinical Seminary in 1877 and still shapes Jewish life. For a few years now, Hungary has its own Masorti community Dor Hadas.
The international structure of Masorti/Conservative Judaism
There are many institutions within the international Masorti movement. The most important ones are listed below. If you need assistance in order to be in touch with one of the following institutions or programs, we will be glad to help.
International Masorti Organizations
Masorti Olami - The World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues is the international organization responsible for Masorti communities. The headquarters are in Jerusalem, there is also a small office in New York. Regional offices in Latin America (Buenos Aires) and Europe (London) are developing. On the Masorti Olami website, you can find all international Masorti communities.
The Rabbinical Assembly is the International Association of Masorti rabbis. Headquartered in New York (3080 Broadway), it represents roughly 1600 members, 200 of whom are women. There are currently 23 regions, including Latin America, Israel, Canada and Europe. The main focus of the Assembly is professional development and support. Its activities foster valuable networks and intellectual exchange and include trainings and seminars. Additionally, the Rabbinical Assembly provides support through the development of materials for rabbinical work and connects Rabbis with communities through its Placement Commission.
The Rabbinical Assembly's new publishing house, Aviv Press, and the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which is mainly responsible for the development of Masorti Halakhah, are especially important. You can find Responsa on many halakhic questions on their website. The Israeli Region of the Rabbinical Assembly has its own committee on Halakha, the Vaad ha-Halacha. To find the Responsa, click here for Hebrew and here for English.
The Cantors' Assembly is the International Association of Masorti Cantors. It also publishes materials, especially sheet music and tapes for services and classes.
Mercaz Olami is the zionist organisation of Masorti. Mercaz Olami is based in Israel. To find our more about Mercaz in Germany, please click here.
Regional Masorti Organizations
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is the association of the conservative communities in the USA. We especially recommend their publications.
The United Synagogue has founded The Fuchsberg Center, an educational Center in Israel. The activities and educational offerings of the Fuchsberg Center, e.g. the Conservative Yeshiva, are mainly for foreign visitors to Israel.
The Tnua Masoratit is the association of Masorti communities in Israel.
In 2006, "Masorti Europe" has been founded as a Region of Masorti Olami.
National Masorti organisation do exist in the UK, France, Spain and Germany.
Masorti Youth Organizations
NOAM is the organization of Masorti (Conservative) children and teenagers (10 to 18) offering activities such as shabbatonim, trips and summer camps. NOAM activities function within the framework of local congregations or national bodies, e.g. Israel, France, UK and USA, where it is called USY.
Since the end of 2014, there are Noam activities in Berlin in cooperation with the Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue.
MAROM is the organization of Masorti (Conservative) students and young adults (18-30+) who come together for study, seminars, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, as well as for cultural and religious events. The international offices of Marom Olami are part of Masorti Olami in Jerusalem. The Marom organizations in individual countries work independently, but are cooperating intensively.
In Europe, there are strong MAROM organizations in the UK and Hungary.
Summer camps, called Machane Ramah are crucial to the work with students and young adults. A Camp Ramah is often the first time that young people, especially those from smaller communities, experience a Jewish environment with other youngsters.
The Machanot in different countries share the common view that in an observant surrounding the youngsters can explore their own Judaism, learn together and feel that it is normal and fun to be Jewish.
There are Machanot in the US, in Israel, in Ukraine, in Great Britain and France. Masorti Germany is cooperating with different Machanot, especially regarding training of the Madrichim. If you are interested please send us an email!
Rabbinical Seminaries and Universities
The academic institutions of Masorti often began as Rabbinical Seminaries, quickly adding programs for teachers and cantors. Nowadays, they often have large departments for adult education and are important intellectual centers with impact on the communities. Various other Masorti institutions are frequently housed under the same roof.
In contrast to other educational institutions that are open for everyone interested, Rabbinical Seminaries are ideologically binding. The decision to become a Rabbi by studying in one of the Rabbinical Seminaries (see below) is also the decision to belong to one movement. You represent the movement with regards to content as well as by your life style, and become a member of the Rabbinical Assembly (the international association of Masorti Rabbis, see above) after graduating.
Generally, rabbinical studies are 5-year full-time programmes based on a B.A. degree, often students get a M.A. degree at the same time. After graduating, students receive the Smicha (ordination) directly from the Rabbinical Seminary.
It is part of the Programme of all Rabbinical Seminaries to study in Israel at the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary for at least one year. The Schechter Institute becomes an international meeting point for students from around the world.
The Zacharias Frankel College in Potsdam is training Masorti Rabbis since 2014 in cooperation with Potsdam University, the Abraham Geiger Kolleg and under the roof of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in LA
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) is located in New York and was established 1886.
The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles was first established as a branch of the JTS. It now is an independent institution where you can study until ordination.
The Seminario Rabinico in Buenos Aires was established in 1961. Rabbinical students from all over Latin America start their studies here. They spend their last two years at the Schechster Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem is the University for Israeli Masorti Rabbis and for students from all over the world.
The Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest was founded in 1877. It was closely linked to the Breslau Seminary through ideology and staff. Its 'Neologue Judaism' formed the mainstream movement of Hungarian Judaism. Except for a small hiatus during the Shoah, the Seminary has trained Rabbis and Teachers. For a long time, this Seminary was the only place to educate Rabbis in the whole Eastern Block.