Basic Ideals of Conservative Judaism

Conservative Jews tend to respect many Jewish laws, like keeping kosher, observing Shabbat and other religious holidays, and performing daily prayers. At the same time, they agree with the Reform movement that halakhah has its basis in history and therefore needs to be reconsidered in each age.

Conservative rabbis ruled that when Jews live too far from a synagogue, they can drive there (but they encouraged walking when possible), and some wines and cheeses that were ruled kosher for Conservatives have not been accepted by Orthodox Jews.

The Conservative Judaism movement (which is often called Historical Judaism in Europe, and is called Masorti in Israel) harkens back to the fable of the Three Bears, in which Goldilocks said, “That one was too soft, that one was too hard, but this one is just right!”

Since the late 19th century, many Jews have felt that the Reform movement went too far in its rejection of traditional observance, but also that Orthodox communities were unrealistic in their restrictions regarding modern life.

Conservative synagogues have sometimes been perceived as being inconsistent on Jewish legal issues. Some people have accused Conservative Jews of hypocrisy because their rabbis appear to tend toward Orthodox practices while the congregants appear to tend toward Reform practices. However, many Conservative congregations are virtually indistinguishable from Modern Orthodox groups, so you just can’t tell without walking in, sitting down, and seeing for yourself.

Conservative Judaism flourished during the 20th century and was, for a long time, the largest Jewish movement in the United States. However, some reports indicate that its size has been shrinking in recent years as many Conservative. Jews find themselves increasingly drawn to Reform, Renewal, or Orthodox congregations.

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