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Judaism / Orientations /
Conservative Judaism



Zacharias Franckel

Zacharias Franckel.

Orientation in Judaism, growing mainly out of Ashkenazi environments in Germany in the 19th century. Its orientation lies in the middle between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism.
The Conservative Jews claim that the long tradition of studying the religion is an indication that Judaism must be interpreted according to the context of the society and time. They allow some adjustments of Judaism to modern times and lifestyles, but is concerned about preserving the central values of Judaism. The sacredness of the Sabbath is preserved, The dietary laws are respected and observed, but modified compared to traditional Judaism, and they are conscious about learning Hebrew.
Still they see laws of the Torah and Talmud have divine origins, and hence that Jewish law must be the fundament of a Jew's life. But they also realize that there is human element to it, that there can be influences from other cultures.
They believe that the will of God has been revealed at numerous occasions, of which the one on top of Mount Sinai is the strongest and clearest. They believe also that revelations can happen today.
Conservative Judaism started with the German Jew Zacharias Franckel who protested against Reform Judaism, which he though went to far in modernizing the religion. He meant that elements of traditional Judaism had to be investigated, and that elements of the Written (Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament) and Oral Law (codified in the Mishnah and interpreted in the Talmud) that had been defined for a specific period of time should be reformed, but nothing more.
Conservative Judaism is not really a homogeneous orientation, but more of a theological coalition of several orientations. The same applies to rituals, where there also are different rules for the different schools.
The conservative movement is today very much occupied with whether or not new generations will live as true conservative Jews or not. The background for this concern is that many appear to believe that all they have to do is to belong to conservative synagogue, and not adhere the many regulations.
Conservative Judaism has also been active in politics, especially in the Zionist movement from the end of the 19th century.

History
1845: Conservative Judaism is founded in Germany by Zacharias Franckel after a series of Reform conferences. He thought of Reform Judaism as too drastic.
1985: Conservative Judaism starts ordaining women rabbis.




By Tore Kjeilen