For the Israeli term for "Tradition Keeper" or "Traditionalist" non-Orthodox observance, see Shomer Masoret (also known as Masorati).
Logo of the Masorti Movement in Israel.

The Masorti Movement is the name given to Conservative Judaism in Israel and other countries outside Canada and U.S. Masorti means "traditional" in Hebrew. 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" but do not wish to be labelled as Orthodox.



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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. 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.

For eight years up to late 2005 the president of the movement was Rabbi Ehud Bandel.[citation needed][1][2]

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

United Kingdom

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" (Edited by Laurence Kogan), 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 and Oliver Sloam 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. 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.

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.


Emanuel Synagogue is the birthplace of the Masorti movement in Australia.

Originally established as a Reform synagogue in 1938 (then called Temple Emanuel)  Emanuel Synagogue is now a very large, explicitly pluralist congregation affiliated to Masorti Olami as well as the Progressive and Renewal movements.

Masorti, Progressive and Renewal services are all provided.  Members attend the service of their choice and join together as one community for the purposes of meals, education programs and other joint activities including the governance of the congregation.

The Masorti minyan originally came together in the early 1990s as a small group of laypeople meeting for a regular Monday morning service under the guidance of Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins.  After some debate, it was agreed to adopt a Masorti form of service, using the siddur Sim Shalom.  Thus  the first Masorti service in Australia came into being.

Over time, under Rabbi Kamins' leadership, this small beginning developed into a full range of services including Shabbat, Festivals and Monday and Thursday mornings.  High Holy Day services of masorti@emanuel can attract between 600 and 700 participants.  Rabbi Kamins chose to change his rabbinical affiliation to the Rabbinical Assembly and in time became the Senior Rabbi of the congregation.

masorti@emanuel has gradually become a more clearly articulated stream within the Emanuel Synagogue and is a growing part of its membership.  As part of this growth, there was a change of name from Temple Emanuel to Emanuel Synagogue,  from a Progressive to an explicitly pluralist congregation.

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.The refurbishment and partial reconstruction of a building in Caulfield to serve as the first Conservative Synagogue building in Australia is advanced, completion being anticipated during 2010.[3] 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.[4]

In 2010 Beit Knesset Shalom became Brisbane's first Conservative (Masorti) Congregation. Beit Knessett Shalom was initially established as a Liberal Congregation in the 1970s, and later affiliated to the Union for Progressive Judaism.


In 2004, Masorti Judaism was introduced in the Netherlands by the founding of a Traditional/non-Egalitarian Masorti community in the city of Almere. Its synagogue is situated in the city of Weesp. 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), 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 numbers.


In 2010 there was only one synagogue formally linked with Masorti Olami - Dor Chadash in Budapest.[5] However there are Neolog[6] congregations in Hungary which are strikingly similar to Masorti synagogues, for instance Bét Salom Zsinagóga with Rabbi Zoltán Radnóti[7] who trained in the Neolog seminary in Budapest. In this synagogue, there is an upstairs tier reserved for women, who also at their option sit downstairs. Women participate in the service and bimah activities but are not called up to read from the Torah. Other Neolog synagogues such as the well-known Dohány Street Synagogue,[8] in Budapest are of a different character.

Masorti Olami

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 Kingsom 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.

See also


  1. ^ Kehilat Nitzan Newletter No 38 December 2007
  2. ^ "CASH-STRAPPED CONSERVATIVES LET GO HEAD OF ISRAELI MOVEMENT" by Chanan Tigay with Dina Kraft, JTA, June 28, 2005
  3. ^
  4. ^ untitled
  5. ^ Dor Chadash Synagogue website
  6. ^ Neolog Judaism
  7. ^ Bét Salom Zsinagóga (English)
  8. ^ Dohány Street Synagogue

External links

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