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The Masorti movement is the name given to Conservative Judaism in Israel and other
countries outside Canada and United States. It is part of the Conservative movement.
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" - meaning religiously "traditional" and at least nominally Orthodox.
Conservative Judaism had begun to make its presence known in Israel before the 1960s.
Today, there are over 40 congregations with over 12,000 affiliates. In 1962 The Jewish
Theological Seminary of America (JTS) began creating Schechter Institute|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 new 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 movement as Israel's own indigenous Conservative movement,
with its own executive director, board and executive committee. The Masorti movement created
MERCAZ, a 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), Mercaz Shiluv educational center, Kibbutz Hanaton and its
Education Center, Ketura Ketura, and Moshav Shorashim, and special programs teaching new Russian
and Ethiopian Aliya|olim (immigrants) basic Conservative It is involved in many issues promoting
the legitimate rights of non-observant, traditional Jews. MERCAZ is the Zionist organization of
the Conservative Movement, and represents 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|Who Is a Jew?" and Law of return|"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 Halakha|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. Kehilat Nitzan Newletter No 38 December 2007] "CASH-STRAPPED CONSERVATIVES LET GO HEAD OF ISRAELI MOVEMENT" by Chanan Tigay with Dina Kraft, JTA, June 28, 2005] There is a "Conservative Yeshivah" in Jerusalem, but this belongs to the American Conservative movement and not to the Israeli Masorti movement.
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 and Oliver Sloam 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 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.