Continuing the series on North American Jewish denominations which we began in February with the Reform Movement, this month's Reader's Guide presents publications on Conservative/Masorti Judaism. This Guide brings into sharp focus the many contemporary challenges to the Conservative movement, as well as illuminating its many points of strength. Indeed, the Conservative movement constitutes a massive enterprise in Jewish collective endeavor. Today's Conservative movement embraces a complex and diversified institutional system of kehillot, camps, institutions of higher learning, youth groups, day schools, supplementary schools, pre-schools, publications, mens' and women' organizations, clergy and professional associations, Israel-based institutions, and a string of independent endeavors that may be seen as "neo-Conservative."
Over the years, both the Reform and Conservative movements have experienced declines in the number of affiliated Jews. At the same time, both have managed to create sizable and vibrant elites, in part through powerful high-quality Jewish summer camping -- Camp Ramah in the case of the Conservative movement and Reform's URJ camps. Both movements have undertaken significant changes in the leadership and strategic directions of their congregational bodies (USCJ and URJ). And both are operating in an American environment which has proven less hospitable to religious denominations and fixed identities of all sorts.
In many ways, the future of the Conservative movement (and its denominational counterparts) will heavily influence the future of Judaism in North America. This Guide offers an opening to further exploring and understanding Conservative Judaism today.
"For the success of this work of Americanizing and educating the immigrant," writes Rabbi Henry Cohen, "one thing is essential. You must go to him first in a friendly and democratic way in his own language."