Conservative Judaism Looking for a New Name


masortiWhat’s in a name? Lately, that age-old question has become a burning issue for leaders of Conservative Judaism. Once the largest of American Judaism’s denominational streams, the movement today faces declining membership, financial difficulties and confusion about what it stands for. The confusion is in part a result of lost distinctions as Conservative Judaism has joined Reform in adopting egalitarian practices and accepting women and toeivah Jews as rabbis.At a July 22 meeting with Forward editors and reporters, Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, which has long been regarded as Conservative Judaism’s flagship academic center, acknowledged that the movement’s name is now being debated, along with much else, among its leaders.

“I’m open to it. I’m open to it,” Eisen told the journalists when asked about the possibility of a name change.

Leaders of Conservative-affiliated organizations want to find a name that will better capture what they want the movement to represent, he said.

“The leading candidate right now, I think, is just to go with the name ‘Masorti,’ which captures things better than the word ‘Conservative’ captures them. So I am open to suggestions; I am open to a name change,” Eisen said.

Masorti, the Hebrew word for “traditional,” is how Conservative Judaism is known outside North America. But in a country as deeply resistant to unknown foreign coinages as America is, would the word communicate a meaningful message to its intended audiences, both Jewish and non-Jewish?

The Forward newspaper decided to solicit suggestions from a wide range of people as to what new name they think the Conservative movement ought to adopt, if any. The responses ranged from the comic to the cosmic.

“It should be called the ‘I Eat Treyf Outside the House’ movement,” said comedian Judy Gold, speaking for the comic end of the spectrum. Gold, who belongs to a Conservative synagogue in Manhattan, said that the denomination “is definitely suffering frommiddle-child syndrome” as it struggles to restore vitality to the space between Reform and Orthodox.

Read more at the Forward.


  1. Someone once said, “what’s in a name?”

    “The space between Reform and Orthodox” is an ever-widening chasm, and cannot be filled by any movement, certainly not a stale, identity- crisis-stricken movement like Conservative, or Masorti, or whatever they want to call themselves.

    The hamon am of tinokos shenishbu are becoming smarter, and realizing the truth of someone else who said, “we’ve been robbed!”

  2. What a surprise….that they are confused!When you deviate from the path of Torah and make up rules for yourself,when you pick and choose what you want to add or detract from the Mesoira….there you have it….CONFUSION.

  3. how about:
    The Reshoim Movement
    The Kofrim Movement
    The Self-Haters Movement
    The Gehinom-Goers Movement

    let’s hear some move suggestions…

  4. Perhaps you might acquaint yourselves with the concept of ‘tinok she’nishba’, and consider that most Conservative and Reform Jews know very little, and so did not make informed decisions to ‘sin’. You might also want to remember what the word ‘cheit’ actually means.

    Do you really think that your comments will encourage anyone to do mitzvot, or are they ‘michshol lifnei eever’?

  5. You can call it what you want, but before long it will cease to exist. The more liberal among them will cast off what little of the Torah the observe and join the “reform”.

    The more traditional will join the MO and tolerate separate seating, you notice I did not say a mechitza, for the couple of hours a week or year they attend synagogue.

    If the leaders of the MO would concentrate more on Orthodox and less on Modern we could have a hughe segment of Klal Yisroel brought back to their roots, IY”H.

    This could be a huge opportunity for the Torah community to show these tenakos shenishbau the beauty of the “Mayaan Shel Torah” and ignore their “streams.”

  6. I am more concerned about the tone of the comments than about the issue itself. This is not a victory to gloat. This is a tragedy for all of us. How many Jews have been lost because the Conservative movement could not pass on it’s ideals to the next generation. Those that remain are seeking a religion that combinds a commitment to the traditions of Judaism with the highest aspirations of worldly involvement.
    This is not the time to pat ourselves on our backs for a job well done. This a time to look into ourselves and ask what is it about our mode of practice that they reject and can not de drawn to . This is an opportunity to educate, be educated and build bridges.

  7. The Reshoim Movement
    The Kofrim Movement
    The Self-Haters Movement
    The Gehinom-Goers Movement

    Are you serious? Reshaim? Most people who are conservative are such from birth and we regard them as tinokos she nishbau. It would be nice to be mekarev them and show them the way of the torah and I think that calling them names like “reshaim” and “self haters” will push them even further away. We should be like Hillel and bring them back with love not scorn.

  8. JUst a little insight for your readers:
    The original Reform movement thought it was doing something good by offering German Jews—who had the option to abandon the faith altogether and live a completely secular, German life—a version of Judaism that would speak to them in the modern age, keep them Jewish, etc. They went off the deep end pretty quickly, we can all agree, and it’s only now that the majority of them realize that and they now seek more ritual observance in their lives. Kosher food—however they understand the term, but they call it kosher— is served at functions of HUC-JIR in New York City. That was unthinkable after the Pittsburgh Platform of the late 1800’s.
    Conservative Judaism entered the fray as the Historical-Positive School as an attempt to retain ritual abandoned by the nascent Reform movement. Yes, that’s right: they thought they were conserving and saving Judaism from a Reform movement that had no use whatsoever for Torah law and mitzvos observance, and an obsolete Orthodoxy that they considered not with the current times. They had good intentions, perhaps, but with Orthodoxy refusing to grant them an inch of recognition, Conservative has had no choice but to team up with that other pariah group we have demonized to death: Reform. So today, many Conservative Jews find themselves agreeing with much of the Reform movement’s “tikkun olam” and “prophetic Judaism” ideals and wonder why they’re doing the few rituals they do. So they’re bailing. Can we bring them back to Orthodoxy? I doubt it, based upon the comments above.

  9. It is so unfortunate. In about 2-3 generations none of them is going to be jewish. Worst then Holocaust; and they are doing it to themselves.
    How to wake them up? Kiruv dos not work as good as expected.

  10. It would be better if they at least selected the more grammatically correct “Mesorati” as opposed to something that souunds like an air force combat mission.

  11. This is truely a movement that exsists to serve it’s leaders. If they knew what they stood for then there would be no problems and if people no longer believe in them then they are no longer a movement.

  12. Since Conservative Movement is NOT conservative and Masorati is NOT traditional in any way, I would suggest they call it what it is: The Liberal Social Change Jewish-Style Movement.

  13. L’maaseh, its a big nebach. Most of them are tinikos shenishbiu and simply don’t know better. We have to do what we can to guide them, at the least by supporting the organizations that actively reach out th them such as Oorah, Shalom torah centers to name a few. Of course the movement is worthy of ridicule, but as to the individuals, They are our wayward brothers who we wish would come closer to our Father in Heaven.

  14. This is not a time to gloat. This is not a victory to celebrate. Rather than calling our fellow Jews by awful names it’s time to open our hearts and to listen to them while we educate and build bridges.

  15. All of you are so self righteous. These are not stupid people. Why not find out what it is about your practice of Judaism that they reject. If your means of practice is so perfect why is it not evident to others?

  16. To Comment 15 Shmuel:

    Your historical perspective actually creates a perfect opportunity. Is it possible to have an Orthodoxy with all of the ritual ad yet focuses on Tikkun Olam and prophetic Judaism.
    Maybe that is something to strive for and use as a benchmark

  17. Those braying tinok shenisba must differentiate between the regulars and the leaders. The leaders are more like masis umeidiach. And an adult exposed to the truth but unable to escape his childhood upbringing ( downbringing?) may not fit the parameter.