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The Birth of Conservative JudaismSolomon Schechter's Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement$
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Michael Cohen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156356

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156356.001.0001

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The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority

The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority

(p.44) 2 The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority
The Birth of Conservative Judaism

Michael R. Cohen

Columbia University Press

This chapter describes Solomon Schechter's efforts to turn his vision of a united American Jewry into reality. In 1912 Schechter was resigned to the fact that his vision for American Judaism was failing, with only a handful of congregations receptive to his message. Faced with the realization that he could not implement his vision on his own, he turned to his disciples. Initially, they worked closely with congregational lay leaders whom they felt might be receptive to Schechter's message. But it soon became clear that this unorganized and haphazard approach was bearing little fruit. Hoping to create a more effective system, Schechter's disciples pressed their teacher to create the United Synagogue of America, which would allow them to coordinate their efforts on a national scale. Schechter supported this idea, provided that the organization welcomed all disciples, regardless of their differences. Already aware of a vague group consciousness, the disciples heeded Schechter's call to work together, and this internal unity was institutionalized through the United Synagogue's inclusive leadership structure. That leadership structure remained in place after Schechter's death, and the group consciousness strengthened, sustaining the internal unity upon which Schechter had insisted.

Keywords:   Solomon Schechter, rabbis, synagogues, American Jews, Jewry, Conservative Judaism, United Synagogue of America, disciples, group consciousness

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