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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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Deceptive Retrospect and the History of Conservative Judaism

(p.138) Conclusion
The Birth of Conservative Judaism

Michael R. Cohen

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the emergence of Conservative Judaism, created by a younger cadre of rabbis who had no personal relationship with Schechter. This new generation held a fundamentally different view of the movement than Schechter's disciples, and they redefined it in a way they hoped would distinguish it from Orthodoxy, allowing it to grow into the third movement in American Judaism. These rabbis mistakenly assumed the movement always intended to be a third movement, distinct from the others, and many believed Schechter's Catholic Israel had been an obstacle. To support this assertion, they went back in time to the German historical school and began to view Zacharias Frankel as the “founder” of their movement. By valuing Frankel over Schechter, this new generation created the myth that the Conservative movement always had clear boundaries and a distinct ideology that distinguished it from other movements, which was not the case at all.

Keywords:   Conservative Judaism, American Jews, disciples, religious movements, rabbis, Catholic Israel, Zacharias Frankel

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