Conservative Judaism attempts to follow the sacred Jewish teachings of the past while affirming openness to evolution of thought and practice. Conservative scholars and rabbis retain a deep commitment to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and subsequent Jewish teachings. Coupled with reverence for tradition is an acknowledgment that throughout history Judaism has continuously evolved to meet the changing religious needs of its community, and it should continue to do such. To that end, Conservative Judaism maintains the importance of traditional observance of Shabbat (The Sabbath), kashrut (dietary laws), and prayer, while incorporating more modern principles such as the equality of women. Like our coreligionists, Conservative Jews maintain a deep commitment to Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people, and Israel, their eternal homeland. In North America, Conservative Judaism, along with Reform Judaism and Orthodoxy, represent the three major Jewish movements. While attempts to cultivate the movement abroad, particularly in Israel, are making progress, Conservative Judaism is most popular in America.
UNDERSTANDING OF GOD
Conservative Judaism affirms the existence of God and the centrality of God in Judaism but does not dictate theological dogmatism. Within the movement there is an acknowledgment that different life and spiritual experiences lead to different understandings of the divine. For example, many believe in a supernatural God that created the world and continues to exercise control over it. Others believe that God created the world and that, by gradually withdrawing from the world's affairs, God presents humanity with an opportunity to partner in creation by improving the condition of the world. A smaller group holds that the actual presence/existence of God is in a part a result of our experiences and conceptions of the divine.
Conservative Judaism celebrates its theological diversity. Consistent with the sacred texts (including the Bible and the Talmud), which present widely distinct and nuanced understandings of God, Conservative Judaism continues to explore the nature of God.
UNDERSTANDING OF THE JEWISH MISSION
Conservative Judaism affirms the Jewish people's special responsibility to advocate on behalf of those who are treated unjustly or marginalized by society. This responsibility defines their selection as the "chosen people." The Jewish people can only fulfill their special role by continuously seeking the creation of compassionate societies that ensure the welfare of the weak along with the powerful. The Conservative movement, with Reform and Orthodoxy, consistently teach the importance of providing tzedakah (mandatory charitable contributions) and engaging in volunteerism. Only through these means will Jews help steer humanity towards this lofty world vision.
UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLE
Conservative Jews believe that the Torah (The Five Books of Moses) records their ancestors' understandings of how God created the world, interacted with humanity, and revealed Godself to the Israelite nation. The most critical and celebrated of these revelations occurred at Mount Sinai. The clear presence of the human hand in recording the Torah and subsequent biblical texts prompts Conservative Judaism to reject fundamentalism and biblical literalism. The recognition of the central role of humanity in the formation of the biblical text does not detract from its holiness. Rather, Conservative Judaism maintains that the attempt of the human authors of the Bible to capture an understanding of God's essence, character, and will serves as the ultimate expression of holiness-the attempt to locate and enter into relationship with the divine.
UNDERSTANDING OF JEWISH LAW (HALAKHAH)
Conservative Judaism believes that Jewish law provides a meaningful common expression for the Jewsih community. Compliance with the laws of Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest), holidays, prayer, and kashrut (eating practices), among other areas of Jewish law, provide a communal language, experience, and distinctly Jewish way of living. Conservative Judaism affirms that compliance with Jewish law provides the opportunity to transform every moment into a sacred encounter. The observance of Jewish law highlights the importance of God in our lives, and a sense of obligation to humanity.
As Conservative Judaism recognizes that halakhah (Jewish law) is binding, the movement also ensures that the law consistently engages the Jewish people by evolving to meet the needs of the contemporary Jew. Throughout Jewish history, legal authorities grappled and molded the law as to ensure that it fairly guided the community. Conservative Judaism embraces this spirit. While carefully weighing traditional opinions and views, significant change is possible in Conservative Judaism's legal rulings. The rulings are largely left to the rabbis, who combine an understanding of classical sources with an awareness of modern developments.
When issues arise in which the pulls of modernity and traditionalism compete, the movement carefully weighs all possibilities before issuing a ruling. Therefore, when considering more controversial issues, the Conservative movement is often slower to respond than the Reform movement, which encourages progressivism, and quicker than Orthodoxy, which generally frowns upon change.