Conservative Judaism: An American Religious Movement, by Marshall Sklare
Conservative Judaism is a work of the highest distinction, both as a study of American Jewish life and as a contribution to contemporary American sociology. In both these fields, ignorance, pretension, and bad writing have been so much in evidence that I feel it my first duty as a reviewer simply to say how good Marshall Sklare’s book is.
The author’s subject is that middle group of the three large denominations into which American Judaism is divided. In the public mind, Conservative Judaism is associated primarily with the Jewish Theological Seminary and the United Synagogue of America. Both these organizations, however, play a very small role in Mr. Sklare’s account. He begins with the story of the founding of the individual congregations: the local groups of Jews of East European origin, under no authority (except that of the traditional Jewish religion), who after twenty or thirty years of settlement in this country, and after reaching a moderate degree of prosperity, found the services of the Orthodox synagogue and the demands of the Orthodox rabbis too rigorous. While they were attracted by the prestige of the Reform temple, they were either not quite comfortable in it socially, or felt that the service was too foreign. Starting for the most part in the years after the First World War, they created a modified Orthodoxy that eventually became Conservative Judaism, today perhaps the most vigorous and thriving of the three Jewish denominations.
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