The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter's Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement 9780231526777

Solomon Schechter (1847–1915), the charismatic leader of New York's Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), came to Amer

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The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter's Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement

Table of contents :
1. Solomon Schechter and the Charismatic Bond
2. The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority
3. A “Heretic,” a “Maverick,” and the Challenge to Inclusivity
4. On the Brink of Irrelevance
5. The Platform of Discipleship
6. A Task Left Unfinished
Conclusion: Deceptive Retrospect and the History of Conservative Judaism

Citation preview

The Birth of Conservative Judaism

Michael R. Cohen

The Birth of Conservative Judaism •

s ol omo n s c h e c h te r’ s d is c iple s an d th e c re ati o n o f a n a me r ic an re l i gi o us mov e me nt

Columbia University Press New York

Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York  Chichester, West Sussex Copyright © 2012 Columbia University Press All rights reserved Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cohen, Michael R. The birth of conservative Judaism : Solomon Schechter’s disciples and the creation of an American religious movement / Michael R. Cohen p.  cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-231-15635-6 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-231-52677-7 (e-book) 1. Conservative Judaism—United States—History.  2. Schechter, S. (Solomon), 1847–1915. I. Title BM197.5.C64 2012 296.8'3420973—dc23 2011025625

Casebound editions of Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 References to Internet Web sites (URLs) were accurate at the time of writing. Neither the author nor Columbia University Press is responsible for Web sites that may have expired or changed since the book was prepared.


Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction 1 1.  Solomon Schechter and the Charismatic Bond  15 2.  The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority  44 3.  A “Heretic,” a “Maverick,” and the Challenge to Inclusivity  69 4.  On the Brink of Irrelevance  85 5.  The Platform of Discipleship  101 6. A Task Left Unfinished  123 Conclusion:  Deceptive Retrospect and the History of Conservative Judaism  138 Epilogue 156 Abbreviations  165 Notes  167 Index  201



here are many colleagues whom I must thank, without whose guidance and assistance this work would not have been possible. First, I am particularly grateful to Jonathan D. Sarna, my teacher, colleague, and friend. Jonathan has helped to guide this project from its initial stages and has offered valuable feedback throughout the process—often on incredibly short notice. Despite the many hats he wears, he has always been available for help and advice and has offered comments on many drafts of this manuscript. I am also particularly indebted to Pamela S. Nadell, with whom I first began to discuss this work during a conference at Tulane University. Pam has also read several drafts of the manuscript, and her feedback has helped tremendously to shape my work. Jeffrey S. Gurock also gave generously of his time, and, with as thorough an understanding of the boundaries of American Orthodoxy as anybody, he helped me to situate my project within that framework. Special thanks are also due to Sylvia Barack Fishman, who offered fresh perspectives about the Conservative movement and its boundaries, as well as Douglas Cowan and Catherine Wessinger, who helped me to situate my work within the field of new religious movements. I am also very appreciative of the assistance of many other colleagues throughout this project. This work began to take shape while I was an undergraduate at Brown University and was inspired by the thoughtful questioning of Maud S. Mandel during an undergraduate seminar and later

viii  •  acknowledgments

while writing my honors thesis. My work continued to take shape as I discussed my ideas with Abraham J. Peck, and Sylvia Fuks-Fried encouraged me to clarify my thoughts during countless meetings, phone conversations, and e-mails. I am also thankful for the support of many other colleagues along the way. Karen Auerbach, Adam Mendelsohn, Simon Rabinovitch, and Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn offered useful comments and suggestions and have given of their time generously. Special thanks are also due to Adina Cimet-Singer, Phillip Hollander, Brian Horowitz, Antony Polonsky, Eugene Sheppard, and David Starr. My research also would not have been possible were it not for the wonderful hospitality at the archives in which I worked. I must begin by thanking Ellen Kastel of the Jewish Theological Seminary. I am tremendously grateful to her for her flexibility, advice, and support. Michelle Margolis and Itay Zutra also provided much assistance at JTS, and I am most grateful for their assistance. I am also very appreciative of Kevin Proffitt and the staff of the American Jewish Archives, Kim Tieger at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Adina Anflick at the American Jewish Historical Society. Dr. Herbert Rosenblum, himself a historian of the Conservative movement, granted me access to his personal collection, which contained invaluable documents and materials that were critical to this project. I also would like to thank Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat of Montréal for speaking with me about his colleague, Herman Abramowitz; Vivian Rous for sharing with me her memories and photographs of her father, Elias Solomon; Sanford Drob for sharing memories and the personal papers of his grandfather Max Drob; Richard Epstein for sharing with me his photographs of his great uncle Louis Epstein; and Aaron Reichel for speaking with me about his grandfather, Herbert S. Goldstein, and for granting me access to Goldstein’s personal papers. I must thank David Gordon, who became an integral part of this project at the end, providing me with invaluable research assistance and offering new interpretations of documents in my collection. I am also particularly indebted to Columbia University Press, especially Wendy Lochner, Christine Mortlock, and Susan Pensak, and I truly appreciate how their tremendous efforts helped to make this project a reality. The completion of this work was made possible by the generous financial support of many organizations. I want to thank Tulane University as well as the Jewish Studies Expansion Program, a project of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, with the support of the Foundation for Jewish Culture. I am also grateful to the Brandeis University Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, the Brandeis University Graduate School

acknowledgments  •  ix

of Arts and Sciences, the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the American Jewish Archives. Finally, I am extremely grateful to my family and friends, whose support has been immeasurable throughout this project. My parents, Marlene and Bernard, have encouraged me throughout, as they have throughout my life. My brother David also deserves special acknowledgment not only for his friendship but also for helping me to strengthen my argument and to clarify my thoughts. Shira Bergman has become such an important part of my life and has been tremendously supportive of my work. I must thank Treasure and Richard Cohen, who graciously hosted me for weeks on end during my archival visits, and Judah M. Cohen, who also provided valuable guidance. My appreciation also goes out to Nancy and Leonard Nemon, who both introduced me to the exciting field of history at a very young age, and to my grandparents, Ida and William Cohen, for sparking my interest in Jewish history.

The Birth of Conservative Judaism



he American Jewish landscape at the dawn of the twenty-first century features three primary Jewish movements—Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform—a basic structure so entrenched in the American Jewish consciousness that one observer humorously suggested “most people seem to assume that God spoke to Moses at Sinai and decreed that there would be Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews.”1 While it should come as no surprise that this arrangement was not revealed at Sinai, the way in which it came to be has thus far eluded the grasp of observers and scholars alike. Of the three movements, Conservative Judaism is the newest and most challenging to define. While the Jew on the street today may perceive the movement to be at least a century old, the beginning of the twentieth century saw American Jewry loosely divided into two camps—Orthodox and Reform—and the term Conservative was vague and undefined. Over the first half of the twentieth century, however, Conservative Judaism took its place as the third movement in American Jewish life, and the goal of my work is to explain how this process occurred. By focusing my historical lens on the role of rabbis trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, I will demonstrate that members of a previously neglected group—Solomon Schechter’s disciples—were in fact the ones who created Conservative Judaism over the first half of the twentieth century.

2  •  introduction

I am by no means the first person to search for Conservative Judaism’s origins. Those who have come before me have put forth two primary arguments—neither of which, I will argue, can adequately account for Conservative Judaism’s emergence. First, the “historical school” argument suggests that Conservative Judaism is defined by a distinct ideology that has always separated it from both Reform and Orthodox Judaism. Many who advocate this approach suggest that the roots of this distinct Conservative ideology lie in nineteenth-century Germany, as Jews were welcomed into the broader German society. With the offer to integrate into this society came the expectation that Jews would make their religion less peculiar to the outside world, transforming it to be more compatible with German life. Some Jews rejected this idea, while others turned to Reform Judaism to accomplish this. Supporters of this theory maintain that another group accepted the premise that Judaism should adapt to its surroundings, but, rejecting how Reform had thrown off the cloak of Jewish law, members of this group searched for other ways to integrate Judaism into German life. Historical Judaism developed out of this impulse and provided a solution for its adherents to reconcile tradition with modernity. Using the tools of Wissenschaft des Judentums—the scientific, scholarly study of Judaism—Zacharias Frankel argued that Jewish law had always changed to adapt to the various historical influences and circumstances it faced. The implication for his contemporaries was clear—they could continue this by making alterations to Jewish law that would make Judaism more compatible with modern German life. In other words, they could satisfy the expectations of the broader German society without sacrificing their commitment to Jewish law. Those who support the historical school theory generally argue that when historical Judaism came to America, it was institutionalized at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), which would in time become the training seminary for the Conservative rabbinate.2 The Jewish Theological Seminary was originally founded in 1886 when a group of traditionalists rejected the more progressive Hebrew Union College. In its early years the Seminary was plagued by low enrollment and financial difficulty, but in 1902 Solomon Schechter was hired to lead the fledgling institution, which quickly grew and came to be informally known as Schechter’s Seminary. There is no question that aspects of historical Judaism deeply influenced the leaders of JTS, as Schechter himself was committed to its ideas and so, too, were the faculty and students. Yet those affiliated with Schechter’s Seminary were not the only American Jews to support historical Judaism—leaders of the Orthodox Union (OU), which was closely af-

introduction  •  3

filiated with the pre-Schechter seminary but broke away after Schechter’s arrival, also initially professed their support for the idea. While many of those connected with Schechter’s Seminary supported the concept of historical Judaism in theory, not everybody could agree on just how to implement it in practice. Who, for example, would have the authority to adapt Jewish law to modern circumstances, and what criteria would they use for such changes? Schechter understood that historical Judaism “has never, to my knowledge, offered to the world a theological platform of its own,” and he offered the concept of “Catholic Israel,” or the united people Israel, as a means by which the idea of historical Judaism could be implemented. He maintained that only a unified Jewry had the authority to adapt Jewish law to its modern surroundings and that no individual group or sect had the authority to do so. Because a third movement in Judaism would therefore have had no power to adapt Jewish law to its surroundings on its own, Schechter eschewed the creation of a distinct third movement and instead strove for a unified community that could affect the change he desired. Not everybody, however, believed Catholic Israel was the best way to implement the ideas of historical Judaism, yet Catholic Israel nevertheless became the emerging movement’s guiding principle during its formative years. While some of Schechter’s students believed they as a group should have the power to adapt Jewish law to contemporary situations on their own, I will demonstrate throughout this work that, in an attempt to implement Schechter’s vision, his disciples remained committed to the notion that only Catholic Israel possessed such authority. This idea was not only deeply embedded in the outlook of the Seminary but also in the movement’s congregational and rabbinic organizations—the United Synagogue of America and the Rabbinical Assembly (RA). As a result, these organizations continually opposed the creation of a third movement in Judaism, and while there were various attempts to jettison Catholic Israel and redefine the movement as one where its rabbis could make changes to Jewish law on its own, this did not occur until the 1950s—after the rise to power of a new generation of rabbis. Thus any suggestions that historical Judaism represented the boundaries of a distinct Conservative movement during its formative years suffer from “deceptive retrospect,”3 ignoring the goals and actions of the movement’s founders. While the Conservative movement may have been committed to historical Judaism, it tied this concept to Catholic Israel, which opposed the creation of a movement that would distinguish itself from both Reform and

4  •  introduction

Orthodoxy. Thus, although theories predicated upon the historical school can help us to understand various aspects of Conservative Judaism, the argument on its own cannot fully explain the movement’s emergence. Just as the historical school theory falls short, so too does the second main explanation, which focuses primarily on the laity and individual congregations. Rather than maintaining Conservative Judaism always had a distinct unifying ideology, supporters of this approach argue that the movement began as a series of disconnected synagogues appearing in the United States before the mid-twentieth century. These synagogues were not predicated upon ideological principles, so the argument goes, but rather were the result of the pressures faced by the Americanizing children of immigrants, for whom Orthodoxy’s traditionalism reminded them too much of their parents’ world and Reform seemed too radical a break from traditional Jewish practices. These circumstances, argue proponents of this theory, led to the creation of Conservative synagogues that tried to forge a centrist path between Orthodoxy and Reform.4 The flaw in this approach, however, is that by zooming in on the local level we ignore the emerging movement’s national consciousness—an error historians of other religions have cautioned against. J. Gordon Melton notes that looking at religious movements at the local level “presents a picture of numerous, small, barely stable centers, many struggling to keep a minimum critical mass in membership and attendance, and others coming and going.” By expanding our gaze outward, however, Melton maintains that a picture emerges whereby those smaller centers may be “in fellowship with other local centers around the country.”5 By expanding our gaze outward in the case of the Conservative movement, we come to realize that the rabbis were beginning to lead a national movement well before congregational lay leaders. Even the foremost advocate of this lay/congregation theory concedes that before mid-century rabbis were “the only group that visualized Conservatism in national terms.”6 If rabbis were the first to view Conservative Judaism as its own movement, why then has there been no monograph that comprehensively examines their role in its emergence? It is this lacuna that I seek to fill. By focusing the historical lens on the role of rabbis, I will show how Solomon Schechter’s rabbinical students at the Jewish Theological Seminary—his disciples—created Conservative Judaism to spread their teacher’s ideals and carry out his legacy. The process by which Schechter and his disciples created Conservative Judaism follows a similar pattern to how other charismatic leaders and their

introduction  •  5

followers created their own religious movements. I realize that by comparing the Conservative movement to other new religious movements, I am offering a significant departure from previous work in the field. Moreover, to suggest that Conservative Judaism is a “new” religious movement will be reason for many to give pause, especially because the Conservative movement sees itself as the true expression of Judaism as it has been passed down through the ages. I also recognize that using the same framework to analyze Conservative Judaism used by scholars to study Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Hare Krishna may initially offend the sensibilities of those who have long viewed the case of Conservative Judaism as a singular Jewish experience. Yet, as I will demonstrate in the following pages, integrating the study of Conservative Judaism into the growing field of new religious movements explains its emergence in a way that previous approaches cannot. Because scholars of American Judaism have not generally viewed Schechter as a charismatic religious leader, I find it necessary to clarify just how he can be viewed in this context. Schechter’s authority was rooted in his charisma, the classic definition of which is from Max Weber, for whom it applies “to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader.”7 While Weber’s charisma was applied originally to a gift of divine origin, it has also been used by scholars to apply to earthly qualities as well—“exceptional qualities,” as Weber terms them, that are regarded as “exemplary.” While Schechter conforms to Weber’s definition, I will show that he also fits the overlapping attributes Lorne Dawson argues characterize charismatic leadership. Dawson maintains charismatic leaders possess a “visionary” leadership style. They are admired for their communication skills, their ability to “frame problems and solutions in simple and appealing terms.” Moreover, he asserts that “charismatic leaders tend to be energetic people who exude self-confidence and determination” and “display a consistent faith in the fulfilment of their mission,” developing a “charismatic bond” with their followers.8 As I will demonstrate, Schechter fits this paradigm of a charismatic religious leader. He came to the Seminary as one of the world’s best-known Jewish scholars, captivating those in his presence and creating an aura around him that rarely disappointed. Schechter had a simple, albeit idealistic, vision for American Judaism that he passed down to his disciples, which

6  •  introduction

became the essence of the emerging Conservative movement—he wanted a community committed to traditional Judaism, yet one adapted to America through the incorporation of English, decorum, and modern education. He also wanted his disciples to work together to achieve this and unite the American Jewish community in the image of Catholic Israel. The process by which Schechter’s authority passed to his disciples and was institutionalized is in many respects the process through which Conservative Judaism emerged. According to Weber, “it is recognition on the part of those subject to authority which is decisive for the validity of charisma,”9 and after suggesting that we view Schechter as a charismatic religious leader, I will then analyze the process by which Schechter’s authority was passed to his followers—Veralltäglichung, as Weber calls it, or the “routinization” of charisma, as scholars generally translate it.10 Weber argues that if charismatic authority is to be more than a “purely transitory phenomenon . . . it is necessary for the character of charismatic authority to become radically changed.” This becomes “conspicuously evident with the disappearance of the personal charismatic leader and with the problem of succession.”11 Once Schechter passed from the scene, it was necessary to routinize his charisma so that the emerging movement could succeed. In the case of Conservative Judaism, the process of routinization follows a modified version of Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge’s “subculture-evolution” model for the creation of new religious movements. According to this model, the process of formation is the product of “at least a few intimately interacting individuals,” and it “begins when people with similar needs and desires meet and begin communicating about their mutual problems,” ultimately leading to a movement that cannot be attributed to a single individual. Although this model does not necessarily rely upon the seminal role of a charismatic leader, it can nevertheless apply “even when a single individual dominates a group . . . to the extent that the followers also participate in pushing the group” toward a movement.12 In the case of Conservative Judaism, Schechter clearly dominated the group while he was alive, but he also actively encouraged his disciples to work together to shape the emerging movement on their own. While Schechter created the vision for which the movement would strive, his disciples adopted it as their own, and authority successfully passed from Schechter to his disciples. Two primary factors were responsible for this routinization of charisma—first, the maintenance of deep personal and social bonds and, second, the embrace and institutionalization of diversity. With regard to the first, personal relationships among the dis-

introduction  •  7

ciples themselves, and a charismatic bond with Schechter, played a critical role in holding the group together despite its fundamental diversity.13 Schechter’s students grew up together, often entering the Seminary in their late teens and graduating in their early twenties. Though there were clearly arguments that emerged—particularly over job placement—they lived and socialized together as students, in the process developing deep friendships and bonds that would last a lifetime. They also developed close relationships with Schechter, who was deeply engaged in their lives and whom they viewed as a father, a teacher, and a friend. They shared a deep desire to see Schechter’s vision actualized, and all these shared experiences and common mission initially produced a vague group consciousness. This group identity would only strengthen throughout their lives and careers and, as we will see, would be instrumental in holding the group together and preventing their movement from splintering. The second major factor that allowed Schechter’s authority to successfully transition to his disciples was the embrace and institutionalization of diversity. Schechter’s disciples agreed on the broad vision of their teacher, but they differed markedly in other areas. With regard to background, some of Schechter’s students were American-born; many others hailed from Eastern Europe. Some could dazzle audiences with English sermons but felt their traditional Jewish educations to be lacking, while others spoke broken English but were comfortable with their traditional backgrounds. The disciples also differed on how they interpreted the implications of Schechter’s vision and how exactly they could be “essentially loyal” to traditional Judaism.14 Some had no problem eating a dairy meal at a restaurant, whereas many other disciples took exception. Mixed seating and organ music during Sabbath worship were appropriate in the eyes of some, though others abhorred such innovations. Just as diverse as their practices was the way in which they self-identified. Some of Schechter’s disciples identified as conservative, and others identified as orthodox, and their beliefs and practices spanned much of the spectrum of American Judaism. While we can broadly define Schechter’s disciples as either conservative or orthodox, the terms that they used to describe themselves varied widely. For example, many self-identified conservatives also used the labels progressive or liberal, loosely referring to themselves as the left wing of the emerging movement. Those who identified as orthodox also used the terms modern orthodox or traditional, often referring to themselves as the right wing of the emerging movement. Still others called themselves centrist.

8  •  introduction

None of these terms or wings had a precise definition, instead meaning different things to different people at different times, and thus the politics of the positions became as important as the positions themselves. Disciples formed coalitions to broadly affect change, and this fluid terminology highlights the diversity and elasticity of the emerging Conservative movement over the first half of the twentieth century. Clearly Schechter’s disciples were diverse in their practices and their identities, yet the social bonds about which we have spoken, and the vague group consciousness that those bonds created, played a critical role in overcoming this diversity and keeping the group unified. This group consciousness was further strengthened and institutionalized in the United Synagogue of America, which today serves as the congregational arm of the Conservative movement. Upon its founding in 1913, however, and for its first decade, at the very least, it was an organization led by Schechter’s rabbinical disciples with the purpose of implementing their teacher’s vision. By transferring his authority to the diverse executive council of the United Synagogue, rather than to a single heir, Schechter effectively institutionalized Catholic Israel and ensured that it would be a central tenet of the emerging movement.15 All could hold a leadership position, irrespective of background or viewpoint, provided they both ascribed to Schechter’s vision and were committed to implementing it as a group. The strength of the United Synagogue lay in the fact that, despite such diversity, Schechter’s disciples believed that they could more effectively carry out Schechter’s vision—however differently they interpreted it—through the organization they viewed as his legitimate heir. Because the United Synagogue sought—in the image of Catholic Israel—to unite those with different opinions, it, understandably, overlooked its members’ differences and instead emphasized their similarities. Member rabbis were free to be guided by their own beliefs and practices on issues such as mixed seating and the organ, but they remained united by Schechter’s vision of a traditional Judaism with English sermons, modern educational methods, and decorum. As a result, the United Synagogue was forced to shy away from decisions that might cause discord, initially refusing to create a prayer book, authoritative law committee, or even a guide to kosher restaurants, for fear of alienating fellow disciples. Thus, as I will demonstrate, it was the institutionalization of diversity, made possible largely because of the social bonds and a vague group consciousness, that allowed the emerging movement to successfully outlive Schechter and move into its postcharismatic phase.16

introduction  •  9

While internal diversity characterized the disciples and their United Synagogue, so too did the quest for Catholic Israel and unity within the broader American Jewish community. This meant reaching out to Reform rabbis and congregations in an attempt to bring them closer to traditional Judaism, and many of the disciples served in Reform congregations, with varying degrees of success. Their experiences demonstrate that the boundary between the Reform movement and the emerging Conservative movement was much more porous than many historians have previously recognized. Even more complicated than the relationship between the disciples and the Reform movement was the relationship between the disciples and Orthodoxy. Throughout the period of our study, Orthodoxy was not monolithic, and it can broadly be divided into two categories: fervent Orthodoxy and modern Orthodoxy. Fervent Orthodoxy was institutionalized in the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, which was founded in 1902, just as Schechter was taking the reigns of leadership at the Seminary. Rabbis in this organization hoped to combat the “constant desecration of the Torah all around them,”17 yet they also largely eschewed Schechter’s insistence on English, decorum, and modern education. Schechter’s disciples reached out to fervent Orthodox rabbis and their congregations, though they had limited success in affiliating them. The second broad category of Orthodoxy was modern Orthodoxy, and the relationship of the disciples to modern Orthodoxy is much more complex. Schechter’s vision of a traditional service infused with English, decorum, and modern education was very much compatible with modern Orthodoxy—in fact, Schechter’s Orthodox disciples in the United Synagogue generally identified as modern Orthodox. But modern Orthodoxy was institutionally divided, and the United Synagogue was not the only organization for modern Orthodox rabbis and congregations. Instead, they were also represented in the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, now known as the Orthodox Union (OU). The OU had been closely aligned with the Seminary before Schechter’s arrival, and its leaders had a somewhat adversarial relationship with Schechter. Although, in the name of Catholic Israel, the disciples hoped to affiliate modern Orthodox rabbis and congregations affiliated with the OU, they had a difficult time doing so. As we will see, without an allegiance to Schechter, OU rabbis generally chose not to join the United Synagogue. Despite the institutional divide within modern Orthodoxy, the reality was that there was a tremendous amount of overlap between the United Synagogue and the OU. The United Synagogue was a coalition of Conservative

10  •  introduction

and modern Orthodox rabbis, and many OU leaders maintained that their organization differed from the United Synagogue because it expressly repudiated non-Orthodox practices. Yet while this may have been the case in theory, it was not always the case in practice. For example, though the OU viewed mixed seating to be outside the scope of Orthodoxy, it nevertheless accepted vast numbers of rabbis who served in mixed-seating congregations. By one 1951 estimate, half the graduates of the OU’s primary training seminary served in mixed seating congregations.18 The result was that the distinction between United Synagogue and Orthodox Union rabbis and congregations was not always clear.19 Reinforcing the similarities in content and mission between the two groups was the reality that they inherently found themselves competing for the same constituency. Seminary graduates Herman Abramowitz, Charles Kauvar, and Elias Solomon were initially leaders in both organizations,20 having studied at the pre- and post-Schechter Seminaries, and were torn by their allegiance to leaders of both. Not only did both organizations compete for the same rabbis, but they also competed for the same laity in the same neighborhoods. This should come as no surprise—sociologist Fredrik Barth argues that groups with such similarities are often “in at least partial competition within the same niche.”21 The OU and United Synagogue competed for the same niche in the early decades of the twentieth century, as, arguably, the Conservative and Reform movements do today. Because there was so much similarity between the OU and the United Synagogue, it was virtually impossible to distinguish a member of one group from the other based solely on their particular beliefs. The elements held in common by Schechter’s disciples were so broad that they were not unique to them alone—all but the most radical Reform and the most fervent Orthodox rabbis could find some common ground. Moreover, the practices of OU rabbis were virtually indistinguishable from Schechter’s modern Orthodox disciples. As a result, no unique practices or beliefs could distinguish a United Synagogue rabbi from most other American rabbis. All of this meant that the primary distinguishing factor of the emerging Conservative movement was whether or not a rabbi chose to identify with the United Synagogue. Thus the organization was an ethnoreligious group, defined by its elastic boundaries and not by its unique attributes.22 Boundaries in similar groups, Barth argues, are based almost entirely on “the characteristic of self-ascription and ascription by others.” “It makes no difference how dissimilar members may be in their overt behavior,” he maintains. Instead, Barth argues that “if they say they are A, in contrast to

introduction  •  11

another cognate category B, they are willing to be treated and let their own behavior be interpreted and judged as A’s and not as B’s; in other words, they declare their allegiance to the shared culture of A’s.” According to this model, “radical differences are played down and denied.”23 Analyzing the United Synagogue in this context demonstrates that it was defined not by its unique attributes but rather by elastic boundaries that would stretch wide enough to encompass virtually anyone who wished to join. Though these boundaries were wide enough to encompass most American rabbis, the rabbis, generally speaking, who chose to self-identify with the United Synagogue were Schechter’s disciples. Only these rabbis were united by deep social bonds and committed to perpetuating Schechter’s message as a group. Thus, while the emerging Conservative movement may have been creating institutional structures of its own, it was not yet a distinct third movement in American Judaism because it lacked boundaries that distinguished it from Orthodoxy or Reform. Though Schechter’s disciples sought unity in the image of Catholic Israel, they were nevertheless resoundingly rejected by the rest of the American Jewish world—particularly by rabbis in the OU and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. These rabbis cast aside the United Synagogue as an organization hostile to Orthodoxy precisely because it sought unity and welcomed anyone who wished to join—even if they did not follow Orthodox practices. They diligently tried to articulate the boundaries between “Conservative” and “Orthodox” practices, defining in particular mixed seating as antithetical to Orthodoxy. Such definitions of deviant behavior, observed one sociologist, “makes people more alert to the interests they share in common by supplying a focus for group feeling,” which could have helped OU leaders to strengthen what was at the time a rather weak organization.24 This practice of defining deviant behavior has long characterized boundary maintenance among Orthodox Jewish groups.25 Nevertheless, because the United Synagogue did not repudiate these deviant, “non-Orthodox” practices, both the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim felt justified in spurning the United Synagogue. Thus, as I will demonstrate, in their quest for unity, Schechter’s disciples were ironically forced by the right into a movement of their own. Committed to remaining together as a group and rejected by those whom they hoped to attract, Schechter’s disciples found themselves on the brink of irrelevance, in need of a raison d’être. As lay leaders grew in power on the national stage, the United Synagogue became more of a congregational body, and the disciples brought their debates to the RA. There the Orthodox

12  •  introduction

and Conservative disciples debated their different conceptions of the movement, and they discovered that their needs and goals conflicted with one another’s. The modern Orthodox disciples continued to hope they could be part of the multifaceted “Orthodox world,” which I will argue was inclusive of the United Synagogue, the OU, and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. Though they recognized they were being rejected, they had not given up hope that they could one day gain the acceptance of those in the OU and the approbation of those in the Agudath ha-Rabbanim.26 As a result, they continued to oppose any decisions by the United Synagogue that might give these other Orthodox rabbis more reasons to reject them. The Conservatives, for their part, had little interest in pleasing OU or Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis, and instead hoped to define a platform for the United Synagogue that distinguished it from these other Orthodox rabbinical associations. But their essential paradox was that they refused to alienate the modern Orthodox disciples within their coalition—with whom they shared social bonds and a common mission—who staunchly opposed any platform that might alienate the United Synagogue further from the rest of the Orthodox world. How could the Conservatives define a platform that distinguished the United Synagogue from Orthodoxy, when many United Synagogue rabbis identified as Orthodox themselves? United by their social bonds and committed to working within organizations that had institutionalized diversity, the Conservative and Orthodox disciples remained united and attempted to define their emerging movement. But, rather than articulating boundaries and deviant behavior as the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim were doing, they tried to articulate positive attributes shared by members of the group—a more formidable challenge. Their struggles in this task were not unique—as Chana Kronfeld notes, attempts to define the boundaries of the literary modernist movement yield a similar tension. Modernists were much like Schechterians, because “there simply is no set of distinctive features that can apply to all the sub-groupings of modernism (from futurism to surrealism) and separate them from all non-modernist groupings (classicism, baroque, romanticism, and so forth).” Yet, “despite the overwhelming evidence that modernism defies reduction to simple common denominators, one study after another, after asserting the complexity and heterogeneity of the various manifestations of modernism, proceeds to attempt the impossibly positivist task of providing a definition of modernism.”27 This futile search for common denominators echoes Schechter’s disciples’ quest to articulate the factors they held in common and is best

introduction  •  13

observed through a 1927 debate that was sparked by Louis Finkelstein’s paper “The Things That Unite Us.” As the title suggests, Finkelstein tried to articulate the elements he and his fellow rabbis held in common. One of those factors, he claimed, was an adherence to historical Judaism, yet a respondent pointed out that, while they may have agreed on the concept, they did not agree on how it could be implemented. Another disciple maintained that the elements Finkelstein claimed they all shared did not distinguish them from other groups, while the elements that did distinguish them from other groups were elements upon which the disciples themselves could not all agree. However, he argued that the only common factor among them that also distinguished them from the others was their shared commitment to the Seminary—which had been shaped by Schechter—and their common identity as a result of their affiliation with it. Though they desperately wanted to move past the common denominator of discipleship, Schechter’s disciples could never quite transform their self-ascribed group into a third movement in American Judaism that had unique attributes and clear boundaries. As Schechter’s disciples reached the ends of their careers, they paused to reflect upon the movement that they had built. Nearly universally, the disciples evaluated the movement based upon how well it had adhered to Schechter’s vision. Some believed it failed because it had veered too far away from their teacher’s traditionalism, while others believed that it had largely succeeded, even though Catholic Israel proved futile. Others argued that the movement would soon be a success, as Catholic Israel remained a cherished hope they believed was on the verge of realization. Yet others believed the movement was a failure, precisely because of Schechter and Catholic Israel. One group of disciples maintained that the drive for unity had prevented the Conservative movement from adapting traditional Judaism to its environment in any meaningful way. These rabbis had an ambivalent relationship with the Conservative movement and ultimately became the nucleus of the Reconstructionist movement. But the rejection of Catholic Israel was not unique to the Reconstructionists, as it also came to define the attitude of the next generation of rabbis. These rabbis did not study with Schechter, nor did they have deep social bonds with him or the same commitment to his vision. Without this shared past, for them a movement predicated upon discipleship to Schechter became untenable. This new generation insisted on defining the boundaries of a distinct third movement of American Judaism, and they began this process by producing a prayer book that unified the emerging movement as no previous

14  •  introduction

book had. Shortly thereafter, this new generation of JTS rabbis fundamentally redefined the movement that had been created by their predecessors by jettisoning the commitment to Catholic Israel. They created the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) in 1948, which boldly declared that it would no longer seek the approbation of the other Orthodox rabbinical associations. In 1950 that committee declared it acceptable to drive to synagogue on the Sabbath and/or use electricity on the Sabbath—both of which violated traditional Orthodox law. This represented a shift to the idea that the RA itself could change Jewish law without the permission of Catholic Israel. No longer would the emerging Conservative movement be defined by Catholic Israel and a quest for inclusivity; it would now stand on its own. This fundamentally redefined the Conservative movement, abandoning its founders’ intentions, as it increasingly became a third, distinct movement in Judaism. Yet while the next generation of rabbis was redefining the movement, some of them fell victim to deceptive retrospect and assumed that the movement had always intended to have unique boundaries that marked it off as distinct. As a result, they began to write the history of their movement not as it actually occurred but rather as if Catholic Israel had been merely a temporary stumbling block instead of the essence of the movement. This marginalized Schechter, and these rabbis now turned to Germany and found in Zacharias Frankel a new inspiration for their movement. This marginalization of Schechter created the myth that the movement had always been represented by a unique ideology, and this was largely responsible for the historical school theory about which we have spoken. As I will demonstrate in the following pages, this version of the movement’s history was simply not the reality. In the decades since the 1950s the Conservative movement has continued to refine its boundaries, and it has been increasingly comfortable identifying as the third movement in American Judaism, distinct from the others. Yet creating clear boundaries has not always been a smooth process and has frequently been hampered by the diversity and inclusivity that is now inherent in the movement. This is a direct legacy of Catholic Israel and, as we will see, of the overwhelming desire of Schechter’s disciples to create a movement based upon their teacher’s vision for American Judaism.

1 Solomon Schechter and the Charismatic Bond


here is “a sincere and general desire to have you take the position,” Charles Isaiah Hoffman told Solomon Schechter, the charismatic world-renowned scholar. Schechter had been in prolonged negotiations to leave England for the United States, and leaders of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America hoped he would take over their fledgling rabbinical school. “Apart from the wishes of individuals,” Hoffman told him, “there is a great need for you here. . . . America is Judaism’s center of gravity and you can become the new Ezra.”1 Hoffman did not just want Schechter to be the prophet for America, but also for him personally. A Philadelphia-born lawyer and editor of the Jewish Exponent, Hoffman wanted to change careers and study for the rabbinate under Schechter, and to become one of his disciples. Under Schechter’s “guidance and inspiration,” Hoffman hoped to “ground [himself ] in the great and clearly defined principles of our faith, not be a blind leader of the blind, but clear thinking, sufficiently informed, correctly disposed and faithful guide to our people.”2 He told Schechter that it was his “earnest desire to work with and under you and to be qualified for my work by your influence.”3 The eager Hoffman applied and was accepted as a student, and so began his new career as one of Schechter’s disciples. The relationship between Schechter and Hoffman—master and disciple—was reflective of that of an entire generation of Schechter disciples.

16  •  solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

Solomon Schechter was a charismatic religious leader who came to America with the aim of revitalizing American Jewry. Frustrated by what he saw as both the Reform movement’s rejection of tradition and Orthodoxy’s unwillingness to Americanize, Schechter envisioned a unified American Judaism that would be both committed to tradition and also would appeal to the children of immigrants. To implement his vision, Schechter trained a diverse cadre of disciples, serving as not only a teacher and mentor to them but also as a father figure and friend. These personal relationships created a charismatic bond between master and disciple, overcoming the diversity within the group and ensuring that the disciples would endure great personal sacrifice to see Schechter’s vision become reality. Their shared mission would be the first seed of a vague group consciousness, which was strengthened by the personal friendships and shared experiences amongst the disciples themselves. This vague group consciousness would later be institutionalized as the foundation of the Conservative movement.

Who Was Solomon Schechter? Solomon Schechter’s 1902 arrival in America sparked great excitement and anticipation. “God’s messenger has arrived on our shores, a harbinger of good tidings, a forerunner of the glorious era that is to come in the history of American Israel,” wrote one Seminary alumnus.4 “The papers were full of him—Yiddish and English,” recalled a student who enrolled in the institution after the arrival of its new leader. Even that student’s “landlord and landlady . . . were consumed with curiosity about this man.” At the first opportunity for them to see Schechter at a public function, “they made me promise that . . . I would take them, and I would let them have a glimpse of the Schechter.”5 The excitement surrounding his arrival was in large measure because the Romanian-born Schechter had earned a reputation as perhaps the foremost Jewish scholar in the world. Just who was this man who came to America amid such fanfare? Much of Schechter’s early life is a mystery—even the year of his birth. He was a twin, born to Isaac and Chaya Schechter in the small, impoverished town of Foscani, Romania, at some point between 1847 and 1850. In Foscani Schechter earned the reputation as both a “wild child” and a “wonder child.”6 One account of his early years suggested that he preferred climbing in windows rather than using doors, enjoyed jumping from porch to porch instead of using the sidewalk, and frequently got stuck at the top of chestnut trees.7 At

solomon schechter and the charismatic bond  •  17

the same time that he was earning a reputation for his antics, he was also earning a reputation for his intellect—his first biographer claimed that he began reading the Bible at the age of three.8 When he was ten Schechter left Foscani, running away to a yeshiva in neighboring Piatra. At sixteen he left Piatra for another yeshiva in what is today L’vov, Ukraine, a larger city where he was likely exposed to new ideas and ideologies. He thereafter returned to Foscani, where he was married to his first wife in an arranged ceremony—a marriage that soon ended in divorce.9 Schechter moved west in 1875, still only in his mid-twenties, wearing Hasidic clothing and sidelocks, reflecting his traditional upbringing and ideas.10 His first stop in his progression west was Vienna, where he studied under scholars of Wissenschaft des Judentums,11 receiving smicha (rabbinical ordination) and also formally learning secular subjects for the first time. He enrolled at the University of Vienna and studied logic, philosophy, Semitic languages, biblical grammar, and German literature, and was also exposed to German biblical criticism. While he never fully left the world of his past, he wrote two parodies of Hasidism and traded his traditional clothing for more modern dress, indicating a significant change in his worldview.12 In 1879 Schechter left Vienna for Berlin where little is known of his life, as few private papers survived and he was not yet writing for a broader audience.13 He continued his study of Wissenschaft by enrolling at the Berlin Hochschule fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums, which trained its students in Wissenschaft, irrespective of their religious practices.14 From Berlin, Schechter continued his march westward, following his Hoch­ schule classmate Claude Montefiore to Britain in 1883. Schechter spent nearly two decades in England, during which time he grew both personally and intellectually. By the time he arrived in England he was thirty-five years old, had little money,15 and had not yet established an independent life for himself. He planned to work as Montefiore’s tutor and, in his spare time, he hoped to study Judaica manuscripts in the British Museum and Oxford’s Bodleian Library.16 Yet, by the time he left England in 1902, Schechter had remarried, started a family, developed a close group of friends and colleagues, and emerged as a well-known and well-respected public intellectual.17 During his time in England he first served as a lecturer in Rabbinics at Cambridge, later becoming reader there, and after that was a professor of Hebrew at University College in London.18 He strengthened his English, and, though he struggled at times with the language, one scholar later called his English writings “models of narrative art.”19 On the eve of his 1902 departure for America, Schechter’s discovery of the Cairo genizah, together with the publication of his Studies in Judaism,

18  •  solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

had secured his fame and made him one of the foremost Jewish scholars in the world. The genizah was an archive of old Hebrew and rabbinic texts, and Schechter brought over one hundred thousand manuscripts and manuscript fragments to Cambridge, which transformed the study of medieval Jewry.20 Schechter’s Studies in Judaism was based on his writings published in the Jewish Quarterly and the Jewish Chronicle.21 It was in England that Schechter developed his idea of Catholic Israel, which would come to define not only his thinking but would also become a key guiding principle of his future disciples and the early Conservative movement. Catholic Israel was based on the concept of k’lal Yisrael, the unified Jewish people, and Schechter’s emphasis on unity was most certainly informed by his experience in England. Shortly before his death Schechter delivered a speech he titled “His Majesty’s Opposition,” in which he compared the split between American Reform and traditional Judaism to what he had seen in the British House of Commons. “Both His Majesty’s government as well as His Majesty’s opposition form one large community,” Schechter argued, the two “working for the welfare of the country and the prosperity of the nation.” This picture of harmony helped to shape his commitment to unity within the Jewish world.22 But more important than the influence of British politics on Schechter’s thinking was the influence of the religious divisions in England and the Anglican Church’s attempt to restore unity.23 The Anglican “High Church” emphasized a continuous tie to the past as well as unity in the present.24 Anglican leaders tried to unite the nation under one church, welcoming all Christians—Protestant and Catholic—and its leaders worked to combat disunity and disintegration. They did this in part by emphasizing commonalities and by leaving potentially divisive issues undefined.25 With these models in front of him, Schechter became a vociferous advocate for unity within the Jewish world. He spoke of the “High Synagogue,” which, paralleling the “High Church,” emphasized a continuous link to the Jewish past as well as Jewish unity in the present.26 Schechter also believed that the fragmentation he saw in contemporary British Jewry was not a natural expression of Judaism. Instead, by emphasizing the unity throughout Jewish history, he hoped to marginalize the disputes of the present.27 Schechter’s writings and speeches are replete with references to this idea of unity, which became one of his most important guiding principles. Judaism, he maintained, is “as wide as the universe, and you must avoid every action of a sectarian or of a schismatic nature.”28 He rejected “any adjectives to my Judaism, believing that I belong to the main stream of Judaism,

solomon schechter and the charismatic bond  •  19

which meant an orderly and regular development in accordance with our laws and traditions. . . . To that extent, I am a Jewish man and not a party man.”29 When he later arrived in America, he argued that he wanted JTS to be “broad enough to harbor the different minds of the past century,”30 to attract “the mystic and the rationalist, the traditional and the critical,”31 and to be “all things to all men, reconciling all parties, and appealing to all sections of the community.”32 While Catholic Israel implied Jewish unity, Schechter also applied it to the development of Jewish law. By emphasizing the past, he developed a model for how halacha could adapt to its contemporary surroundings. Schechter was a believer in historical Judaism—the idea, about which we have already spoken, that Jewish law had always adapted to its contemporary surroundings. Therefore he argued that because the interpretation of Scripture is “mainly a product of changing historical influences, it follows that the centre of authority is actually removed from the Bible and placed in some living body, which, by reason of its being in touch with the ideal aspirations and the religious needs of the age, is best able to determine the Secondary Meaning.” Reflective of his emphasis on unity, he maintained that that living body “is not represented by any section of the nation, or any corporate priesthood, or Rabbihood, but by the collective conscience of Catholic Israel as embodied in the Universal Synagogue.” The Universal Synagogue, comprised of teachers and prophets, psalmists and scribes, among others, was “the only true witness to the past, and forming in all ages the sublimest expression of Israel’s religious life, must also retain its authority as the sole true guide for the present and the future.”33 Thus Schechter believed that Jewish law could change, but only with the blessing of the unified Jewish community. Though his thinking was shaped by his British surroundings and he had made a life for himself in England, it had become clear to Schechter by the end of the nineteenth century that his future was elsewhere. From 1900 to 1901 Schechter wrote a series of letters that appeared in London’s Jewish Chronicle in which he criticized English Jewry’s intellectual accomplishments, complaining that British Jewry had greater national than religious loyalties. Not surprisingly, this alienated the leaders of British Jewry.34 At the same time as he was criticizing British Jewry, Schechter was being heavily recruited to transform the struggling Jewish Theological Seminary of America into a world-renowned center for scholarship. Founded in 1886, JTS was originally conceived as a more traditional alternative to the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati. While today HUC is the

20  •  solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

training school for the Reform rabbinate, in the late nineteenth century it sought to train all American rabbis, regardless of their level of observance. However, when unkosher food was served at an event honoring its graduates, an event now known as the treyfa banquet, a group of observant Jewish leaders decided it was necessary to create their own school to train more traditional rabbis. Led by Sabato Morais and Alexander Kohut, the traditionalists opened their seminary in New York, first meeting in a synagogue vestry. Still, the Seminary labored mightily to find a constituency and to gain strong financial footing. Faced with sagging enrollment and depleted coffers, Seminary leadership zeroed in on Schechter to revitalize their struggling institution. Schechter was first offered the position to lead the Seminary in 1897, but negotiations were haphazard and prolonged for several reasons. First, Morais died shortly after the first offer, and the resulting leadership void meant that a formal, public offer did not arrive until 1899. The second reason was the 1900 death of Isaac Mayer Wise, president of Hebrew Union College, leading to speculation of a merger between HUC and JTS. Finally, and most importantly, the “old Seminary” was reorganized—after a leadership coup in March 1902—and those behind the coup urged Schechter to wait until the takeover was complete.35 A mere month after the new leadership gained control of JTS, plans were set to bring Schechter to America to lead the “new Seminary.”36 Excited by the opportunity to further develop his career, Schechter set sail for America.

“Schechter’s Seminary” With a clean slate and a significant degree of latitude, Schechter shaped the new Seminary into an institution that came to be known simply as Schechter’s Seminary. When he arrived, one of his primary aims was to bring the Wissenschaft tradition to America, to transform it into “a centre of Jewish Wissenschaft pure and simple.”37 At his inaugural address in 1902, Schechter argued that “the crown and climax of all learning is research.”38 True to his commitment to the scholarly study of Judaism, Schechter hired world-class faculty members, all of whom shared his reverence for Wissenschaft. His first hire was Louis Ginzberg, a professor of Talmud. Ginzberg was born in Kovno, Lithuania, and was trained in traditional yeshivot, including the famed Slobodka Yeshiva. He then moved west and studied at the University of Berlin and the University of Strassburg before receiving his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg. Like Schechter,

solomon schechter and the charismatic bond  •  21

Ginzberg was able to combine his traditional East European education with the methods of Wissenschaft that he found in Germany. He then studied at the University of Amsterdam and returned briefly to Lithuania where he received smicha. He came to America because he was promised a position to teach Talmud at HUC, but when he arrived he found that the position was no longer his. Instead, he found work in New York as an editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia. From there, Schechter hired Ginzberg to be a professor of Talmud at the Seminary, a position he held until his 1953 death.39 During Ginzberg’s first year at the Seminary, he and Schechter taught nearly all of the courses. The following summer the two traveled to Europe, where they found Israel Friedlaender and hired him as professor of Biblical literature and exegesis.40 Friedlaender was born in Poland, studied at the University of Berlin and the University of Strassburg, and was described by his biographer as “slight of build, of medium stature and regal bearing, meticulously groomed, he was a fine figure of a man. . . . To young men from old-fashioned homes he was the epitome of courtliness and grace.” Highly recommended by Ginzberg, Schechter also believed that “if this Friedlaender is what they describe him to be, we shall have the best appointed staff of any similar institution.”41 Friedlaender was very popular among his students, often helping them with job placement, and he was devoted to practical issues within the Jewish community. Tragically, he was murdered on a 1920 trip to Eastern Europe to dispense war relief funds, and a life of great promise was cut short.42 On the same European trip, Schechter also met with Alexander Marx and convinced him to join the Seminary faculty as a professor of Jewish history and the Seminary librarian. Marx was born in Germany, studied in Berlin at the Rabbiner-Seminar, and received his PhD from the University of Koenigsberg. He was described by one of his students as “tall, slender, handsome, brilliant, gentle and unaffected. His soft eyes, clear white skin, delicate features, and high-forehead, gave his face a composite expression of shyness, meditativeness, congeniality and tenderness  .  .  . his transparent smile, and hearty laugh, together with the uncommon retentiveness of his memory, made conversation with him a delight.”43 After meeting Marx, Schechter wrote that “he is simply wonderful,” a “perfect gentleman” who would do the Seminary “honor.”44 In the ensuing years Schechter continued to round out his faculty—shaping the institution to his liking. In 1905 he brought Israel Davidson to the Sminary as Professor of medieval Hebrew literature. Davidson was born in Eastern Europe and came to America when he was eighteen years old. He

22  •  solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

received a degree from City College of New York (CCNY) and completed his doctorate at Columbia University in 1902. Davidson’s major work over the course of his career was a four-volume thesaurus of medieval Hebrew poetry.45 Schechter later hired Mordecai Kaplan in 1909 to lead the Teachers’ Institute, and in 1910 made Kaplan professor of Homeletics and Midrash.46 He also appointed Moses Hyamson as professor of codes in 1915.47 Of this faculty, one student wrote that he felt as if he was “sitting before the great heads of the ancient Babylonian and Palestinian academies of learning.”48 In his quest to create a world-class faculty, Schechter decided to fire some of the faculty members who had been retained from the old Seminary, and who did not meet his scholarly expectations. The most prominent casualty of Schechter’s faculty reorganization was Henry Pereira Mendes, acting president of the old Seminary, from whom Schechter took over the reigns of leadership. In addition to his duties at the Seminary, Mendes was a pulpit rabbi in New York. Believing his scholarship to be lacking, Schechter characterized him as “a superficial ignorant fool” and did not include Mendes in his plans for the new Seminary.49 Another casualty of Schechter’s reorganization was Bernard Drachman. When Schechter arrived in 1902, Drachman had already taught at the Seminary for fifteen years, serving as dean of the faculty since 1889, and he believed that he would receive Schechter’s position. When Schechter assumed leadership, he demoted Drachman from professor to instructor, but, determined to prove his scholarly credentials to Schechter, Drachman prepared a monograph he believed would impress the new leader. It did not. The paper was poorly received by Schechter in 1908, and Drachman was fired the following year.50 While Schechter certainly dismissed both Mendes and Drachman at least in part because of his evaluation of their scholarly abilities, both suspected more personal motives. Mendes and Drachman were deeply disappointed by their treatment at the hands of Schechter, and, following their dismissal, they revitalized and led the Orthodox Union. Their estrangement from the Seminary orbit helped split the modern Orthodox world in two, and, as we shall see, would have vast implications on the separation of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism in the ensuing decades. Together with his world-class faculty, Schechter developed a curriculum that not only exposed his students to Wissenschaft but also trained them in practical matters, preparing them to give effective sermons and revamp the educational curricula at the congregations at which they would later serve.51 Schechter also instituted a two-tier system of students. When he arrived

solomon schechter and the charismatic bond  •  23

the Seminary accepted students as young as fourteen. Schechter created a system whereby younger students would study in a junior division of the Seminary, with older students studying in a senior division.52 Schechter also raised expectations for his Seminary students. When he first arrived, Seminary classes did not take attendance, there were few exams, and no annual examinations. Friedlaender complained in 1906 that some students were frequently absent from classes. In response to the former loose approach, in 1908 Schechter told Friedlaender, “I intend to introduce discipline regulations with reference to regular attendance after the model of other academic institutions. We must also introduce annual examinations for all the classes, granting marks for the subjects and regular advancements from class to class.”53 By raising the academic standards of the Seminary and hiring his own world-class faculty, Solomon Schechter made the Seminary his own. Shortly after his arrival, Schechter helped to dedicate a new Seminary building, as the institution relocated from its home on 59th Street and Lexington Avenue to 123d Street, in Morningside Heights. (The Seminary moved to its current home on 122d Street and Broadway in 1929).54 The once fledgling institution was taking on a new shape; it had clearly become Schechter’s Seminary.

Schechter as Charismatic Religious Leader While Schechter is frequently viewed in the context of his scholarly prestige and gravitas, he is rarely if ever analyzed alongside charismatic religious leaders such as Christian Science’s Mary Baker Eddy and the Mormons’ Joseph Smith. As we have already seen, charisma is a term that is often associated with the work of Max Weber and has generally referred to those with “supernatural” or “superhuman” qualities of “divine origin.” Historically, scholars have been reticent to use the notion of charismatic leadership when speaking of those who do not claim divine powers, yet a closer look at Weber’s definition reveals that he also counted among charismatic leaders those with “exceptional powers or qualities” that are regarded as “exemplary.”55 Scholars are increasingly probing this nondivine understanding of charismatic leadership, and one of the leading scholars in this area, Lorne Dawson, has outlined five overlapping attributes of a charismatic leader. Schechter fits all five of these attributes, and only by viewing him in this context can we understand how Schechter’s disciples created Conservative Judaism.

24  •  solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

The first attribute of charismatic leaders like Schechter is that they possess a “visionary” leadership style. Schechter came to America to shape a community he believed represented the future of Judaism. He felt that the Jewish community was in trouble, and he believed that the Reform movement threatened the unity of American Jewry, sweeping across the country with remarkable success and leading Jews away from traditional practices and Jewish law. American Orthodox Judaism was also problematic in Schechter’s view, because it had failed to adapt to its American milieu.56 He conceded that “those of us advanced in years may be saved,” but the crisis was that “the younger generation will be swept away by a ruthless radicalism.” What the next generation would look like, “after these few witnesses of Orthodox Judaism have passed away is too terrible to express.”57 Schechter was clearly not fixated on narrow issues, but instead envisioned an entirely transformed American Jewish community. The second attribute of charismatic leadership is the ability to present a vision in “simple and appealing” terms. Here again Schechter fits the model, as he explained concretely what transformations must take place to enable American Judaism to flourish, and he did so in a straightforward manner. His transformative vision infused traditional Judaism with three primary elements, English, decorum, and modern education, and was largely based on keeping the younger generation interested in Judaism. First, Schechter believed that “to banish the English sermon from the synagogue means to condemn our youth to ignorance of the teachings of Judaism.” The English sermon, he believed, was at the time “the only means of making the public acquainted with the word of God, the tenets of Judaism and the history of Israel’s heroic sufferings.” Second, Schechter also felt that “to object to strict order and decorum in our places of worship, means to expel our children from the synagogue.” Third, “to oppose proper pedagogical methods in the instruction of our children, means to be instrumental in the bringing up of a rebellious generation, which will not only be ignorant of Judaism, but will hate and abhor it.” He succinctly declared that the English sermon, decorum, and modern education for children and rabbis “must be accepted fully, without any reserve, by our constituents if traditional Judaism shall be able to hold its own, and in the end also to gain supremacy on this continent.”58 Schechter’s great fear was that, unless his vision was realized, “traditional Judaism will not survive another generation in this country.”59 Schechter clearly articulated that the type of Judaism for which he stood—variously called traditional, Orthodox, Conservative, or historical— should not be a separate movement. Reflective of the unity he came to em-

solomon schechter and the charismatic bond  •  25

brace while in England, he argued that “what we intend to accomplish is not to create a new party.” Instead, he welcomed the support of all who would support his vision. His hope was “to consolidate an old [party], which has always existed in this country, but was never conscious of its own strength, nor perhaps realized the need of organization.” This group, he believed, was comprised of “the large number of Jews who, thoroughly American in habits of life and mode of thinking and, in many cases, imbued with the best culture of the day, have always maintained conservative principles and remained aloof from the Reform movement, which swept over the country.”60 A third element of charismatic leaders is the presence of “self-confidence and determination” and “a constant faith in the fulfillment of their mission.”61 While Schechter’s confidence certainly waned in the final years of his life, he initially, according to one historian, believed that his own skills were “precisely what traditional Judaism needed if it wanted to survive in a modern setting.”62 Schechter’s contemporaries also shared his confidence that he was the right person for the job. Even Schechter himself noted the presence of an overwhelming “Schechter craze.”63 The fourth characteristic of charismatic leaders is that they foster the image that they are extraordinary.64 When Schechter walked into the room, it was hard not to notice him. “A commanding, patriarchal figure, with a leonine head crowned by a mane of white hair,” wrote one of his students, “Professor Schechter had a broad, impressive beard, a regal countenance, and piercing blue eyes that gazed intently at one over the half-moon reading glasses.” Without those glasses, that student recalled, “he had the authentic appearance of a biblical prophet.” The same student recalled that a portrait of Schechter hanging in the Seminary depicted “an impressive figure” who was “swathed in his red Cambridge academic robe.”65 Just how much Schechter himself, however, fostered this vision of himself as extraordinary is unclear, but the image persisted nevertheless. Alongside the extraordinary image, however, was that of a somewhat aloof professor. The same student who equated Schechter with the appearance of a biblical prophet also remarked, “often I would sit passively, almost heedless of his flow of scholarship, basking in that inspiring presence. I could not help feeling that he barely knew or noticed me.” He also wrote that “because of his immense scholarship and worldwide reputation, Schechter seemed remote and inaccessible. It was rumored at the Seminary in my time that, without his wife, Mathilde, he would have been completely lost in the mundane aspects of life, such as food, dress, and the like.”66 Henrietta Szold seconded these observations, referring to Schechter as a “demanding lamb,

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whose wife has completely spoiled him.” When Schechter was to visit the Szolds without his wife Mathilde, Szold warned her family that “as a guest you will find him troublesome. He needs some attention all the time, and demands it as his due.” Furthering the image of aloofness, she noted that Schechter “never knows where he has put a single thing belonging to him,” one woman noting that “he had on one grey and one brown stocking.” All this led Szold to tell her mother that after Schechter’s visit “you will find out what a model husband you have, even if he will not go out.”67

Schechter’s Disciples and the Charismatic Bond The fifth element of charismatic leadership is, in the instance of Schechter and his disciples, the most important factor in the emergence of Conservative Judaism, allowing Schechter’s charismatic authority to be institutionalized and later to be transmitted to his disciples. “Charismatic leaders are more engrossed in the daily struggles of the groups they lead,”68 Dawson argues, which creates a “charismatic bond” between master and disciple.69 This bond was largely the result of Schechter’s hands-on leadership style, which fostered deep social relationships between Schechter and his disciples. This would be the first step in the creation of what would later become a strong group identity and shared mission among the disciples, which would allow them to overcome their diversity and work in a unified manner to create Conservative Judaism. Who exactly were Schechter’s disciples? Approximately sixty-five students have been identified as Seminary graduates who were under Schechter’s tutelage, and about a dozen played a critical role in the emergence of Conservative Judaism on the national stage. “We were quite a heterogeneous group,” one student recalled of his Seminary classmates.70 “Of Russian, Galician, German and even oriental background, with a sprinkle of American boys,” another student remembered, “we presented a cross section of the Jewish diaspora.” 71 As students entered the Seminary to study with Schechter, they arrived with very different backgrounds. In addition to their scattered birthplaces, they also came armed with varying degrees of traditional Jewish education. Some were the children of East European rabbis, while others grew up in nonobservant homes. The majority arrived in their late teens and early twenties, while others were older. In a word, Schechter’s disciples were diverse.

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Herman Rubenovitz was one of the students who would play a particularly important role in the emergence of Conservative Judaism on the national scene. Born in Kovno, Lithuania, Rubenovitz came to Pittsburgh when he was about seven years old. He attended public school there as a child, was tutored by his father in Hebrew and Bible, and later studied Talmud under the guidance of a local Orthodox rabbi. After his graduation from high school, and with lofty ambitions, he decided that neither law nor medicine interested him. He moved to New York, earning his BA from CCNY in 1905, and graduated from the Seminary in 1908 at the age of twenty-four.72 Louis M. Epstein was another student who would play a critical role in the emergence of Conservative Judaism; while he too was Lithuanian-born, Epstein spent his formative years in Eastern Europe. The son of a rabbi, Epstein remained in Lithuania as an adolescent after his father accepted a pulpit in America. His parents both insisted he continue his traditional education at the famed Slobodka Yeshiva in Kovno, where he stayed until he came to America as a teenager. Five years after his arrival in America he earned his BS from Columbia University and, two years later, in 1913, he graduated from the Seminary when he was twenty-five years old.73 A third student who would become a leader of Conservative Judaism, Israel Levinthal, was also the Lithuanian-born son of a rabbi, though, unlike Epstein, he came to America as a young child. His father was a founder of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, the organization of traditional Orthodox rabbis in America, and, with such a background, Levinthal saw himself as “a born rabbi” who “heard the ‘call’ to the Rabbinate” as a young child. Believing wholeheartedly in Schechter’s emphasis on English, Levinthal chose to attend the Seminary instead of the more traditional options available to him that emphasized Yiddish. He earned a BA at Columbia University and graduated from the Seminary when he was only twenty-two.74 Levinthal was fairly unusual in that he married during his Seminary years. His wife, May, came from a nonobservant home, and both husband and wife had a difficult time persuading their respective parents to approve of the marriage. Levinthal also had difficulty persuading Schechter that he could successfully continue his studies as a married man. All the students were single, he recalled, “the one exception, popularly known as Pop Goldberg, was already a mature family man when he entered the Seminary.” Levinthal recalled that nearly everyone, including Schechter, believed that marrying while in the Seminary “meant the end of my planned career.” His wife often told him, “No talking! You must study!” he recalled, “because if you fail, the blame will be placed on me!”75

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A fourth student whose role in the emergence of Conservative Judaism was pivotal, Jacob Kohn, was American-born of German descent, and raised in Newark, New Jersey in a home he himself described as “never Orthodox.” Unlike those of his classmates with traditional yeshiva educations, he recalled his Jewish education as providing him with “rather slender preparation” for the Seminary. He considered enrolling at HUC, but decided against it because his “people were not reformed Jews.” He also considered attending JTS prior to Schechter’s arrival, but when he visited the school he “was not impressed.” It was only after Schechter transformed the Seminary that he decided to enter the rabbinate, and he graduated in 1907 when he was twenty-five years old. His younger brother Eugene also studied under Schechter, graduating five years later.76 While these future leaders arrived at the Seminary with different backgrounds, so too did other students. Charles Hoffman graduated at the age of forty after spending much of his career as a lawyer and, as we have seen, the publisher of a major Jewish newspaper.77 Some followed Schechter’s path, receiving traditional educations in Eastern Europe before moving to German schools that exposed them to Wissenschaft. Still others were born in Germany. One student was born in Palestine, another was of AustroHungarian descent, and a third was born in Oakland, California to parents of German Jewish heritage.78 Irrespective of their divergent backgrounds, Schechter was deeply engaged in the lives of his disciples—acting as a father figure, teacher, and friend—and these close relationships cemented the charismatic bond between the “Great Master” and his disciples. This charismatic bond would not only fortify the disciples’ devotion to their teacher and to implementing his vision, but their shared devotion to Schechter would later also push the disciples toward a group identity. Looking at the interactions that took place within the Schechter home highlights this bond as, although Schechter and his wife Mathilde had children of their own, their home became the center of what was in a sense a surrogate family for his cadre of students. Most of these students were in their late teens and early twenties, and the Schechter home provided them with a sense of Jewish family values. The disciples frequently gathered in the Schechter living and dining rooms, a space that epitomized Jewishness where the deep bonds between Schechter and his disciples were nurtured: In the living room, a space filled to overflowing with abundant drapery, richly textured carpets (including an animal skin rug), and flowing

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plants, Jewish objects were carefully positioned and smartly displayed: a brass shabbos lamp dangled gracefully near the marble mantelpiece while an illuminated ketubah, rich in floral imagery, was set among the plants . . . From the book-lined walls, two Old World portraits of Schechter’s parents—one of his mother wearing an old-style kerchief and the other of his bearded and yarmulked father—bore down fiercely on the room’s handsome masculine clutter.79

Within this space, recalled Herman Rubenovitz, “on Sabbaths and Holidays, there were always Seminary students, distinguished visitors from abroad, as well as impoverished scholars, and stranded rabbis.”80 Their home was a “stimulating, creative center, in whose genial warmth we—so many, many of us—basked and were transformed,” recalled one frequent visitor.81 “The hospitality extended was able and warm, and everyone was encouraged not only to share the good edibles, but also to participate in the stimulating conversation, and to enjoy the flow of wit so characteristic of our great teacher.”82 A student recalled that “the genuine home atmosphere, the congenial family circle, and the distinct tone of Jewishness combined with refinement, reflected the ideal life of a Jewish scholar and gentlemen. Subsequent visits intensified my impressions of the first time.”83 For Israel Levinthal this surrogate family overlapped with his own family, as he fondly recalled his wife May’s first meeting with the Schechters. Though she was nervous about meeting “this great and picturesque sage,” Schechter “instantly made her feel at home.” After the meal, Schechter presented May with Jack London’s Call of the Wild, which he had just completed. “With her charm, her simplicity and her honesty,” Levinthal recalled, May “captivated” both Schechter and his wife Mathilde.84 Within the Schechter home, Mathilde Schechter frequently cared for her husband’s students.85 Jacob Kohn remembered a brass serving tray from which “flowed not only tea but also the blessings of a ‘noble woman’s heart and mind.’”86 He recalled that often there were distinguished guests at [the] table, to make the [Seminary student] more embarrassingly self-conscious than he would otherwise be and yet that Sabbath visit to the Schechter home soon became the compensating [gesture] of an otherwise trying day, the anticipation of which steeled him to brave even the darts of professorial criticism. Mrs Schechter with that kindness and understanding which were hers, soon made even the most awkward young man at home. She could draw

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him out and make him express himself—to restore to him his self-respect. She knew exactly how he felt and under the penetration of her sympathy, constraint soon vanished.87

While Mathilde filled a maternal role, Solomon Schechter played a paternal role in the lives of his young students, and the image of Schechter as a father figure was quite common. “Really to know Dr. Schechter, one had to observe him in his home,” wrote Rubenovitz, who also maintained that Schechter “was not a dry-as-dust scholar, but an ardent, warm-hearted, benevolent human being.” He recalled that Schechter, in addition to contending with the duties of the presidency, “nevertheless found time to interest himself in the personal problems and needs of each Seminary student. His attitude toward the student body was that of father and friend.”88 The image of Schechter as a father figure transcended interactions in his home. Rubenovitz remembered an incident shortly after the death of his own father where Schechter “noticed that I was depressed and run-down, and insisted that I go away for a rest, and vacation to recover.”89 He also remembered a time when Schechter asked him to visit a Seminary alumnus who had tuberculosis. When he reported to Schechter “the unhappy condition of the patient, he arranged to have him transferred to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he would no longer suffer from loneliness and isolation. He stood by the unfortunate sufferer to the very end, and supplied him with every possible comfort, and also helped to bring over from Europe his mother and brother so that they could be with him during the closing days of his life.”90 Rubenovitz was not the only one to view Schechter in a paternal role. One disciple remembered that “nothing was too trivial in my life and nothing too big for me to bring to him. . . . He would listen as a father listens to a son.” He also referred to Schechter as his “spiritual father,”91 and Rubenovitz was not the only disciple to use that very phrase.92 Another student wrote that he and his classmates “looked upon Dr. Schechter as our beloved father,”93 while yet another told Mathilde that her husband had been a “father, a counsellor [sic] and a friend” to him.94 One of the young men recalled that Schechter steered his students toward Judaism “with all a father’s earnestness speaking with great emotion” and wished upon them his “paternal grace.”95 A disciple remembered that Schechter gave him “sage counsel and fatherly advice,”96 and, finally, another recalled that Schechter’s “relations with the faculty and students were as affectionate as those between a father and his children.”97

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Whereas the Seminary students viewed Schechter as a father figure, strengthening the charismatic bond between master and disciples, he was also their teacher—and, as such, their scholarly and professional inspiration. Those who had graduated from JTS shortly before Schechter’s arrival hoped to return to study with the Seminary’s new leader. Although “I have already received the degree of Rabbi,” one alumnus wrote shortly after his graduation, “I would gladly stay in New York another year, and take advantage of the courses that will be given by Dr. Schechter and his faculty, if your conditions will allow me to do so.”98 Another student wrote to Seminary officials several months after his graduation, telling them he was “desirous of availing myself of the instruction to be given by such an eminent man as Prof. Schechter.” So eager was he to study with Schechter, he “refrained from accepting a permanent position as rabbi.”99 Later in his life, that student wrote that he was “privileged to be a student of the Seminary . . . for a short time in post-graduate work, after it came under the inspiring guidance of Dr. Solomon Schechter.”100 In addition to those who graduated before his arrival, Schechter was also a revered teacher to his own students. As we have already seen, Charles Hoffman changed careers for the opportunity to study with Schechter, and Schechter the teacher also shaped Israel Levinthal. “Don’t be satisfied with emulating the American rabbi whose fame rests on his oratorical abilities and pastoral duties alone,” Schechter told Levinthal. “Make every effort always to gain more Jewish knowledge, and try to make some contribution to Jewish scholarship!” In his memoir, Levinthal wrote that this advice “never left me, and it remained before my mind as a living challenge to what I ought to aspire.”101 One of the ways in which Schechter was most influential as a teacher was by working closely with each student on his annual Shabbat sermon—to be delivered at the Seminary synagogue. On the Wednesday afternoon before the assigned Sabbath, “the student preacher would offer his sermon before the entire school[,] meeting in the auditorium by way of rehearsal and also to receive critical advice from the students and the professor.” Schechter was present at this practice session, and he critiqued content as well as delivery. Levinthal recalled that Schechter’s “presence at these sessions added the stamp of scholarly prestige which the sermon should deserve.”102 Herman Rubenovitz recalled an incident while preparing one of his sermons that he claimed help to shape his career. During the rehearsal, Rubenovitz referred to a passage that stood in opposition to the traditional point of view, and, while one professor refused to allow “what he considered a heretical passage,” Rubenovitz appealed to Schechter, who overruled the professor and sided with the student.103

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Jacob Kohn also viewed Schechter as “a great teacher.” Kohn described an exchange with colleagues where Schechter’s attitude toward Judaism stood out from the others. ‘“There he stood, a lion in a den of Daniels and all unafraid.’ Schechter with his leonine mane in his tremendous eloquence could roar the opposition down without tearing them into pieces.”104 Kohn credited Schechter with his decision to enter the rabbinate, as, before his future teacher’s arrival in America, “the idea of the rabbinate had almost been abandoned.” “It was only the startling advent of Professor Schechter from Cambridge and London that finally put me on the path which has been mine through the rest of my life.”105 Other students similarly recalled the advice Schechter gave them as their trusted teacher. Louis Finkelstein, JTS’s future chancellor, recalled walking down the street with the “white-maned” Schechter, when the teacher “stopped at a newsstand” to see World Series scores. When Finkelstein admitted that he could not play baseball, Schechter allegedly told him, “remember this, unless you can play baseball, you will never get to be a rabbi in America.”106 Another student recalled that “the impressions of that first interview [his Seminary entrance exams] are indelibly stamped upon my memory. The massive head, the penetrating gray eyes and the cheerful energy radiating from his genial person inspired me at once with the traditional ‘reverence for one’s teacher.’”107 While Schechter served as teacher and scholarly inspiration for his disciples, he frequently did so in a way that leaned more toward his paternal role than was generally reflective of someone of his scholarly stature. Epstein remembered his first meeting with Schechter as one where he instantly felt comfortable with his future teacher. “I sought admission to the Jewish Theological Seminary to be trained for the American rabbinate,” he recalled. Rather than inviting the perspective student to his office, Schechter asked him to come to his home for tea. “We talked as intimates about the East side of New York, about college athletics, about his son, Frank, a young lad of my own age; and when the tea-party was over he announced to me: young man, you are admitted to the seminary; send your credentials to the registrar.”108 Epstein believed that it was Schechter’s “intuitive sense of truth and of value that gave color, yes, even glamour, to his personality; and it was by this gift that he attained leadership in American Jewry practically from the first moment he stepped on American soil.”109 Jacob Kohn had a similar recollection of his first meeting with Schechter. Schechter asked him to come to his home, and Kohn, who was worried that because he was a native-born American, his “Talmudic training had

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not been very intensive . . . expected a grilling on these subjects.” Kohn described entering Schechter’s study and seeing a copy of Rousseau’s Confessions on his desk. After discovering that Kohn knew a little French, Schechter asked if he had read the original, to which he replied negatively. “How do you expect to become a rabbi without having read Roussea [sic] or the philosophers of the French revolution?” Kohn recalled Schechter asking him. Schechter gave him the book and told him to read it and return in two weeks. “I was both startled and amused,” Kohn recalled. “He made me feel afraid and warmly at home with him.” In retrospect, the only mention about Kohn’s weaknesses was “a warning that I must spend the summer diligently studying Talmud and enroll in the fall, which I did.”110 Though Schechter played the role of both father figure and teacher, he was much more than that in the lives of his disciples. In addition to these primary roles, he was also a friend. Herman Rubenovitz called Schechter a “teacher and friend with whom it was my privilege to have a close and intimate association.” Rubenovitz recalled that “in the classroom as well as in his home, on numerous walks, in many letters exchanged, I was afforded the opportunity of learning to know and to appreciate the greatness of his mind and heart.” 111

Devotion to Implementing Schechter’s Vision The charismatic bond between Schechter and his disciples would play a critical role in unifying the cadre of disciples, most of whom shared a devotion to implementing Schechter’s vision. From day one, the disciples knew that implementing that vision would not be easy. Even before Schechter’s disciples enrolled in the Seminary, they did so with the “awareness that their career meant struggle and sacrifice,” recalled Levinthal.112 Another student remembered Schechter’s warning that they should “not expect a bed of roses when they would graduate; that their work would be difficult, that it will not be as easy as other callings.”113 When they did graduate, what they found in the field posed a grave challenge to their loyalty to Schechter. Few congregations were receptive to his message, and the majority of disciples instead tried unsuccessfully to either win Reform congregations back to tradition or to incorporate English, decorum, and modern education into Orthodox synagogues. In addition, there were not enough jobs to go around, salaries were meager, and many disciples suffered from geographic

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isolation and loneliness. Yet the charismatic bond they shared with their leader kept the vast majority committed to implementing his vision—despite the significant challenges they would face and the immeasurable cost to their personal well-being. With such treasured experiences and fond memories, leaving the Seminary was not easy. Graduation exercises were “crowded with parents, relatives, and friends of the new graduates, in addition, of course, to members of the faculty and the student body.”114 Only a year after his graduation ceremony, one rabbi admitted that he was “already longing to see the dear old ‘halls’ of [the Seminary]. It has impressed itself very deeply on my mind and it will take a very long time to forget them.”115 Herman Rubenovitz recalled that when his student days came to an end in the spring of 1908, he was saddened to leave the Seminary “because of my desire to continue my studies with the great masters, my teachers.” He recalled that on a walk around the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, he informed Schechter of his desire to remain at the Seminary to “devote myself to the academic life.” Rubenovitz wrote that “Dr. Schechter, in characteristic manner, stopped abruptly, brought his cane sharply down on the pavement and said, ‘My boy, nothing would please me more, but who is to carry the message of the Seminary to the country if you, and others like you, remain here?’”116 The first challenge facing Seminary graduates like Rubenovitz was that few congregations offered them an easy opportunity for success. American Jewish congregations were roughly divided into what Rubenovitz overdramatically described as “a stagnant Orthodoxy on the one hand, and the militant, radical Reform Judaism on the other.”117 Despite Rubenovitz’s oversimplification, the disciples nevertheless found very few readymade congregations into which they could fit. Only a handful of American synagogues wholeheartedly adhered to Schechter’s vision of a modernizing yet traditional Judaism, and the rabbis lucky enough to secure positions in these congregations were well aware of their good fortune. One of those lucky rabbis was Jacob Kohn, who, after a brief stop in Syracuse, accepted a pulpit in Manhattan. His congregation emulated Orthodox synagogues by using a traditional prayer book, but differed in that services incorporated elements of English. The congregation also stressed order and decorum through the use of a choir—and, more controversially, an organ— and employed mixed seating.118 Most other disciples, however, were forced to accept pulpits in congregations that were not particularly sympathetic to Schechter’s vision. Some

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accepted positions in Reform congregations, many of which, recalled Levinthal, had “rebelled at the extremes to which Reform was going.”119 Were a disciple to accept such a job, his task would be to win the congregation over to a more traditional form of Judaism. Members of one Reform congregation in Jamaica, for example, did not wear head coverings, but the disciple who led the congregation told Schechter that he would “of course keep my head covered in the synagogue” and, at the same time, “do as much as is in my power to promote the cause of Conservative Judaism.”120 Schechter’s disciples experienced mixed levels of success in Reform congregations. In some instances, the disciple was able to implement a more traditional program. One rabbi told his teacher that his congregation had been “set back” by his Reform predecessor, but that he had “succeeded in undoing to a certain extent the mischief done by him.”121 Another took a job in Beaumont, Texas, where, he argued, Reform rabbis had “wrought untold harm in this community.” Yet he was optimistic that “there is plenty of room for improvement and they seem willing to undergo a little counter Reformation.”122 Other disciples serving in Reform congregations had more difficulty. One rabbi in Mississippi, with Schechter’s approval, refused to convert a seventeen-year-old boy to Judaism if he did not undergo the rite of circumcision. Aware of the community’s frustration with his obstinacy, he told Schechter of how they were “very much annoyed at my ‘orthodoxy.’”123 Another disciple observed that “a person encounters almost insurmountable obstacles in winning back the congregation to religious observance.”124 In addition to the mixed results in Reform congregations, Schechter’s disciples also had limited success in Orthodox synagogues. Herman Rubenovitz described these Orthodox synagogues in Boston as synonymous with fervent Orthodoxy, “an attempt to reproduce on American soil, a type of Jewish religious life lived in the Russian ‘pale’ and the East European ghettos. It was medieval in outlook and practice.” Synagogue worship, he wrote, was “strictly traditional in character,” and with “few exceptions, utterly devoid of decorum, and its spiritual quality all too often lost in noise and confusion.” Aesthetics, he believed, were “woefully lacking,” and the youth were so alienated that when “out of deference to the wishes of their elders, these young people purchased seats for the High Holidays, they . . . mostly congregated on the sidewalk outside, and there spent in idle chatter the time which was to be devoted to hallowed prayer.” Religious instruction, he believed, was neglected and “was conducted in dark and dingy synagogue vestries” or by unqualified itinerant rabbis.125

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Those who accepted pulpits in such Orthodox synagogues saw it as their duty to incorporate English, order and decorum, and modern educational methods into the synagogue program however they could. When Rubenovitz accepted a pulpit at a suburban Boston Orthodox congregation, for example, he believed he might be able to increase its level of order and decorum by refining the synagogue’s musical program. During High Holiday services, Rubenovitz observed that “the choirboys invariably became restless” and often did not “observe their cues and had punishment administered by the cantor in view of the entire congregation.” Convinced that such behavior had no place in what he thought should be a dignified religious institution, Rubenovitz decided that “something more in keeping with good taste and proper decorum would have to be introduced.” As a model, he looked toward the great synagogues of Europe, many of which employed “trained and accomplished musicians” who “introduced a new style and method in the conduct of synagogue worship.” Impressed by how “order and decorum replaced the chaos and disorder,” Rubenovitz suggested that his congregation emulate those European synagogues.126 To do so, Rubenovitz introduced a radical proposal that divided his congregation along generational lines. He suggested his synagogue introduce an organ and mixed choir for the Sabbath and High Holy Day services, at the same time maintaining the traditional Hebrew prayers intact. While his fellow Seminary alumni were split on the appropriateness of such a solution— instruments on the Sabbath and Holy Days violated Jewish law—so too was his congregation. The older generation viewed Rubenovitz’s proposal as “a move in the direction of Reform.” They believed the organ and mixed choir were but the first steps down a path that would “inevitably lead to the adoption of the ‘[Reform] Union Prayer Book,’ and would turn our congregation into a Reform Temple.” The younger generation, however, generally supported Rubenovitz, and, at a “stormy Congregational meeting,” Rubenovitz and the younger generation won a major victory. Henceforth the synagogue utilized an organ and a mixed choir.127 While Rubenovitz’s success was rare, his experience is not only indicative of the challenges of taking a pulpit in a congregation that was not “readymade” but also demonstrates the significant power of the laity on the congregational level. While he ultimately won a major victory in bringing the organ and choir to his congregation, Rubenovitz could not have done so without the support the majority of the laity. In fact, Rubenovitz found himself in the middle of a lay dispute, with the younger generation wanting a Schechter-like program and the older generation more in favor of retaining

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the status quo. Whereas in Rubenovitz’s case the younger generation propelled him to victory, many of the rabbis in other such Orthodox congregations failed to convince the majority of their congregants. While Rubenovitz was a fairly uncommon example of success, also representative of the showdown between rabbi and congregation was the experience disciple Louis Egelson. Egelson took a position in a traditional Washington, DC synagogue that had not embraced English, decorum, or modern education, yet was deeply divided as to whether to do so. On one hand, a younger, upwardly mobile, progressive group of laity advocated such a program, believing it was necessary in order to keep their children interested in Judaism. They were opposed, however, by “Jews from the Old World” who wanted to keep the status quo.128 Although the progressives held enough sway to hire Egelson, the traditionalists nevertheless held power. Following Schechter’s vision, Egelson tried to incorporate English into the synagogue program. Believing the English sermon “will do more to retain the allegiance of the younger generation to Orthodoxy than any other agency,”129 he tried to introduce English into the service “with a scriptural reading, a prayer, and the benediction,” but a “mild protest” came from the older generation. When he proposed a prayer book that contained English in addition to Hebrew, he also heard opposition from the older generation. “They must yield to the English in order that their children may become better Jews,” Egelson maintained.130 Disappointed with the response of the elders, Egelson decided to take a more confrontational approach. He raised eyebrows when he used the pulpit during a Kol Nidre service to plead for his cause, where he “denounced the congregation . . . rather severely and pleaded for the inclusion of some English in the service on the High Holidays so that the younger people could recite some prayers.” The response was discouraging—the older generation “raised their voice in holy horror.”131 Egelson was frustrated, and observed ruefully that “there is still great objection on the part of some to reciting their prayers in a language they understand.”132 Though he knew that his actions had the potential to “bring about a rupture in the congregation itself ” between the progressives and the traditionalists, Egelson nevertheless continued his attempts to shape the congregation according to his views.133 The young rabbi knew that navigating the two factions, which seemed to be relatively equally divided, would be challenging. He was certain that “if some of my suggestions are not adopted by the majority of the congregation, my position becomes an untenable one.”134

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That is exactly what happened, and, with the traditionalists still in control, the congregation voted to not renew his contract.135 Egelson was by no means the only disciple who failed to introduce Schechter’s vision because of the power of an older, more traditional laity. Another rabbi accepted a pulpit in a similarly divided congregation in Rochester, New York, and, despite the presence of a more progressive congregational president, the traditionalists voted to oust the rabbi by a slim margin. Following this, the progressives threatened to resign from the congregation.136 After a plea from Schechter himself, the rabbi was reelected by a nearly unanimous vote. The reversal in course reflected the congregants’ ambivalence and not necessarily a change in attitude—as the rabbi observed that it “does not mean that my members became [B’aalei Tscheuvah]. They are as inconsiderate and unappreciative as ever.” He informed Schechter that “the intended mischief was averted for a while but the mischief-makers are still alive and active,” and they were “ready to start something at any moment.”137 This rabbi’s experience demonstrates just how much power the laity held over the rabbis and just how difficult the disciples’ own lack of power could be. “I suffered enough in my present position,” the rabbi argued, “enough, perhaps more than enough,” and he noted that his “energies are almost exhausted.”138 He left the congregation the following year. Thus Schechter’s disciples struggled to implement their teacher’s vision. Few congregations were readymade. Moreover, a powerful laity usually dictated congregational affairs, and the disciples found themselves at the whim of an often ambivalent laity. Additionally, there simply were not enough positions to go around—a reality that often led to intense competition for the best jobs. One disciple, unhappy with his current job, was “surprised at the scarcity of positions” and suggested that he might return to New York to find a job and take a postgraduate Seminary course.139 When Louis Epstein resolved to leave his first position in Dallas, one Seminary official told him that “there is such a scarcity of new positions” and urged him to remain in his current post.140 Epstein was fortunate to be offered a position in Toledo, later securing a pulpit in Boston. Most of his colleagues, however, were not so lucky, and with so few positions, tempers often boiled over when a desirable pulpit became available. When one rabbi discovered that he was not the only Seminary graduate who applied for a position in Hamilton, Ontario—a position he viewed as rightly his—he angrily wrote Schechter, declaring the cutthroat competition unacceptable. “This is the second time that my attempt to secure a post is frustrated by the ‘grabbing’ spirit of a classmate,” he told his teacher. Such

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behavior, he maintained, confirmed his opinion “that the ministry in this country is monopolized by men who do not even uphold the elementary virtue of honesty.” He defiantly told Schechter that “if it is a case of fighting and grabbing I am the last one to flinch.”141 What is more, salaries were meager, and Schechter’s students found it difficult to prosper. “Instead of an increase in my salary,” one rabbi complained to Schechter, “I have had an increase in my family.”142 “The salaries were pitifully low,” mused Israel Levinthal, and the money he received at his first position “was hardly enough to meet the barest needs of the family.” While Levinthal earned extra money for officiating at weddings, he rode there in a streetcar, “for it would have been reckless extravagance to spend part of that fee on a taxicab.” So pressed, Levinthal decided to turn to law and secretly studied for and received a degree from New York University. He began to practice while also maintaining his rabbinical duties and discovered after six months that he had earned more than his annual rabbinic salary, “as if the Satan of economic success was determined to alienate me more and more from the ambition of my youth.” But, while he enjoyed law, his “heart yearned for a complete devotion to rabbinical work” and when he was offered a new rabbinical post in Brooklyn he returned exclusively to the rabbinate.143 Yet the disciples also faced other challenges to their professional success and personal well-being, as loneliness and isolation challenged their devotion to Schechter and his vision. “Those were days before the aeroplane came into use,” Rubenovitz wrote about his time in Louisville. He was “very far away from the center of things Jewish in New York City” and “felt isolated and greatly missed the encouragement and moral support comes from contact with those who are like-minded and share one’s interests.”144 Rubenovitz was not alone. Another disciple in Denver was at times painfully aware of the great distance between himself and his teacher in New York and wrote to Schechter shortly after his arrival, asking his mentor to visit him.145 Still another settled in Salt Lake City and felt a similar sense of isolation. “Most of the time it feels, as though one were separated from the headwaters of intellectual and spiritual life,” he wrote to Schechter. He asked to go east in order to join his fellow JTS alumni and told Schechter that his experience was “like living in exile ‘in a place where the waters are bad.’”146 Another disciple in Athens, Georgia sent his father to speak with Schechter about a position in New York. “If things so turned out that I could settle down in New York and be near my people,” he told Schechter, “I should be perfectly happy from many points of view.”147

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For many disciples, these challenges were simply too much to endure, so they looked to the more established institutions of the Reform movement to increase their chances of success, job security, and financial wellbeing. Many believed the Reform movement offered brighter prospects because it was actively working to improve conditions for its own rabbis. American rabbis, in general, had long complained of poor treatment—the vast majority in the mid-nineteenth century, for example, received only one-year contracts with no disability or death benefits. Raising the status of the rabbi was one of the initial aims of Hebrew Union College when it opened its doors in 1875. It was also a central aim of the Reform rabbinical body, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), at its first convention in 1890. While Seminary graduates may have been drawn to the institutions of the Reform movement because of the perception that it was actively combating their problems, the reality was that the life of a Reform rabbi was still challenging. One rabbi remarked in 1885 that “the bread of the Jewish Minister is but seldom buttered,” and in 1903 the CCAR appointed a special committee to try to raise the status of the rabbi. Sensing the futility of the task, one Reform rabbi remarked the following year that they continued to be victimized by “rich vulgarians and upstart parvenus.”148 But, while life continued to be discouraging for some Reform rabbis, Israel Levinthal believed their lives were easier than those of his classmates. He noted that even the smallest Reform congregation paid more than twice the salary he earned during his first years in the rabbinate and that the larger Reform congregations “paid salaries which could compare favorably” with rabbinical salaries from the 1950s.149 For some the allure of the Reform movement was simply too tempting, but the vast majority remained committed to implementing Schechter’s vision, irrespective of the personal sacrifice required. At least nine of the approximately sixty-five rabbis (14 percent) who were identified as graduating from JTS from 1903 to 1914 joined the CCAR,150 yet even this seemingly heretical act did not necessarily imply a renunciation of Schechter and his vision for American Jewry. At least four of the nine Seminary graduates in the CCAR remained part of the Seminary orbit—deeply enmeshed in a world revolving around Schechter, JTS professors and alumni, and the future institutions of the Conservative movement: the United Synagogue and Rabbinical Assembly.151 Despite the temptations of Reform, the vast majority of Schechter’s disciples remained in close contact with their teacher and were unified in their commitment to implement his vision.

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Bonds to Last a Lifetime While the charismatic bond would be the first step in forging a group identity, the social ties between the disciples themselves would also become critically important in maintaining unity within the group that would later create the Conservative movement. When Jacob Kohn reached the most important day in his life—the day he and his wife Augusta were married— he turned to Schechter to sign the ketubah. Yet the ceremony also demonstrates that while Schechter’s disciples not only developed a deep respect and charismatic bond with their teacher himself, they also nurtured personal ties with one another, as Kohn chose classmate Charles Hoffman to perform the ceremony.152 The graduates of Schechter’s Seminary overcame their differences and began to forge the seeds of a group consciousness through friendship and shared experience. In a limited number of cases, those relationships and friendships began even before students entered the Seminary. Israel Levinthal, for example, attended a Hebrew school in Philadelphia under the guidance of a Seminary graduate. Three rabbis who would later become Levinthal’s Seminary classmates also attended that Hebrew school.153 In many other instances, the bonds between students were first nurtured as an atmosphere of mutual support developed amongst the students at the Seminary. Herman Rubenovitz recalled that foreign-born students like himself “were seriously handicapped by their slight knowledge of the English language.  . . . Each one of us who was born or brought up in this country became tutors in English to the foreigners among us while, on the other hand, those equipped with a more extensive knowledge of Talmud as was mostly the case with those who stemmed from Russia . . . became leaders of the little intensive study groups in rabbinics.”154 Mutual support was also imperative because of their precarious financial situation, as many rabbinic students had to work their way through the Seminary. To earn extra money, Levinthal preached every other Friday night and directed a Sunday school at a small congregation in Brooklyn. He later took another position in Brooklyn and taught several days a week in the Hebrew school of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.155 Jacob Kohn had to work for his father on Sundays and over the summer. “I really welcomed the high office bestowed upon me,” he recalled, “of driving my father’s delivery wagon.”156 For those students who either did not have the time to work or could not find suitable employment, scholarships were often necessary for survival. One student told Schechter that he came to the Seminary from HUC

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and expected a scholarship, but none was forthcoming. He soon ran out of money and wrote to his teacher that “to my great sorrow and surprise,” the lack of the promised funds had “practically forced me out this day . . . to go and serve other gods.”157 Another student withdrew from the Seminary because of financial difficulty and returned only because he was promised a stipend. After some time, when he still hadn’t received it, he thought that he would have to “step out and resume my work” as a public school substitute teacher.158 While the scramble for the few available scholarships undoubtedly led to a great deal of competition, Eugene Kohn’s experience points to a sense of mutual support. Worried that his financial assistance came at the expense of his classmates, he wrote to Schechter that “my holding a scholarship for so long has been troubling my conscience not a little” and asked if Schechter knew of “some position in a Hebrew school or as a private tutor to which you would recommend me.” He assured Schechter that if he could find him work he would “be much obliged.”159 In addition to mutual support, living arrangements also fostered close ties between students. The Seminary had no dormitories, so students had to “fend for [themselves] and pay for [their] board and lodging.”160 To make ends meet, Jacob Kohn lived with classmates for a time, rooming with Herman Rubenovitz and another student.161 Israel Levinthal first endured a “long and difficult subway ride” from the home of family friends in the Bronx with whom he lived, before choosing to room with another Seminary student. After his marriage, Levinthal lived in a fifth floor walk-up apartment.162 Studying and living together, the bonds between Schechter’s disciples were also strengthened as they spent much of their free time socializing together. Jacob Kohn remembered a beer garden on 125th Street: “warm evenings . . . around the tables in the beer garden” where he and his classmates would “regale ourselves both intellectually and physiologically.” For fifty cents or a dollar, Kohn and his classmates could purchase beer and a sandwich or salad, though he was careful to mention that they did not eat unkosher meat and instead “confined ourselves to cheese.” They would also “enjoy the food, listen to the music and meanwhile discuss problems philological, philosophical, sociological, or personal till the late hours of the night.” Kohn recalled that such outings “were not too frequent” because as students, they needed to study nightly. However, Kohn wrote in his memoir that “though I have forgotten much that was printed in my books,” he never forgot the personal ties. “The temper and feel of the student gatherings remain with me,” he recalled.163 He also remembered his roommates playfully reminding

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him if he ever forgot to write his daily letter to his girlfriend.164 Kohn’s Seminary years “were glorious years as I look back upon them because on the one hand there were all the new and exciting personalities whom I met in the faculty of the reorganized Seminary, because I’ve made so many friends who represented other types of the Jewish diaspora than were represented by my own family.”165 The close friendships amongst Schechter’s students, as well as the charismatic bond with their teacher, were both renewed each summer at various vacation resorts along the East Coast. Schechter and his wife were joined there by his students (and their growing families) for relaxation and the occasional “intellectual treats.”166 Maine was a popular place for these rabbis to summer, and many—including Schechter—spent time in the coastal town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Tannersville, New York, in the Catskills, was also another popular place to vacation.167 Israel Levinthal spent his honeymoon at a resort in the Catskills—the same resort where Schechter, Marx, and others spent their vacation. “It was good to be close to these wonderful people,” he later recalled, “who took us warmly to their hearts.”168 The charismatic bond with Schechter, together with these shared experiences, friendships, and mission to implement the vision of their revered teacher, all sowed the seeds of a group consciousness. One early expression of this was the publication of the Jewish Theological Seminary Students Annual, which was intended “to knit more closely together not only the present students of the Seminary but also the past students, the alumni, who as rabbis are now scattered all over the breadth and width of this land.”169 The Alumni Association, founded in 1901, served a similar purpose, seeking “to foster feelings of fellowship and mutual helpfulness among the members,” in addition to its primary aim of furthering the goals of the Seminary.170 An announcement for the 1908 meeting called the gathering “the reunion of the alumni” and maintained that “these meetings renew ties of friendship and form new ones.”171 As we shall see, the seeds of this group consciousness would grow throughout the first decades of the twentieth century, ultimately becoming the foundation of the Conservative movement.

2 The United Synagogue and the Transition to Postcharismatic Authority

“Our Rabbis are mostly in struggling Synagogues” Solomon Schechter bluntly observed in 1912.1 Schechter was resigned to the reality that his vision for American Judaism was failing, as only a handful of congregations were receptive to his message. Faced with the realization that he could not implement his vision on his own, Schechter 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 welcome all disciples, regardless of their differences, and that it also emphasize Catholic Israel by seeking to unify American Jewry. 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. After Schechter’s death, that leadership structure remained in place and the group consciousness strengthened, sustaining the internal unity upon which Schechter had insisted. It was Schechter’s emphasis on inclusivity during his life that prevented his disciples from splintering after his death, allowing for the

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successful routinization of his charisma and the effective transition to a postcharismatic phase.

Schechter Turns to His Disciples By 1907, Schechter was beginning to despair that his vision for American Judaism was failing. He believed that the Seminary’s health was deteriorating, as its finances were precarious, and he was concerned that it was not gaining support among newly arrived East European immigrants. Moreover, he saw himself increasingly marginalized as a national Jewish leader, as the New York City Kehilla embraced Schechter’s call for unity, but on its own terms, and the Bureau of Jewish Education had usurped the control Schechter hoped to have over Jewish education. His health waned in the years after 1910, and World War I destroyed any hope of unity in the world—let alone the Jewish community.2 While his worldview was under attack, his vision of an American Jewish community—unified behind traditional Judaism infused with English, decorum, and modern education—was also failing. Both Schechter and his disciples were frustrated because the environment had seemed ripe for their success, in large part because of the mass migration of approximately two million Jews from Eastern Europe to America who created scores of new synagogues. Countless new congregations were organized around social and religious networks from Eastern Europe—networks that began to break down as the immigrants and their children were confronted with newfound religious freedoms in America. Geographical mobility that disrupts social and religious networks generally creates a nurturing environment for new religions—Mormonism, for example, grew when its members migrated from New England to the emerging American West, where few social ties existed.3 Still, although the environment seemed conducive for Schechter and his disciples, success was not immediately forthcoming, as only a handful of congregations offered his disciples a realistic chance for success. In an attempt to achieve the success he had hoped for when he first arrived in America, Schechter nurtured a small group of his disciples whom he groomed to take leadership of the emerging movement.4 To that end, Schechter and several of his disciples created an informal rabbinical placement network, intended to place Seminary graduates in positions that would offer them the best chance for success. Together,

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Schechter and his disciples surveyed each potential pulpit and recommended to the congregation the rabbi whom they felt could best implement Schechter’s vision, given the needs of that particular congregation. While this system was inefficient because of its lack of a strong centralized organizational structure, it nevertheless strengthened the disciples’ vague group consciousness and it also produced a cadre of trusted disciples who would take the lead in implementing Schechter’s vision after their teacher’s death. One of those trusted disciples was Herman Rubenovitz, who viewed himself as a pioneer and a “veritable circuit preacher” to New England Jewry.5 In 1913, for example, he was contacted by congregations in Fall River, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, and while he focused primarily on New England, he often widened his gaze.6 For example, when he heard that one of his colleagues was a candidate for an opening in Toronto, Rubenovitz suggested that the candidate might be a better fit for a position in Winnipeg.7 Rubenovitz also worked diligently to find an appropriate colleague to fill a pulpit in Pittsburgh, the city in which he grew up.8 Like Rubenovitz, Louis Epstein also became a trusted adviser to Schechter in placement activities. In 1913, while serving as a rabbi in Dallas, Epstein was able to convince a congregation in nearby Fort Worth to accept a Seminary graduate as its next rabbi. He told Schechter that he had been invited to the town to perform a marriage ceremony and, once there, members of the community informed him of the great difficulties they had in finding a rabbi. After initially resisting Epstein’s suggestion to hire a Seminary graduate, congregational leaders eventually wrote to Epstein seeking his advice. He implored them to choose a “Seminary man” instead of one of the many “self-appointed rabbis” who worked toward the “destruction of Judaism,” and Epstein was pleased when they finally heeded his advice. Having succeeded in creating a position for a colleague, Epstein then wrote to Schechter to give his teacher his opinion “of what kind of man they need.” He told Schechter that “the position as I view it is not a very attractive one and the demands” upon the rabbis were “very great.” He also told Schechter that “they want a Scholar, from a Russian Jeshibah [sic] but with a true American pronunciation, an orator and an excellent school teacher, a great organizer and a socially attractive man for a salary of $1500-$1800 a year.”9 Despite the congregation’s seemingly unrealistic expectations, Epstein suggested a rabbi to them who best fit their qualifications. He also

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asked Schechter to “advise me how to be helpful,” assuring him that he would be “glad to do anything” he could.10 A third rabbi trusted by Schechter was Charles Kauvar, who worked to create positions for his colleagues in the American Midwest. Kauvar was born in Vilna, and was from a family he described as “always strictly Orthodox, members and regular attendants at the synagogue; strictly observant, Shom’rei Shabbos.” He was educated in schools and a yeshiva in Vilna and, following the death of his father, came to New York around the age of twelve with his mother and three siblings. After completing his education in the New York City schools, he enrolled in City College of New York and shortly thereafter entered the Seminary—graduating at the age of twenty-three as valedictorian of its 1902 class.11 Though Kauvar graduated in 1902—shortly before Schechter arrived at the Seminary—he still considered himself a devoted disciple of the great master. Kauvar accepted a position in Denver immediately following his 1902 graduation, but he nevertheless continued his graduate work under Schechter, earning a Doctor of Hebrew Letters from JTS in 1909.12 Like the rest of the class of 1902, Schechter treated Kauvar as if he were one of his own students, and Kauvar and most of his fellow 1902 graduates also viewed themselves as Schechter’s disciples. Like Rubenovitz and Epstein, Kauvar also worked to create positions for his colleagues, and he hoped to bring Schechter’s message to Jewish communities throughout the Midwest. Kauvar traveled from Denver to Sioux City, Iowa to help organize a congregation, and once there, he found “three struggling Jewish synagogues, few Schohetim [ritual slaughterers], the beginnings of a Talmud Torah,” and one Reform congregation. He told Schechter that “the tragedy of the town, a prosperous community, as I viewed it, is the fact that the main pillars of the Temple, are Jews, who a generation ago lived as conforming Jews and hated Reform in Judaism; but who in the past 20 years, have succumbed to the dissolving influences of the chaos that exists in the Orthodox camp.” They were also falling victim, in Kauvar’s mind, to the influence of the town’s Reform rabbi, whom he described as “quite a Hebrew scholar; a fair talker; and [someone who] is attempting with more or less success to win the children of Orthodox Jews over to his Temple.” Kauvar told Schechter, however, that there was an opportunity to affiliate a new congregation, the leaders of which were young, “respectable, responsible business men” who feared their “children may [God] forbid, be lost to Judaism.” There is no question Kauvar viewed his recruiting role as important, as he wrote

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that “I look upon the awakening of Sioux City as one of the best things I did in the past year.”13 Like Rubenovitz and Epstein, Kauvar also assisted Schechter in finding the right disciple for each job. He told Schechter that Sioux City needed “quite a strong man”; the congregants wanted a rabbi “who can be the spokesman for their synagogue, the interpreter and teacher of their Religion, in a word their leader in all things Jewish.” He was clearly invested in creating a successful match and told Schechter that he was “very anxious to see that they get the right man, and I would ask you, dear Dr. Schechter, to give this matter your personal attention.”14 Kauvar also worked to create positions for his colleagues in Kansas City, Missouri, and Colorado Springs, among other places.15 While Schechter’s disciples were heavily involved in recruiting, so too was Cyrus Adler, who later took over for Schechter as acting president after Schechter’s death. While Schechter was away in South Africa, for example, it was Adler who took the lead in placing a candidate in Philadelphia. Two Philadelphia congregations planned to merge, and, though Adler was doubtful the merger would actually take place, he nevertheless urged Herman Rubenovitz to take a rabbinical post at one of the congregations as a “temporary” one “while negotiations are pending.”16 Adler later changed his mind and instead advised Rubenovitz to take a position in Boston. After the merger fell through, Adler mused that “they are a very uncertain set of people and I would not like to pin too much to their statements.”17 The saga continued for months, with Adler keeping Schechter informed of the situation.18 Initially, then, the system of placement was haphazard, with Schechter working informally with his students to create positions that would offer a reasonable chance of success. Though there were certainly squabbles, Schechter’s students generally looked out for one another—favoring their fellow disciples when job openings emerged, which strengthened their group consciousness. While this system was hardly efficient, Schechter and his disciples were not alone. Other new religions also struggled with the same problem of creating a strong organizational structure that could effectively mobilize their members. The Hare Krishna, for example, struggled to organize because their system of growth also lacked a central authority that had overarching control.19 Similarly, the lack of organizational control within the Spiritual Frontiers Movement and Christian Gnostic movements also made effective mobilization and efficient growth nearly impossible.20

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The United Synagogue and the Institutionalization of Diversity How then could Schechter and his disciples move beyond their inefficient system and effectively organize on a national scale? Schechter did not trust the existing movements or organizations to carry out his vision, believing that it was “a hopeless matter to combine with the Orthodox Union, or this other wing,” presumably referring to the Reform Movement.21 Instead, Schechter turned to the disciples with whom he had worked informally and with whom he had developed a charismatic bond, and together they created an organization that would not only advocate for an Americanized traditional Judaism, but one that would also seek to unify American Jews without creating a new party or schism. The disciples embraced this idea and took the lead in creating the United Synagogue with these goals in mind, developing a leadership structure that institutionalized the diversity upon which Schechter insisted. This cemented and institutionalized the group identity that had already begun to develop based upon friendship, shared experiences, and a common mission, and it allowed authority within the emerging movement to be successfully transmitted from Schechter to his disciples. The institutionalization of Schechter’s vision was underway by 1908, when Herman Rubenovitz suggested a national “Conservative Union” to improve the working conditions of his peers and to more effectively spread Schechter’s ideals. Rubenovitz shared this idea with fellow alumnus Charles Isaiah Hoffman, the president of the Seminary Alumni Association.22 Hoffman, who would play a critical role in Conservative Judaism’s emergence, was the senior member of the alumni. He was American-born and, before he enrolled in the Seminary, he had previously enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer and the editor of the Jewish Exponent.23 Because of his stature in the American Jewish world, Hoffman was active in the negotiations to bring Schechter to America, and he was so delighted when Schechter took the job that he decided to change careers and apparently applied immediately for admission to the Seminary.24 Unlike his peers, most of whom had matriculated in their late teens or early twenties, Hoffman was in his thirties and later graduated from the Seminary in 1904 at the age of forty.25 From this initial Rubenovitz-Hoffman discussion, the United Synagogue of America was born. With these two influential disciples on board, the topic of a new organization circulated quickly. “I know that there are others working along the same lines,” Hoffman told Rubenovitz, and while the two alumni prepared to circulate their idea among their peers,26 they also

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brought Schechter into the discussion and asked for his assistance.27 Rubenovitz asked Schechter if he might “find it possible to give some attention to the situation outside of the Seminary,” and asked if Schechter had considered the formation of a “Conservative Union.” He told Schechter of his conversations with Hoffman and maintained that “it is indeed high time that we begin ‘to put our house in order,’ and for the effective carrying out of this work the organization of a Conservative Union . . . is absolutely necessary.”28 Schechter seemed intrigued, telling Rubenovitz that he would be in touch with Hoffman to “talk the matter over.”29 While discussion about the new union circulated quickly among Schechter and the alumni, they also expected the organization to draw from a broad base—inclusive of rabbis, Seminary professors, and Seminary leaders. Schechter believed that Seminary officials like Adler, who had previously served as the president of the Seminary Corporation and was still active in the administration of the school, should be included in the discussions.30 Adler himself believed that the union should draw from a broad base and therefore had been discussing “with other people, the formation of an organization, which we may possibly call the Jewish Conservative Union.”31 Moreover, Judah Magnes, who led the executive committee of the New York Kehillah, also had “several talks” with Schechter about “the Conservative Union.”32 Though the union was gaining a broadening base of support, it was clear that the alumni were taking the lead in its creation. The major debates occurred through the Alumni Association’s subcommittees and at its annual meetings—it was a committee of five alumni, for example, who issued the call in 1910 for a meeting to create “a Union of Conservative Congregations.”33 They argued that “the need of uniting and organizing the Conservative forces of American Jewry has long been felt” and that “such a union would bring together all of those who are in substantial harmony in their desire to promote Conservative Judaism.”34 They invited a broad-based group to that meeting, which they hoped “might well combine to form a nucleus of a movement which it is hoped will do much for the establishment of Conservative Judaism in America.”35 With the alumni in the lead, the interested parties began to discuss the particulars of the union—embarking on a highly contentious debate that would shape the organization for decades. At issue was whether the union would emphasize Catholic Israel, by reaching out to all of American Jewry, or whether it would represent a new, third movement in Judaism, with its own boundaries. Hoffman initially seemed to believe a third movement

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would be more effective, suggesting that the new union should stand at the center of a new movement that was “in opposition to other existing parties and their platforms.”36 On the other hand, Cyrus Adler disagreed with Hoffman, pressing vigorously for a firm commitment to Catholic Israel. Though Adler had earlier suggested the name “Jewish Conservative Union,” he quickly reversed course, maintaining the word Conservative implied the creation of a new movement. Though he seemed willing to break with Reform, his unyielding commitment to Orthodoxy forced him to declare his opposition to “the use of party names or party platforms in Judaism,” and he believed that “what we call Conservative Judaism, we really believe to be simply Judaism, and that a modifying epithet is a confession of weakness in that it admits that we represent only a party.”37 This initial debate over Catholic Israel pitted Adler against Hoffman, and was merely the opening salvo in a long battle between the Seminary and the alumni for power and control. At the outset, Adler assumed the new organization would revolve around the Seminary’s schedule and hoped that any new movement would “be launched about the time of the Seminary Commencement.”38 He also believed that all members should have some Seminary affiliation, and if any “important conservative man not a graduate of the Seminary” wanted to join, he should first be granted an honorary Seminary degree before he could be brought “into the fold.”39 He was wary of the union becoming a “Rabbinical caste,”40 and he therefore believed that the union’s “principal executive officer” should be “connected with the Seminary.”41 The alumni, however, had other ideas. They believed the organization should revolve around their schedule and that important decisions should be made in time for their Alumni Association meetings.42 They also believed that the locus of power should not reside with Seminary officials, but rather with the alumni. “Neither Kohn nor I see why the Alumni should lose its hold upon the movement,” Hoffman told Rubenovitz. “Its future development may be properly considered as a continuation of our efforts.”43 In response, Rubenovitz argued it would be “from the alumni that the Union will derive its strength.”44 Finally, one group of alumni argued that “it devolves upon the members of the Alumni Association to lead in this movement and bear the responsibility of the initial steps.”45 As Adler and the disciples jockeyed for position, they turned for guidance to Schechter, who in 1911 agreed to devote “all my spare time for the next two years, just to this work.”46 Schechter recognized the importance of including both parties in the coalition. On one hand, Schechter called

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the union “a Conference of Conservative Rabbis,” indicating just what a central role he believed the alumni would play, as well as the flexibility of the term conservative.47 Schechter presented the union as a joint venture, “projected by the president of the Jewish Theological Seminary and a number of its Alumni.”48 On the other hand, Schechter also understood Adler’s fear that “if the Conservative Union should grow to be a strong body the center of gravity would be removed from the Seminary.”49 Accordingly, Schechter told Rubenovitz that “the Seminary must be the centre,”50 insisting the union be inclusive of “the forces of Jewish learning and scholarship.”51 He also believed the headquarters should be in the Seminary building.52 Despite Hoffman’s initial hope that the organization would represent a new movement, Schechter, unsurprisingly, insisted the movement aspire to represent Catholic Israel. Unity, as we have seen, had been a defining aspect of Schechter’s life, and he maintained it was “essential to the success of our cause” that the organization include “all elements in American Jewry in sympathy with traditional Judaism.”53 When Schechter was challenged to constitute the United Synagogue as “the mouthpiece of a third, or conservative party, independent of either tendency,”54 he vigorously opposed this suggestion. When Henry Pereira Mendes suggested a plan that would bar Schechter’s more liberal disciples from “all Committees in any way concerned with the religious part of the programme,” relegating them to only “the educational and literary activities of the United Synagogue,”55 Schechter refused to grant his request. Schechter had argued that he would not “exclude some of the best men of our Seminary, who were not fortunate enough to secure synagogues without an organ or without [mixed] pews. Some of these are of the most devoted to the Conservative or Orthodox cause.”56 In remaining committed to Catholic Israel, Schechter sided with Adler,57 who did “not want to be drawn into any Separatist movement by these young men.”58 Despite their rivalry with Adler, the disciples also went along with Schechter and now opposed the word conservative in the name of their organization. In 1912 they announced their proposed union would now be known as “Agudath Jeshurun—A Union for Promoting Traditional Judaism in America.” To explain the removal of the word conservative, they claimed “it was deemed proper to adopt a name that would not expose us to the charge of wishing to create a third or merely a compromise party.” Agudath Jeshurun wished to “represent all of Israel” and would “accept the character of a party only if it will be forced upon us.”59 At the initial meeting of the new organization, held on February 23, 1913, the group changed its name to the

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simpler United Synagogue of America, continuing to reflect the emphasis on inclusivity. Reflecting the need to implement Schechter’s vision in a more organized manner, and to solve the difficulties encountered by rabbis in the field, Schechter’s disciples set out to organize through the United Synagogue what one disciple called “the inchoate mass of disunited, disorganized, inarticulate congregations in America, essentially loyal to traditional Judaism.”60 This new centralized organization sought to help formalize the haphazard method of affiliating congregations. United Synagogue rabbis would “help such outlying communities in the various states as are in need of advice and counsel” and would be entrusted with the task of enlisting new congregations, helping them to select new spiritual leaders, and providing them with the tools and knowledge to organize their own religious schools.61 Consistent with Catholic Israel and the attempt to bring unity to the American Jewish world, the United Synagogue sought to affiliate virtually all congregations that broadly agreed with Schechter’s plan to revitalize American Jewry. Schechter himself sought “the co-operation of all synagogues that are devoted to the cause of the conservation of traditional Judaism, whether they style themselves Conservative or Orthodox,”62 indicating that he viewed the new institution as a coalition of forces. Schechter believed the English sermon, decorum, Hebrew, and modern educational methods “must be accepted fully, without any reserve, by our constituents if traditional Judaism shall be able to hold its own, and in the end also to gain supremacy on this continent.”63 This broad program made it easy for a wide variety of Americanized synagogues to join, yet only twenty-two congregations were represented at the first organizational meeting in February 1913—a group that reflected an urban bias and geographic diversity. Among these initial congregations were those from the East Coast, including Baltimore, Boston, Newark, New York, Norfolk, and Philadelphia. Congregations from Denver and Detroit served as representatives from the Midwest, and Rochester, New York and Montréal also sent delegates.64 The charter congregations of the United Synagogue were also characterized by a great deal of theological diversity. Many of the congregations fit a more traditional pattern, including Beth HaMidrash HaGadol of Denver and Shaar Hashomayim of Montréal. Temple Beth El of Buffalo, which was an early member of the United Synagogue, had “always clung to the Orthodox ritual,”65 and at the Washington Heights congregation “the services were conducted in strict Orthodox manner, though some modern features were introduced such as sermons in English and Congregational singing.”66

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On the more liberal side, Jacob Kohn later recalled that when he arrived at his New York congregation in 1911, the synagogue “used the traditional prayer book but it introduced family pews, an organ and choir and conducted certain portions of the service in English.”67 Similarly, Rubenovitz’s congregation introduced an organ and a mixed choir in their Sabbath and holiday services shortly after it joined the United Synagogue, though “the traditional Hebrew prayers were to be maintained intact.”68 In other words, the congregations reflected the diversity of the disciples. As Schechter and his disciples sought to affiliate congregations, they also sought lay participation to facilitate this task. Rubenovitz initially had envisioned a union comprised of both rabbis and “representative laymen” and believed that lay involvement “will carry more weight with the people than a committee of alumni.”69 As we have already seen, lay leaders on the congregational level were much more powerful than the rabbis. The situation was reversed, however, at the national level, as rabbis and professors held most of the leadership positions in the United Synagogue. At its founding in 1913 only one layperson served as an officer (the treasurer), and there were only six lay leaders on the eighteen-person executive council. While lay leaders could be members-at-large, they also served as congregational representatives. Each member congregation was given one delegate if it was under fifty members and an additional delegate for every fifty members above the initial threshold. Limiting the influence of any single lay leader, no one person could hold more than five proxy votes as a congregational representative.70 While lay participation and representation continued in the ensuing years, it remained in a reduced capacity. By 1919 there were still only six lay leaders on the executive council, including Mathilde Schechter. The only officer continued to be the treasurer, and the only committee led by the laity was the finance committee. Yet they were increasingly making their voices heard. In addition to holding considerable sway at the congregational level, the 1918 Annual Convention, for example, featured twice as many lay leaders as rabbis, and somewhere between half and two-thirds of the organization’s membership at that time was comprised of laity.71 This reality suggests, contrary to popular belief, the laity were beginning to see the movement in national terms before 1920. Yet while they may have been dictating policy within their congregations, it was the rabbis who were leading the movement on the national level. Yet, despite this lay participation, the alumni insisted they would remain in control, and the executive council reflects this balance. Schechter stood as the president of the organization, Louis Ginzberg represented the profes-

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sors with a seat on the executive council, and Cyrus Adler represented the Seminary leadership, serving as one of the four vice presidents. Alumni held the other three vice president positions, as well as the positions of recording secretary and corresponding secretary, and also eight of the eighteen executive council positions.72 By 1918, alumni still held three of the four vice ­president positions, the two secretarial positions, and five of the twelve additional positions on the executive council.73 With Schechter and his disciples dictating policy, the United Synagogue remained squarely focused on Schechter’s vision of Catholic Israel. Its preamble declared that, “Recognizing the need of an organized movement for advancing the cause of Judaism in America and maintaining Jewish tradition in its historical continuity,” the organization would have six main aims: To assert and establish loyalty to the Torah and its historical exposition, To further the observance of the Sabbath and the Dietary Laws, To preserve in the service the reference to Israel’s past and the hopes for Israel’s restoration, To maintain the traditional character of the liturgy, with Hebrew as the language of prayer, To foster Jewish religious life in the home, as expressed in traditional observances, To encourage the establishment of Jewish religious schools, in the curricula of which the study of the Hebrew language and literature shall be given a prominent place, both as the key to the true understanding of Judaism, and as a bond holding together the scattered communities of Israel throughout the world.74

In addition to these six aims, the United Synagogue would also “embrace all elements essentially loyal to traditional Judaism and in sympathy with the purposes outlined above.”75 While the preamble of the United Synagogue left no doubt that the organization would welcome traditionalists, just who else would it include? Who was “essentially loyal to traditional Judaism,” and what would the organization’s attitude be toward those who were not? The official answer was that the United Synagogue would reach out to most American Jews, hoping to unite the community in the image of Catholic Israel. Yet the question remained—should the organization cultivate the support of the full spectrum of American Jewry, or should it represent a third, centrist movement, however broad or narrow?

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Before we can answer these questions, we need to distance ourselves from our understanding of the twenty-first century American Jewish spectrum and understand the range of Jewish beliefs in 1913. For example, the term Conservative today carries clear connotations of a movement, while in 1913 it was vague and undefined. Moreover, Orthodoxy was not a unified movement in 1913 but instead characterized by a spectrum of traditional Jewish practices. Reform could be traditional or radical, and the boundary separating any one from the other was hazy, fluid, or often simply undefined. Understanding, then, how contemporaries viewed the American Jewish spectrum is absolutely critical to understanding just which groups the United Synagogue sought to attract. While his definitions were hardly scientific, Henry Pereira Mendes, whom Schechter had unceremoniously dismissed from the Seminary, offers us perhaps the best assessment of the American Jewish spectrum in 1913. According to Mendes, the American Jewish community was loosely divided into five groups. The first group, “Russian Orthodoxy,” was not particularly sympathetic to Schechter’s vision or to the United Synagogue. Russian Orthodoxy, Mendes believed, “insists upon a certain ritual and certain forms, but objects to English sermons, has little or no decorum, fails to hold its young men and young women, refuses in its schools Hebrew and religious education to girls and cares little whether women and girls attend religious services or not.” While this definition on its own was antithetical to Schechter’s broad aims, Mendes further suggested that Russian Orthodoxy “degrades womanhood as you and I understand it.”76 It is likely that when Mendes referred to Russian Orthodoxy, he was envisioning the fervently Orthodox rabbis of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. Founded in 1902, the Agudath ha-Rabbanim welcomed rabbis who believed the best way to win American Jewry over to Orthodoxy was by essentially reproducing the world of Eastern Europe on American soil. Its members were militantly opposed to the English language in the synagogue, and they favored Yiddish as the language of education and as the vernacular in the synagogue.77 Though this group was certainly traditional, their insistence on resisting the influences of American life placed them in direct conflict with a key component of Schechter’s vision and thus also the mission of the United Synagogue. In addition to “Russian Orthodoxy,” Mendes believed that the spectrum also included “modern Orthodoxy,” which he believed remained true to traditional religious practices, but also championed English sermons, decorum, and the cause of women. This vision fell neatly in line with that of Schechter. According to Mendes, modern Orthodoxy “resists innovations

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such as organs, pews, disuse of Taleth, female voices in the choir, Christians in the choir, etc.”78 While Russian Orthodox rabbis found a home in the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, modern Orthodox rabbis also had an organization they could call home—the Orthodox Union. The OU, founded in 1898 as the Orthodox Jewish Congregational Union of America, was created by leaders of the preSchechter Seminary, including Mendes and Bernard Drachman as well as Cyrus Adler, who hoped that they could more effectively convince Americanizing immigrants to retain Orthodox traditions.79 As we have seen, modern Orthodox rabbis could also find a home in the United Synagogue, and, because their aims were so similar, membership in the OU was not at first mutually exclusive with membership in the United Synagogue. Mendes also listed three additional categories that did not include the word Orthodox. The third category in Mendes’ spectrum was Conservative, which was “the Judaism which permits some of the innovations” (my emphasis) that modern Orthodoxy rejected, such as organs, mixed seating, and women in the choir. This definition was hardly scientific, and speaks to the many different shades of practice among Schechter’s disciples. While these rabbis could also adhere to Schechter’s vision, they had no other organizations that were created specifically for them, and most self-identified Conservative rabbis were Schechter disciples. The fourth and fifth categories were what Mendes called respectively “Reform” and “Radical Reform.” Reform, he believed, permits some of the same innovations as Conservative Judaism, but also “rejects certain historical beliefs and aspirations, such as Restoration, etc.” Radical Reform rabbis, he argued, rejected any Jewish laws “such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.” It rejected kashrut and special Jewish dress and also rejected a return to Zion. Radical Reform rabbis also included, Mendes believed, those who may have supported a program that “presents the Bible as myth and folk-lore, an epic like the Iliad.”80 Both Reform and “Radical Reform” rabbis were already organized in the CCAR. Given this spectrum, just whom would the United Synagogue include? Would the organization pursue Catholic Israel in its truest sense, inclusive of the fervent “Russian Orthodox,” the “Radical Reform,” and everything in between? Or would it seek to affiliate a more limited range of rabbis and congregations, including only those who supported Schechter’s broad vision? The answer was not entirely clear, and different rabbis would offer different answers, their views changing over time.

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Charles Kauvar, for example, believed, on one hand, the United Synagogue should include everyone who supported Schechter’s vision—generally Conservative or modern Orthodox Jews. Kauvar considered himself to be modern Orthodox, even serving on the executive council of the OU,81 but he believed the United Synagogue should also welcome “Conservative Congregations that want to join us.” Though he did not agree with all of the practices of the conservatives, he believed modern Orthodox elements within the United Synagogue should “dare not assume the policy of pushing our brother Jews away with both hands. We must welcome them. We need them even as they need us. This must be the attitude of the true Jews.”82 Most rabbis in the United Synagogue also believed it was necessary to, at the very least, welcome those rabbis who supported Schechter’s vision. On the other hand, while Kauvar saw the United Synagogue as a home for rabbis who supported Schechter’s vision, he also maintained that the fervent Orthodox could also find a home in the union. Though he did not hold the majority opinion on this issue, he nevertheless believed “we need the co-operation of all Jews to carry to a successful fruition the task before us.” He sought to attract Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis, believing that for this “older generation of Orthodox Jews” who did not yet see the necessity of Schechter’s plan for American Judaism, the United Synagogue would “open their eyes to conditions as they are.” Their congregations, he maintained, would eventually become English-speaking, and they should join now in order to “remain Jewish” when this transition inevitably occurred. He believed all Orthodox congregations would eventually adopt English, minimizing the differences between the Orthodox groups, and, in time, the United Synagogue could thus bring together “all the Orthodox English-speaking synagogues into one union.”83 While the general consensus was that the United Synagogue should welcome modern Orthodox and Conservative rabbis, and there was also limited support for including the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, what would the attitude be toward Reform Jews? Schechter initially argued the United Synagogue should only seek those that had “remained aloof from the Reform movement,” by rejecting the Reform prayer book, and still worshipping with covered heads. Despite his rhetoric, however, the reality was that Schechter was willing to accept Reform congregations and rabbis if they could potentially be won over to his point of view. “It is our duty to help them while they are wavering,” Schechter maintained, “and to bring them back to their loyalty and to strengthen the conservative sentiment that is not entirely extinct in them, and which, with encouragement and sympathy, would be soon brought back to consciousness.”84

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While Cyrus Adler believed the United Synagogue should not welcome Reform rabbis or congregations, the United Synagogue’s approach did attract some moderately reformed rabbis.85 One of the most prominent among those was Elias Margolis, a 1901 graduate of the Hebrew Union College, who would later serve as president of the successor organization to the Alumni Association.86 Max Hoffman also graduated from HUC and joined the United Synagogue. Moreover, several disciples who held membership in the United Synagogue also joined the CCAR, including Moses Abels, William Ackerman, Joseph Hevesh, and Jacob Menkes.87 Finally, one disciple recalled that JTS “recommended its men to Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations.”88 The overlap suggests that, despite the anti-Reform rhetoric, rabbis and congregations affiliated with the Reform movement were nevertheless accepted to some degree. Yet it is also important to note that not all Seminary graduates were affiliated with the United Synagogue. Cross-referencing the lists of Seminary graduates and United Synagogue members reveals that, by 1918, approximately thirty-six students who had graduated by the previous year were not members. There are several possibilities that could account for this. First, the membership rosters may simply have been inaccurate or may reflect only dues-paying members rather than those who identified with the organization. Second, the United Synagogue may not have been a strong enough organization for all graduates to feel compelled to join. As a professional organization, it was not particularly successful in improving the job conditions of its members, so many may have seen no need to affiliate if their congregations did not join. Third, it is also possible only the most devoted to Schechter’s vision, or those in leadership positions, joined the United Synagogue, with others choosing other professional organizations such as the CCAR.89 Nevertheless, while not everyone joined the United Synagogue, those who did were primarily JTS graduates who identified as either “Orthodox” or “Conservative.” While inclusivity and Catholic Israel meant different things to different people, the early United Synagogue seemed willing to welcome anyone who wanted to join. Charles Hoffman noted that at one organizational meeting “leaders of various elements of the community took part. It looked as though all the elements not given over to radical reform could be organized in one great religious union.”90 Moreover, Schechter was particularly keen to ignore the differences among his disciples and implored them to remain united and “not permit the differences in the character of the congregations in which they were placed to weaken their sense of unity in their adherence to a common cause.”91 Maintaining such unity among the disciples of a common master in

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a religious movement is not a foregone conclusion, but Schechter’s disciples accomplished this through their growing group consciousness as well as the institutionalization of diversity within the United Synagogue.

Schechter’s Death and the Transfer of Leadership Following Schechter’s death, and because of the preparations Schechter made during his lifetime, authority transitioned seamlessly to his disciples and the contours of a Conservative movement began to emerge. Schechter decided to step aside in 1914 and entrust leadership to his followers, and he died shortly thereafter, on November 19, 1915. Though Schechter’s death was experienced by his disciples as a traumatic event, and understandably left a major void in their lives, it was not fatal to the emerging movement.92 This was due in some measure to a strengthening group consciousness—based upon friendships, shared experiences, and common mission—but it was also due in large part to the institutionalization of the diversity upon which Schechter had insisted during his lifetime. These two factors prevented the United Synagogue from collapsing or splintering and allowed authority to transfer to the disciples and the emerging movement to successfully enter its postcharismatic phase. During his lifetime, Schechter had vacated the presidency of the United Synagogue, leaving the position to Cyrus Adler. Adler remained at the helm after Schechter died, and most of the other officers also remained in their posts. Moreover, the composition of the executive council remained exactly the same as it had been the year before, and there were also no changes in committee chairs. The only change in leadership was an expansion of three committees, and, of course, Schechter no longer held his honorary presidency. It is hard to imagine how the transfer of leadership could have been any smoother, and the United Synagogue essentially maintained business as usual.93 This successful transfer of leadership from Schechter to his disciples occurred in part because Schechter had found a group of followers, and his vision no longer resided in him alone. Instead, it had become independent of him, taking on a life of its own. This is standard for new religious movements whose founders gained adherents during his or her lifetime. Because a group of followers had bought into Schechter’s vision, his ideas existed independently and were subject to the needs and desires of those adherents. In fact, Schechter had explicitly instructed his disciples to “expand and cor-

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rect” his vision. Thus the charismatic leader was only one component of the movement, and in such instances it is normative that the death of the leader does not doom it.94 Schechter also prepared the movement to outlive him by insisting upon the board-style leadership structure of the United Synagogue, which effectively spread the decision-making process around to many different individuals from across the religious spectrum. The institutionalization of diversity through board-style leadership is not uncommon among new religious movements. In the United States most religious groups use corporate structures to control assets and property, and, while the main intention of such a structure is for tax purposes, an unintended consequence is the stability of that organization during periods of transition. Because the United Synagogue was not led by a single leader who might have been challenged, Schechter’s death was experienced as a traumatic event, but it was not fatal to the emergent movement.95 A similar smooth transition can be seen through the Amana Society, whose adherents settled in Amana, Iowa in 1855 under the leadership of Christian Metz. Metz created a political and economic structure that did not place him as the sole leader of the organization, and, like the United Synagogue, the Amana Society also had a constitution and was incorporated under state law. It was led by a board of trustees that held significant power, and when Metz died there was great sadness over his passing, but the board continued to function much as it had before. The young movement survived the death of its charismatic leader because Metz, like Schechter, welcomed the participation of his disciples during his own lifetime. After Metz and Schechter died, both the Amana Society and the United Synagogue were prepared to stand on their own.96 Another reason for the smooth transition from Schechter to new leadership was the increasing group consciousness of his disciples, who had maintained the personal relationships they cultivated with Schechter and with one another. Those bonds were renewed and strengthened immediately after Schechter’s death by a sense of shared grief and an increased resolve to carry out their teacher’s legacy. After Schechter died, his students came together to mourn the loss and reinforced their sense of common identity with their classmates. Louis Epstein hoped to mourn “together with the rest of [Schechter’s] pupils to whom his life gave inspiration, ambition . . . and who now feel orphaned from master and father together, for this he was to all of us.”97 Another student told of how “the large family of devoted disciples feel the loss of their beloved teacher most keenly.” 98

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As we have seen, when Schechter died his vision was not yet a success. Forty-one congregations had joined the United Synagogue, but only nineteen of them had joined in the two years since the organization’s founding.99 By comparison, the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations had nearly two hundred congregations,100 and this was merely a fraction of what Cyrus Adler estimated to be the roughly eighteen hundred American congregations that would be candidates for membership.101 Yet it became abundantly clear that his students were prepared to devote their lives and careers to finishing what their teacher had started, and this commitment only deepened the vague group consciousness that was initially based upon shared experiences and a common mission. Charles Hoffman hoped Schechter’s life “shall not have been spent in vain,” declaring “his work shall go on.”102 Eugene Kohn expressed a similar sentiment, suggesting the best way to “establish a monument to his memory [was] by continuing religiously in his name the good works that he has bequeathed to us.”103 Another student believed “the masses do not as yet appreciate in proper measure what he has done for the historic Faith. But as time goes by he and his work will be viewed in truer perspective.” That same disciple maintained that once Schechter’s “labors will have produced splendid fruits in the careers of those who sat under him . . . then the world will know what a great power he was for the upbuilding of Judaism in this country.”104 Schechter’s disciples were prepared to carry out their teacher’s vision, and they understood this task would fall to all of his diverse disciples, who were part of a network of rabbis that was striving toward the same goal. Schechter, one student argued, would remain “in the affection of his disciples, scattered far and wide,” and his values “have been picked up and carried by a host of loyal and devoted disciples to the most distant parts of the earth.”105 Similarly, another disciple believed he and his classmates could “find consolation in the thought that our beloved friend and teacher has not lived in vain, but has left a great and noble name behind him, and has raised hundreds of pupils who will continue his noble work.”106 A third disciple believed Schechter’s “work shall continue after him, his influence shall be multiplied a thousandfold, his faithful disciples shall disseminate his teachings throughout the length and breadth of this land.”107 After Schechter’s death in 1915, and because the disciples resolved to carry out Schechter’s vision of Catholic Israel, the inclusiveness of the United Synagogue remained essentially unchanged. In fact, the entrenched inclusivity of the organization was so embracing of minority rights that the United Synagogue looked much like the Polish Sejm of the medieval period,

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where the liberum veto allowed a single member to veto the will of the overwhelming majority. While such a system was not official United Synagogue policy, the organization was so embracing of inclusivity that it generally refused to create policy with a handful—or even a single—dissenting view. The disciples remained committed to Schechter’s inclusivity and unwilling to alienate those with whom they had developed such close relationships. One example that demonstrates the United Synagogue’s commitment to including all of Schechter’s disciples, regardless of their particular religious perspective, was the proposed publication of a prayer book. Almost from the start, United Synagogue rabbis believed it was important to standardize the religious service by using such a book. Herman Rubenovitz, for example, called a new prayer book “a necessity for many of the congregations belonging to the United Synagogue.”108 Yet the disciples’ ideas of what that book should look like varied widely. The traditionalists in the United Synagogue believed that the prayer book should not offend the sensibilities of Schechter’s most traditional disciples who identified as Orthodox. Some, like Cyrus Adler, thought that the book could merely be an English language version of an existing traditional prayer book—perhaps a reprint of a book from England that was already acceptable to most modern Orthodox rabbis.109 The more liberal members of the United Synagogue had other ideas, envisioning a significantly altered prayer book that was more in line with their religious practices. Initially their demands were small, as Rubenovitz suggested that “the question is not so much of abridging or modifying the text as of securing a convenient arrangement of the text which will meet the needs of modern congregations.”110 Later he took a step further, however, and proposed a High Holiday prayer book with “continuous text” and “English translation,” and suggested that “certain ‘Piyutim’ which are omitted in many modern Orthodox and Conservative Congregations were also to be omitted in this volume.”111 In the ensuing years, Rubenovitz would become a vociferous advocate for an altered book. With two different ideas of what the book should look like, the publication of the prayer book threatened to tear apart the coalition of Schechter’s disciples. Jacob Kohn understood “the question of the prayer book involves theoretical as well as practical difficulties,” and the disagreement over the book represented a fundamental difference in how each side practiced Schechter’s teachings. If the United Synagogue picked one view over the other, the unity of Schechter’s disciples could be undermined. In an attempt at compromise, Professor Marx floated the idea that “a special program for conservative congregations might

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be printed and inserted into the flyleaf,” an idea that Louis Ginzberg turned down.112 Without consensus, and realizing that a unilateral decision over the direction of the book would have undermined inclusivity, the United Synagogue indefinitely postponed their attempt to publish a prayer book. The same unwillingness to undermine the unity of Schechter’s disciples is reflected in the debate in 1917 over the creation of an authoritative board for interpreting Jewish law. Many members of the United Synagogue believed such a board was necessary in order to provide answers to the questions they faced on a daily basis, and one in particular believed a board should grapple with and issue rulings on those confounding “questions that are put up to the minister, which perplex the layman, with which every Board of Directors of a synagogue has to deal.”113 Israel Friedlaender felt that such a board could standardize practices in their own lives, and he pointed to the example of wearing head coverings during mealtime in order to highlight the different approaches taken by United Synagogue members. Some ate with covered heads, while others put on a head covering before saying the blessings after the meal. An authoritative committee, he maintained, would be able to “give its opinion to those who are anxious to be observers of the law,” so that proper observance would not be based on “the individual preferences of every person.”114 Theoretically, such rulings would be predicated upon historical Judaism—a concept with which, on the surface, all the disciples agreed. Ginzberg was a staunch supporter of the concept and understood Jewish law as always adapting to its environment. Moreover, he argued that “Judaism always recognized the fact that there are greater truths and lesser truths, catholic truths and individual opinions, forms which are essential and forms which are not essential.”115 Yet rulings predicated upon historical Judaism still threatened to divide the coalition, because the disciples could not agree just how to implement this concept. Schechter’s Catholic Israel offered the best guidance here, as he had suggested that only the united people Israel had the authority to implement changes. If the United Synagogue created an authoritative committee that issued binding rulings based on historical Judaism and Catholic Israel, should it consult with the Agudath ha-Rabbanim to ensure its rulings were in accordance with the traditionalists’ interpretation of Jewish law? Louis Epstein believed the United Synagogue should be inclusive of them and hoped that “some form of co-operation might be devised between the United Synagogue and the Agudas ha-Rabbonim.”116 Another rabbi also believed that the United Synagogue should embrace the Agudath ha-Rabbanim as a means of bringing about the unity of American Jewry, but he understood that their

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opposition to many of Schechter’s ideals might pose a problem. “The Agudas ha-Rabbonim should first see that there is a great need for a United Synagogue in America,” he argued, and only then should they “join with us in bringing about the union of American Jewry.”117 Herman Rubenovitz also understood that including these rabbis would pose a problem because they rejected many of Schechter’s ideals. As a result, he noted that “unity is a great ideal if it is not acquired at the expense of the principle.” He cautioned his peers that a United Synagogue predicated upon Catholic Israel and inclusive of all American Jewry, might not be possible because “there are certain principles and attitudes that separate us from them.”118 Ignoring the will of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim could also have a tremendous impact on who else might join the United Synagogue. If the committee issued binding rulings that were rejected by the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, the United Synagogue might be branded as “un-orthodox.” Without the approbation of these traditionalist rabbis, modern Orthodox rabbis considering joining the union may have been deterred because of the threat of alienation from their peers, and a designation as “un-orthodox” might also have alienated some of Schechter’s modern Orthodox disciples for a similar reason. Additionally, Reform rabbis who joined the United Synagogue were expected to become more traditional, so there was little need to seek their approbation regarding Jewish law. But would they still join if the rigid Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis were dictating policy? Would this send a message to Reform rabbis that the United Synagogue was unwilling to compromise? By rejecting the notion of an authoritative board, the United Synagogue sidestepped these thorny issues, yet in his theoretical justification Ginzberg nevertheless kept the hope for Catholic Israel alive. Ginzberg knew that the obstacles to creating an authoritative council were “great” and “for the present insurmountable,”119 and Charles Hoffman even noted that “we are hardly in a position to unite with ourselves” over the issue.120 Therefore, Ginzberg compromised and argued that though Jewish law had and could continue to adapt, Seminary students weren’t as a whole qualified to change Jewish law on their own.121 Instead, he recommended the formation of a committee on the interpretation of Jewish law that would “advise congregations and associates of the United Synagogue in all matters pertaining to Jewish law and custom,” without requiring constituents to abide by its rulings.122 The compromise, while bothering those who wanted a clearer definition of just what they stood for, nevertheless held the coalition together. The publication of a guide to kosher restaurants in 1919 further highlights how the United Synagogue struggled to maintain inclusivity in its

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early years. In his inaugural address in 1913, Schechter noted that observing the dietary laws was particularly difficult for those who traveled, and “after a hard fight with themselves, [they] violate the dietary laws; and this which very soon results in abolishing them altogether, even in their homes.”123 The Dietary Laws Committee took aim at this problem and declared its intention to publish “a list of summer hotels which are under strict supervision and which the United Synagogue could guarantee to be kosher” as well as “all the places in America, where we could guarantee that kosher restaurants could be found.”124 Schechter thought that such a manual would help to solve the traveler’s dilemma and “would prove useful to everybody.”125 It did not take long to realize that such a project would be fraught with deep complications. Alexander Marx noted that “the ideas of what is kosher are somewhat hazy and there are many kinds of kashruth in this country.”126 Before his death, Schechter was also concerned about situations “where one Rabbi declares trefa [unkosher] what the other declares Kosher. I do not know sometimes whether they are both right or both wrong.”127 Moreover, individual eating establishments used different standards of kashrut. One Atlantic City hotel claimed that its kashrut was guaranteed by the “Two Greatest Orthodox Rabbis in the Country,” while another declared its observance of kashrut was “recognized by all Orthodox rabbis in the country.” Yet another offered to provide references on request. Many other restaurants and hotels used the phrases “strictly kosher” or “dietary laws strictly observed,” and while some provided references in their advertisements, others did not.128 How could the United Synagogue publish a guide to kosher restaurants when there was no central authority to declare what was kosher and what was not? The issue also struck at the very heart of the United Synagogue’s inclusivity and commitment to Catholic Israel, raising the same issues as did the authoritative law committee. Should the United Synagogue defer to the Agudath ha-Rabbanim in an attempt to gain its approbation, even if it alienated Schechter’s disciples or other potential members? In order to maintain the unity and inclusivity of the United Synagogue, the Dietary Laws Committee created a compromise, providing “the names and addresses of the Orthodox Rabbis and [Ritual Slaughterers] who endorse the Kashrut” for each restaurant it reviewed.129 Only approximately one in four rabbis who reviewed restaurants were United Synagogue members, meaning that there were plenty of restaurants in the guide that had been certified by other authorities.130 Anybody reading the guide could follow the recommendations of whichever rabbis they trusted, and Schechter’s Conservative disciples and those Reform rabbis who maintained kashrut would not be limited to only the tra-

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ditionalists’ definitions. Moreover, the organization avoided the perception that its policy was dictated by a group of rabbis who did not even agree with Schechter’s vision. Again a compromise maintained the unity of the group. A final example of the United Synagogue’s commitment to inclusivity was its stance on Zionism. At the annual convention in the summer of 1917, delegates were forced by world events to confront the very real possibility of a Jewish homeland. How would the United Synagogue respond to the Balfour Declaration, which advocated a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and could the organization’s response maintain unity? It seemed clear that support for the Balfour Declaration would not threaten any commitment to Catholic Israel in the broader sense as the Agudath ha-Rabbanim was generally supportive of the Balfour Declaration, and though some of its individual members opposed Zionism, the group as a whole welcomed the news “with great joy and enthusiasm.”131 Moreover, whereas Reform Judaism had long been opposed to Zionism, its stance was beginning to soften after the Balfour Declaration. While most Reform rabbis and laymen still opposed Zionism, “it was becoming no harder ideologically for Reform Jews to be Zionists than for any other Jews in America.”132 It seemed that a declaration of support for the Balfour Declaration within the United Synagogue would not limit those who might join. Additionally, the issue seemed as if it would not divide Schechter’s disciples. Schechter had called Zionism a “cherished dream,”133 and the United Synagogue had declared in the preamble to the constitution that one of its six aims was “to preserve in the service the reference to Israel’s past and the hopes for Israel’s restoration.”134 Wasn’t support for the Balfour Declaration only logical? The majority of United Synagogue leaders believed that it was. Jacob Kohn argued that, though the constitution spoke only of preserving prayers supporting Israel’s restoration, “we men have the right to infer that if we wish to organize a movement partly to maintain in our liturgy the voicing of this hope, that we would be glad and eager to see the realization of that hope.”135 Another Seminary graduate also pointed out that “as thinking Jews, when we pray every day for the restoration of Zion by God, I cannot see how we can take it otherwise than to mean that we hope sincerely that . . . the actual restoration of Zion will be realized.”136 While an affirmation of the Balfour Declaration would not have threatened a goal of Catholic Israel, or the organic unity of Schechter’s disciples, it did threaten to drive a wedge between Seminary leadership and the disciples. Cyrus Adler “strongly object[ed] to this resolution,” arguing that neither he nor his congregation supported the Zionist program.

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Adler made it clear that he would not accept the resolution, declaring it would be inappropriate if “by a vote of this body I shall be put in the position of assenting to something to which I do not now assent.”137 The question before the United Synagogue was whether it was worth alienating Adler in order to pass the resolution. Israel Friedlaender thought so, arguing that “it would not be fair that a majority of the United Synagogue should give up a cherished hope at this moment because they are unfortunate enough to differ with a small minority.” Instead, he believed that if the motion carried, Adler would “have to bow to the majority.”138 Another disciple, however, who believed the United Synagogue should logically support Zionism, nevertheless agreed with Adler, telling his colleagues that “we cannot expect anybody to be ruled by the majority in this respect.”139 Although the leaders of the United Synagogue offered a compromise that might be palatable to Adler, it turned out that it was not. Following the vote, with twenty-two voting in favor, twelve against, and with ten not voting, Adler announced that under “no circumstances will I serve now for the coming year as President of the United Synagogue.”140 While the issue of Zionism alienated Adler, it did not necessarily preclude inclusivity toward the Seminary and its faculty. In Adler’s stead, Professor Louis Ginzberg became the acting president of the United Synagogue.141 Moreover, as we have seen, Seminary professors played key roles in the organization’s decisions. Alexander Marx and Louis Ginzberg were deeply involved—and were entrusted with the task of making key decisions—in the discussions over the kashrut guide, the authoritative law committee, and the prayer book. Moreover, while Ginzberg served as acting president in 1918, Adler and Marx still served on the executive council. Thus the years 1913–1919 demonstrate how a strengthening group consciousness and the United Synagogue’s institutionalized diversity were the two most important factors that allowed for the routinization of Schechter’s charisma. Schechter had insisted that the United Synagogue embrace diversity and be a place where all his disciples could overlook their differences and work together to carry out his vision of a unified American Jewry. During Schechter’s lifetime, he prepared his disciples to stand on their own, and following his death the United Synagogue continued to function much as it had before. The disciples reaffirmed their shared commitment to carrying out Schechter’s legacy as a unified group, and this common purpose outweighed their differences, allowing the emerging movement to outlive Schechter and move successfully into its postcharismatic phase.

3 A “Heretic,” a “Maverick,” and the Challenge to Inclusivity


n its first five years, from 1913–1918, the United Synagogue remained staunchly committed to diversity. Though its members overlooked their vast differences, choosing instead to work together to implement Schechter’s vision, not everybody believed that this was the best path to strengthening traditional Judaism in America. Two high-profile disciples who challenged Schechter’s inclusivity, Mordecai Kaplan the “heretic” and Herbert S. Goldstein the “maverick,”1 help us to understand the complexities of the United Synagogue in the early 1920s. First, even though both broke with their colleagues to differing degrees, their cases demonstrate how the vast differences between the Conservative and Orthodox disciples began to crystallize throughout the 1920s. Second, their experiences foreshadow the challenges that the disciples on both the left and right would face in the ensuing decades, as both groups sought to remain unified while also remaining committed to their particular goals. The Conservatives wanted to define what they stood for, yet they needed to do so without antagonizing the Orthodox and shattering the coalition. The Orthodox disciples, whom we can generally classify as modern Orthodox, understood the need to work with the Conservatives to maintain unity, but they needed to do so in a way that would maintain the distance from their nonorthodox practices. And last, the experiences of Kaplan and Goldstein demonstrate that prior to 1927 the United Synagogue did not represent a distinct, third religious

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movement with boundaries that clearly distinguished it from other movements. Instead, it was an ethnoreligious group with elastic boundaries that stretched wide enough to unify the disciples who chose to join forces to implement the vision of Solomon Schechter.

Kaplan the “Heretic” The experiences of Mordecai Kaplan, a liberal “heretic,” help us to understand both the goals and challenges of Schechter’s Conservative disciples. Kaplan worked closely with fellow Conservatives Herman Rubenovitz and Jacob Kohn, and his interaction with these two rabbis provides a window into the hopes and dreams of these liberal disciples. The liberals hoped to create a coalition that would carve out a clear definition of Conservative Judaism while at the same time remain committed to unity within the United Synagogue. Though Kaplan was less committed to inclusivity than his fellow Conservatives, his view in this respect was in the minority. Thus the interactions between Kaplan and his colleagues on the left demonstrate how the majority of Conservatives remained committed to unity, even though that commitment prevented them from clearly articulating what they stood for. While Mordecai Kaplan was in many ways a disciple of Solomon Schechter, his feelings toward Schechter were much more ambivalent than many of his peers, which may in part account for his willingness to emphasize platform over unity. He shared the admiring mindset of his colleagues in many respects, once writing that without Schechter’s guidance he was “totally helpless” and had “no one to turn to.”2 He also called Schechter a “savant” and an “outstanding personality,”3 who set “in motion the inner forces of Jewish life that will, in all likelihood, ultimately check the disintegration with which it is threatened.”4 Moreover, Kaplan also dedicated his final book to Schechter, the man who provided him the “opportunity to transmit [the spiritual reality of the Jewish people] to my students.”5 Nevertheless, Kaplan hardly shared the same enthusiasm for Schechter as most other disciples. Kaplan did not actually study under Schechter— graduating shortly before Schechter’s arrival—which may possibly have lessened his loyalty to him. He believed that Schechter did not lay out a strong enough vision for how to apply scholarship to Jewish life, finding “his contribution to the problem of Jewish adjustment… more confusing than helpful.” Though his peers generally held an unyielding commitment to Schechter, Kaplan claimed to “not hold the majority opinion about him” and

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would later be much more willing to work outside of the United Synagogue to accomplish his own aims.6 Kaplan, like his fellow disciples on the left, was motivated for much of the 1920s by a steadfast commitment to defining Conservative Judaism. As we have seen, Schechter’s disciples in the United Synagogue were primarily modern Orthodox or Conservative, but nobody had yet offered a compelling definition as to just what the latter term meant. Henry Pereira Mendes suggested in 1913 that Conservative Judaism was “the Judaism which permits some of the innovations” that modern Orthodoxy rejected—such as organs, mixed seating, and women in the choir, but such a definition was far too vague for Kaplan and his colleagues.7 While seeking to more clearly define Conservative Judaism, Kaplan was joined by several of Schechter’s more liberal disciples—most notably Jacob Kohn and Herman Rubenovitz—with whom he shared similar goals. “The time has come for us to state frankly and emphatically what we believe in and what we regard as authoritative in Jewish practice,” the trio argued, inviting their colleagues to help “formulate, in terms of belief and practice, that type of Judaism that we believe you profess in common with us.” They maintained that “we have failed as a group to exert an influence upon Jewish life in any way commensurate with the truth and strength of our position . . . primarily, because we have never made our position clear to the rest of the world,” and they believed that 1919 was their opportunity to do so.8 Kohn excitedly reported a great “interest aroused in seminary circles” by their initiative, and noted that “the students and the alumni are all talking about it.”9 While Kaplan’s first attempt to formulate a clear definition for Conservative Judaism was intended to differentiate it from modern Orthodoxy, he was not necessarily advocating a break with the United Synagogue. In fact, the trio was so committed to working with the United Synagogue and its rabbis that they decided to convene a meeting mere days after the 1919 United Synagogue convention—presumably because their colleagues would still be in the same place and could easily attend. Kaplan began innocuously enough, reaffirming the commonalities among Schechter’s disciples and emphasizing the shared sentiment that “no good can come to Judaism either from petrified traditionalism or from individualistic liberalism.” Few in the United Synagogue would argue with Kaplan’s assertion that it was their shared responsibility “to point the way to a Judaism that shall be both historic and progressive,” broadly characterizing the principles of historical Judaism.10 Yet Kaplan was also calling for a definition of Conservative Judaism that distinguished it clearly from modern Orthodoxy. He claimed that parts of

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the traditional liturgy “have been made entirely obsolete by changes in social conditions” and also asserted that it was necessary to “revitalize the entire system of ceremonial observances by adjusting them to the spiritual needs of our day.”11 Even more clearly advocating a distinction from modern Orthodoxy, he later claimed that “the observance of the Sabbath in complete conformity with the letter and spirit of the Schulchan Aruch is entirely out of the question.” Moreover, he rejected the two-day holiday, the “scrupulous observance of the Dietary Laws,” as well as the “repetitious character of the ritual.”12 Despite Kaplan’s call for a clear Conservative platform, consensus proved elusive for two primary reasons. First, the United Synagogue did not officially sanction ritual changes, but instead welcomed all congregations and rabbis “essentially loyal” to traditional Judaism. A clear definition of Conservative Judaism, however, might be construed as an explicit acceptance of nonorthodox practices. As we will see shortly, Schechter’s modern Orthodox disciples feared that, were they to remain in a United Synagogue that officially sanctioned ritual innovations, they would be labeled nonorthodox by rabbis throughout the world—a designation they hoped to avoid. Thus defining Conservative Judaism might force traditionalists out of the United Synagogue and destroy the unity upon which the organization was based. Second—and much more immediate—it does not appear as if even the self-identified Conservatives could agree on a platform. “There were hardly any two men in the room that had the same point of view,” declared a dejected Kaplan, who mused that “the time was far from ripe for any such undertaking.”13 The following year, in 1920, Kaplan led another futile attempt to define Conservative Judaism, this time creating the Society of the Jewish Renascence (SJR). Because the previous attempt to formulate a platform failed in part because of too many viewpoints, Kaplan and his colleagues this time tried to assemble “a more or less restricted homogenous” group.14 These rabbis, he hoped, would, through “study and discussion,” formulate a scholarly platform for Conservative Judaism,15 and, once they had clarified a position, he hoped to “get a larger number of rabbis to think about the problem of Judaism in the same way as we do.”16 Yet even creating a small homogeneous group proved impossible, as Kaplan found few rabbis armed with “the mental background essential to the successful accomplishment of our aims,”17 who “would be prepared to lay the foundations of such a school of thought.”18 He complained that “our own members are intellectually and religiously unprepared to further the cause of progressive Judaism” and succinctly stated that they were “trying

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to fight a battle without leaders and ammunition.”19 Kohn observed that Kaplan “seemed very despondent and felt sure that only a handful could be gotten to endorse our program.”20 Without adequate support, the SJR soon disbanded. After two failed attempts at creating a Conservative platform, the KaplanKohn-Rubenovitz alliance also fractured. Kaplan was becoming increasingly mired in a deep schism within his own synagogue, and with his energy now focused squarely on congregational matters, he “suggested very frankly [Kohn and Rubenovitz] going ahead by [themselves] with the aid, perhaps, of a few other conservative synagogues to work out [their] problems.”21 The different paths they took emphasized tactics over ideology, and differed largely over the question of inclusivity. Kaplan created the Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ), through which he could work independently of the United Synagogue without the need for “yielding and compromise” and free from the opposition of United Synagogue traditionalists.22 While the SAJ functioned as a congregation through which Kaplan could experiment with a Conservative platform—he performed America’s first bat mitzvah ceremony by calling his daughter Judith to the Torah23—it also allowed him to work toward a broader platform on the national level. Kaplan advocated the creation of SAJ chapters throughout the country, which would be led by younger Seminary graduates,24 that would cater to “the vast mass of our people who want to remain Jews but cannot affiliate with Orthodoxy because of its medievalism and with Reform because of its un-Jewishness.”25 Kohn and Rubenovitz, on the other hand, would move forward together and work to create a Conservative platform within the United Synagogue— without disrupting the organization’s unity. Mere days before Kaplan created the SAJ, Kohn and Rubenovitz, together with a handful of their colleagues, created the Conference of Conservative Rabbis (CCR) and invited their colleagues to join “a group of rabbis, officiating in conservative synagogue[s]” at a meeting that would address “the chaos which now prevails in Synagogues of our type.”26 Much like the SJR, the CCR hoped to create a platform on its own, but once it had built a critical mass of disciples and congregations its leaders would then seek to influence the United Synagogue. Kohn believed that “the United Synagogue cannot maintain its present know-nothing attitude for very long,”27 and he insisted that “we must be patient with it . . . and eventually it may become our constituency.”28 While the Society of the Jewish Renascence had tried to create a scholarly framework for Conservative Judaism, the CCR sought a more practical program. At the CCR’s first meeting, its members decided that “the work of

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the conference was to be divided as follows: (A) ritual & prayer; (B) practical questions of law; (C) principles as applied to education.”29 To this end, Kohn suggested that they adopt the following policy with respect to liturgy: “Where ever there is a glaring archaism, the text is to be changed; wherever it is possible to reinterpret such an archaism, the reinterpretation is to be made; and at all times to reckon with the psychology of the synagogue people and their actual attitude toward the prayers to-day.” The CCR also suggested “that there be further changes in the text where references are made to a personal Messiah” and that they look into the creation of a prayer book that embodied these ideas.30 The most important contribution of the CCR was that it convinced the United Synagogue to publish a prayer book based on these ideals. This is critically important because it granted official legitimacy to the Conservative position within the United Synagogue. When Rubenovitz and Kohn’s “agitation” reached United Synagogue executive director Samuel Cohen, the organization “re-convened” its Prayer Book Committee “to see if . . . something might not be done to satisfy all elements.” Several years earlier, the United Synagogue had refused to publish a prayer book because its members could not agree on content. This time, however, pressured by the CCR, and perhaps also by the fear that the Conservatives would leave if they were not given official recognition, United Synagogue leaders reluctantly approved a plan to sanction two prayer books—one traditional and the other a book that would please the Conservatives. The Conservative book would be “published as the other would be, in the name of the United Synagogue with the note that it has been adapted to the use of conservative congregations by whatever committee we shall choose to make responsible.”31 Gone was the idea of reluctantly accepting those “essentially loyal” to traditional Judaism, replaced by an official sanction to conduct Conservative services. As we will see, it was a major concession for the traditionalists to accept a Conservative prayer book—one that alienated some—but it essentially maintained the coalition. While the new prayer book won official legitimacy for the Conservative position within the United Synagogue, its lack of widespread use prevented its contents from becoming a Conservative platform. One disciple believed that it “would surely be impossible for conservative synagogues . . . springing up” to use the book, and Kohn feared that he might not find even three or four congregations to give assurances that they would use it.32 Because the book did not gain widespread acceptance, its content was not as important as the fact that a left-wing coalition was finally close to receiving what

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Kohn termed “an official permission if not a full authorization” to conduct what he considered to be Conservative services.33 Defining a Conservative platform and just what such a service might look like would be a project for another time. That project would take center stage in 1927, when Rubenovitz declared that he and his fellow Conservatives “certainly cannot rest satisfied with this bit of concession.”34 He optimistically declared that “the time is more than ripe” to move beyond mere recognition, and to once and for all define Conservative Judaism.35 “There is a time for all things,” he maintained, “and the time may now have arrived for Jewish liberalism to assert itself to make its contribution to Jewish life in America.”36 For this to occur, he again maintained that the “Seminary point of view,” presumably predicated upon historical Judaism, needed “concrete expression in the form of a revised prayer book, a modified ritual, and a Jewish law, harmonized with the conceptions and needs of our time.”37 This was the only way, he thought, that he and his colleagues could “be an influence in American Jewish life, and be of real service to Judaism.”38 Though Kaplan was deeply immersed in the SAJ, he sensed opportunity and concurrently worked with his United Synagogue colleagues toward this end. “All that is necessary is that we should agree upon a program and push vigorously,” he declared.39 During his previous attempts in 1919 and 1920, Kaplan had been particularly frustrated by the lack of leaders who were both sympathetic to his views and also up to the task of creating a platform. To solve this problem, Kaplan used the SAJ to nurture a new generation of Seminary graduates—many of whom had studied not with Schechter but with Kaplan at JTS—who were becoming Kaplan’s disciples. This cadre included Solomon Goldman and Max Kadushin, the latter optimistically declaring that “we have now a sufficient number of men strongly enough entrenched who can take upon themselves the burden as well as the onus of rallying the [like]-minded among the rabbis to the cause of rebuilding Jewish life in this country.”40 While Kaplan’s disciples were much more prepared to sidestep the United Synagogue’s traditionalists, Schechter’s disciples were adamant about working with all their classmates. Kohn was the strongest advocate for unity with his fellow disciples and did not even want to formulate a platform without the input of the traditionalists. Any actions, he maintained, must be “done openly,” and he insisted that “a preliminary conversation be held with some of our leading colleagues in the opposition—[Max] Drob—[Louis] Finkelstein and others.”41 Fearing that affiliation with Kaplan’s SAJ might be per-

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ceived as an attempt to marginalize Schechter’s more traditional disciples, Kohn declared himself unwilling “to organize a large conservative group as a tail to the S. A. J. kite.”42 Herman Rubenovitz was also committed to working within the United Synagogue, but, unlike Kohn, he did not see the harm in first creating a platform through the SAJ. By means of the SJR and CCR, Rubenovitz previously hoped to first create a platform and then seek support for it within the United Synagogue. This 1927 effort was no different, as he declared that “to attempt to do things within the framework of the United Synagogue would envolve [sic] us into so many entanglements that we would get nowhere.”43 He saw “no point whatever negotiating” with Drob and Finkelstein, who “will of course hear about our doings, and try to thwart us.”44 Instead, he wanted to arrange a group of rabbis “to become associate editors of the S.A.J. Bulletin,” which would “become the organ of the liberal wing of the United Synagogue.”45 Rubenovitz wanted “to bring every possible pressure to bear upon the United Synagogue,”46 so the goal of his work was to shape the United Synagogue’s “policy along more progressive lines.”47 Though Kaplan was more willing to work independently of the United Synagogue, he nevertheless supported Kohn and Rubenovitz and agreed to work toward influencing the United Synagogue, even if that meant prizing unity to a greater degree than he may have liked. He was aware that “the problem which we are facing is how to organize the liberal forces within the United Synagogue without exposing ourselves to the charge that we are disrupting the United Synagogue.” He correctly understood that “our desire to keep the United Synagogue intact places us in a difficult position, yet we must make a sincere effort not to do anything that might be prejudicial to its interests.”48 His actions would be guided by “the principle of trying to steer a course that would enable us to attain our goal without antagonizing the orthodox elements in the United Synagogue.”49 How to effectively steer that course, however, was not entirely clear. With less allegiance to Schechter or Schechter’s disciples, Kaplan and his disciples seemed much more willing to marginalize the United Synagogue’s unity in their pursuit of a Conservative platform. Solomon Goldman believed that he and his colleagues should “try to bore from within for at least a year or two,” working wholeheartedly with the United Synagogue for a fixed period of time. If, after that time, their goals had not yet been realized, “we should attempt an independent organization.”50 Max Kadushin took a somewhat different approach but was also prepared to sidestep the United Synagogue. He suggested working through an independent group, “with-

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out regard to the effect that will be produced” on the United Synagogue.51 Were they “to try to win the United Synagogue over to our point of view, we should only cause discord,” he feared. At the same time, however, he was willing to work with the United Synagogue on noncentral issues, “cooperating fully wherever possible with the United Synagogue by attending its conventions, acting on its committees, and helping to raise funds for its budget.”52 Similarly, Schechter disciple Eugene Kohn, Jacob’s brother, also recommended a secondary role for the United Synagogue by organizing independently to create a platform and simultaneously supporting the United Synagogue “loyally in all activities that do not involve a sacrifice of principle on our part.”53 Ultimately, Kaplan grew frustrated by Rubenovitz and Jacob Kohn’s insistence upon unity. He was annoyed by Kohn acting “as liaison officer between the progressives and the reactionaries,”54 calling Kohn’s negotiations with the traditionalists “long verbal discussions with people with whom it is impossible to come to terms.”55 He also complained that “one might imagine we have gotten ‘back to Methuselah’ judging by the progress which Rabbi Jacob Kohn is making in his efforts to revise the Jewish law,” glumly concluding that “we are going to be in July 1928 exactly where we were in July 1908.”56 Unwilling to abandon his goals, Kaplan turned to his own disciples, working increasingly with them independently of the United Synagogue. Kaplan was prepared to move forward “with the forces that we have,”57 and by the end of 1927 suggested “that those of us who want to introduce any changes ought to do so without further ado.” Refocusing his attention on the SAJ, he called for “an order of prayers that would conform with our interpretation of Judaism,” as well as other “specific measures which would put our movement on the map.”58 He continued to work toward a Conservative platform on his own, organizing a group of younger Seminary graduates into the Rabbinical Council of the SAJ,59 and he began formulating the new conception of Jewish life—Judaism as a civilization—for which he would later be known. Kohn and Rubenovitz were disappointed that Kaplan’s work “points very definitively to a break with the United Synagogue and the seminary,”60 and Kaplan continued to blaze a new trail by producing his own Reconstructionist prayer book in 1945. While Kaplan continued to work with Schechter’s disciples into the postwar years, his Reconstructionist movement was simultaneously striking out boldly on its own. Yet Kaplan straddled the fence for much of his career in a way that let him work toward his own platform without fully breaking with his fellow disciples.

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Thus, for most of the 1920s, Kaplan was representative of his fellow Conservatives in that he wanted to create a clear platform for Conservative Judaism. Yet, while Kohn and Rubenovitz were similarly inclined, both were much more concerned about not alienating the traditionalists. Were the Conservatives to create their own platform without the blessing of the traditionalists, the United Synagogue, as we will see, might be branded as antithetical to Orthodoxy, and Schechter’s modern Orthodox disciples might find it necessary to leave. But because they were committed to the unity of the United Synagogue, Kohn and Rubenovitz refused to create a platform without the approval of the United Synagogue’s traditionalists. Thus the experience of Kaplan highlights not only the goals of the Conservative disciples, but also how their unyielding commitment to Schechter’s inclusivity trumped their desire to implement their specific goals.

Goldstein the “Maverick” Similar to how Mordecai Kaplan illustrates the goals and challenges of the Conservatives, Herbert S. Goldstein helps us to understand those of Schechter’s modern Orthodox disciples. Goldstein identified as modern Orthodox, and though he shared many views with United Synagogue traditionalists, he spurned the United Synagogue in favor of the OU. Because he shared so much with the United Synagogue’s right wing, he helps us to understand the vast chasm between traditionalists, many of whom can be classified as modern Orthodox, and the Conservatives within the United Synagogue. Moreover, he also helps us to observe how the United Synagogue’s traditionalists distanced themselves from the Conservatives’ practices, though they remained fully committed to maintaining unity with the Conservatives themselves—even as it foreshadowed their increasing isolation from the rest of the Orthodox world. Goldstein was born in New York in 1890 as the youngest boy in his family. He went to public school and augmented his secular education with a Jewish education. Goldstein attended Columbia University, entered JTS in the fall of 1910,61 and, in addition to his scholarly pursuits, he was deeply interested in sports. His sister recalled that he frequently attended baseball games, and she also noted that he played tennis in New York’s Central Park almost daily.62 As a Schechter disciple, Goldstein maintained social bonds with his peers and a connection to the Seminary. First, he was closely affiliated with

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the Alumni Association, as he was elected to the executive council in 1915 and 1918.63 He was still affiliated with the Alumni Association’s successor organization as late as 1939, though he was delinquent in his dues at that point and had been threatened with suspension or expulsion.64 Second, when Goldstein spoke at a JTS event in 1937 about “The Synagogue as a Means of Preserving Tradition,” his wife noted that he was “well-received,” and that both felt comfortable at JTS, though they had “been somewhat enstranged [sic] from the Seminary for many years due to [the Seminary’s] untraditional stand.” Nevertheless, the two felt “perfectly at home,” and “Herbert met a number of his classmates.”65 Yet despite the social bonds with his fellow disciples, Goldstein chose to place his ultimate allegiance elsewhere, rejecting the United Synagogue in favor of the OU. An ambivalent relationship with Schechter may have had much to do with this. On the one hand, Goldstein admired Schechter, viewing him as a mentor and friend.66 On the other hand, his ultimate loyalty was reserved not for Schechter but for Harry Fischel, his father-in-law and one of the OU’s most influential lay leaders. Goldstein spent his Seminary days courting Fischel’s daughter and augmented his Seminary education by working concurrently with a well-respected Orthodox rabbi.67 Goldstein’s dual training and relationship with Fischel allowed him to walk comfortably throughout the Orthodox world. His marriage to Fischel’s daughter, for example, brought together the full spectrum of American Orthodoxy as the ceremony was performed jointly by Schechter, Mendes, and M. Z. Margolies, the last a founder of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim.68 Moreover, both Goldstein and Fischel attended the 1922 Agudath ha-Rabbanim convention, and both were leaders of the OU.69 While Kaplan was one of Schechter’s most liberal disciples, Goldstein was one of his most traditional, and Kaplan and Goldstein often clashed over their divergent beliefs and practices. Though Kaplan and Goldstein would both ultimately distance themselves from the Seminary orbit, their clash helps to illustrate the significant differences between the other Conservative and modern Orthodox disciples who remained within the United Synagogue. One of Goldstein’s earliest and most memorable confrontations with Kaplan took place during his student days, while Goldstein was rehearsing a sermon to deliver in front of his Seminary classmates, which angrily declared that professors like Kaplan were not teaching that the Torah was revealed on Sinai.70 When Kaplan heard a draft, he “attacked my sermon, and was very displeased with it,” and later “spoke to me in the hall alone and told me, his face flushed with anger, ‘Goldstein, you cannot preach your sermon

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on Saturday.’”71 Goldstein recalled “walking home one day and praying to God to give me the strength to withstand [Kaplan’s] teachings.”72 While Goldstein staunchly opposed Kaplan’s teachings and position on this issue, he was not the only one to take such a stance. Kaplan’s former Seminary roommate, a United Synagogue member, was also concerned that “without the belief in revelation as the compelling motive for leading a Jewish life, the nature of Judaism and of Jews will become so completely changed as to be unrecognizable.”73 While Goldstein ultimately left the United Synagogue orbit, those who remained behind held similar views about Kaplan, demonstrating just how vast a chasm existed between Schechter’s Conservative and Orthodox disciples. Max Drob, a Schechter disciple and United Synagogue loyalist, was also a staunch critic of Kaplan and his teachings. Drob was born in a small Polish town where “Jewish observance was the rule and not the exception.” He was raised in a “very pious home,” the descendant of a long rabbinical line,74 and he immigrated to America as a young child.75 Known as a committed traditionalist, Drob believed he had learned what he termed “Traditional Judaism” from his parents and teachers, the latter of whom were “God-fearing men of impeccable character, who scrupulously practiced the Judaism they taught” and who were “unquestionably loyal to the Torah and were willing to make every conceivable sacrifice in its behalf.”76 Drob believed that Schechter shared the same vision of traditional Judaism, and he was just as much a devoted disciple as Kohn or Rubenovitz.77 One colleague even claimed that “there is not one of his pupils who was so near to Dr. Schechter as his favorite disciple” Max Drob.78 Like Goldstein, Drob also criticized Kaplan’s conception of Judaism— particularly Kaplan’s idea of Judaism as a civilization—as Drob declared that he himself was not “conceited enough to feel divinely ordained to reconstruct Traditional Judaism.”79 He believed that Kaplan had unnecessarily marginalized ritual practice, diluting Judaism in an attempt to increase synagogue membership, and he declared that, according to Kaplan’s logic, if his constituents “must eat on Yom Kippur, let them eat in the kosher synagogue dining room.”80 Drob and Kaplan were far apart in their ideas, yet Drob was committed to inclusivity, willing to tolerate Kaplan and his fellow Conservatives despite their divergent beliefs. Drob and Goldstein were not the only members of the United Synagogue to criticize Kaplan. Just as the Conservatives were beginning to align with the younger Kaplan disciples, the traditionalists were forming an alliance with Seminary leaders and professors. When Kaplan, Kohn,

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and Rubenovitz began organizing in 1919, they noticed that “the professors for the most part maintained a discreet silence.”81 Kaplan later observed that the silence had transformed into outright opposition, as he “came in for a great deal of censure and attack on the part of Dr. Adler and Prof. Ginsberg [sic].”82 “He sees me as a menace,” Kaplan wrote of Ginzberg, who “begins to boil with rage” when confronted with Kaplan’s ideas. “He grows hysterical, he screams at the top of his voice, he foams at the mouth and shakes his fist as he cries . . . you are destroying Judaism.” Ginzberg disagreed with Kaplan’s understanding of the evolving nature of Jewish law and believed that Kaplan was “undermining the very existence of Judaism.” He also disagreed with Kaplan’s conception of Judaism as a civilization.83 Even Schechter himself had warned Kaplan that he was “walking on eggs.”84 The increasing distance between Kaplan’s views and those of other Seminary leaders and professors suggests that the Seminary was becoming more aligned with the traditionalists and portends a growing reluctance over the activities of the Conservatives—though not necessarily with the presence of the Conservatives. Like Ginzberg, Louis Finkelstein was also opposed to many of Kaplan’s ideas. Finkelstein was American-born, studied under both Schechter and Kaplan at the Seminary, and eventually succeeded Cyrus Adler as head of the Seminary—thus placing him in a unique position as a Schechter disciple, a Kaplan disciple, and a Seminary leader. Finkelstein had a very good personal relationship with Kaplan and thanked Kaplan for what he had “done for me personally,” assuring him that he would “never forget the pains you took with me in the first years after my graduation when I used to come to your house regularly.”85 Finkelstein’s affection for Kaplan even led him to attend meetings of the SJR “out of respect” for Kaplan, and he claimed to have joined only “because of our relations.”86 Despite the high regard in which Finkelstein held Kaplan on a personal level, he staunchly opposed many of his ideas. Even though he attended the meetings of the SJR out of personal respect for Kaplan, Finkelstein “never forgave myself for that act, which once done had to be followed by more compromises with myself. I do not intend to commit such an error again.”87 In 1922, when Kaplan told Finkelstein of his idea to eliminate the central Kol Nidre prayer from the Yom Kippur service, Finkelstein vigorously objected.88 Like Goldstein, Finkelstein also disagreed with Kaplan’s position on revelation, arguing in 1915 that “the existence of Judaism was endangered if the traditional conception of revelation and miracle be denied.”89 The relationship between Finkelstein and Kaplan helps us to see

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how personal relationships helped to overcome vastly divergent viewpoints and allowed Conservatives and traditionalists to remain unified in the United Synagogue. But while these traditionalists were troubled by Kaplan’s ideas, they also shared a deep opposition to his disregard for traditional Jewish practices. Goldstein, for example, was a staunch advocate of practices and ceremonies. As a student he earned the nickname “Mincha Goldstein” after he insisted on the inclusion of an afternoon prayer service at the Seminary.90 He also believed that “the ceremonies are one of the strongest factors in Jewish preservation, they are not a phase, unique [and] set apart; but an integral [and] inseparable expression of the inmost substance of Jewish life.”91 Like Goldstein, many of those who remained in the United Synagogue also opposed the changes to ritual practice proposed by Kaplan and the Conservatives, advocating instead for the staunch observance of traditional Jewish practices. Drob, for example, declared that “as the United Synagogue stands unequivocally for both the doctrines and practices of Traditional Judaism, it is only natural to expect that alongside the preaching of our faith there will be the earnest and sincere effort to encourage and promote the practice of the Mitzvoth which have preserved the faith.”92 The United Synagogue, he maintained, had “from its very inception tried to foster among its constituents a love for the precepts that have preserved us as a people to this very day,”93 and he believed it was the duty of his colleagues to maintain this commitment. Drob believed that maintaining traditional beliefs in an environment where Kaplan and his adherents were operating would require “courage of loyalty.” He also realized that traditionalists would “frequently be heckled”—if his colleagues were not “weak-kneed,” they would “remain loyal to the highest traditions of the Rabbinate.”94 Drob was not the only United Synagogue member with such an opinion. Louis Epstein also registered “displeasure at the liberty taken” by his Conservative colleagues “to introduce innovations in Jewish ceremonial life.”95 The Seminary’s traditionalists—particularly Finkelstein and Ginzberg— shared the views of Goldstein, Drob, and Epstein and also opposed many of the ritual practices the Conservatives promulgated. Their dilemma, though, was clear. If they embraced Conservatives in their quest for unity, how could they demonstrate to the outside world that they did not embrace Conservative practices—especially those that were antithetical to Orthodoxy? For Ginzberg, the answer was to argue that the United Synagogue was not representative of the Conservative viewpoint, but that it accepted the Conservatives only for the sake of unity. “Reverence for Tradition, respect for

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custom and the regard for precedent, are important items on the program of the United Synagogue,”96Ginzberg argued, and according to Drob he also emphasized the United Synagogue’s “unswerving loyalty to traditional Judaism” and its “position as unalterably opposed to the breaking of the law.”97 This position allowed him to denounce the Conservative prayer book, because “the mutilation of the Prayer Book is for us an act of vandalism comparable with the worse than wanton destruction of an historical monument.”98 He praised the traditional version of the prayer book, which was published alongside the Conservative version “without any changes whatsoever.”99 Yet Ginzberg nevertheless approved the Conservative book for the sake of unity. He acknowledged that “the United Synagogue always maintained the view that variety is a great source of beauty and richness,” as long as “the true foundation is preserved throughout.”100 Therefore, though he opposed the Conservative prayer book itself, he was willing to allow the United Synagogue to publish it—provided he could distance himself from its contents. He insisted that the title page indicate it had been “adapted” by a rabbi who would “assume personal responsibility” of the changes within.101 This, he hoped, would allow the traditionalists to claim that the United Synagogue represented traditional Judaism and that, although the organization was inclusive of Conservatives, Conservative views were not representative of the United Synagogue as a whole. This compromise, Ginzberg and his colleagues hoped, would hold the coalition together, though one traditional disciple who served as United Synagogue president pointed to the publication of the Conservative book as the reason for his later estrangement from the organization.102 Nevertheless, United Synagogue traditionalists hoped they could avoid the charge that their organization was not Orthodox, but, as we will see, such accusations were normative throughout the 1920s. Whereas Ginzberg and those who remained in the United Synagogue sought to strike a balance, Goldstein took a different course, leaving the United Synagogue, and he became OU president in 1924. Goldstein decided to advocate for traditional Judaism outside the United Synagogue and was unwilling to work within the United Synagogue for the sake of unity. In the ensuing years, Goldstein would take a lead role in attacking the United Synagogue for its acceptance of Conservatives and their practices. Therefore, the experiences of Mordecai Kaplan and Herbert S. Goldstein help us to see the vast chasm between Conservatives such as Kohn and Ruben­ ovitz and modern Orthodox members such as Drob and Finkelstein, the latter four of whom remained committed to unity within the United Synagogue.

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Though all shared a broad commitment to the principles of historical Judaism, as well as an understanding of the need to revitalize American Jewry, they differed markedly on just what that would look like and how it might be accomplished. The Conservatives hoped to adapt traditional practices and observances as well as revise the prayer book, yet the traditionalists—many of whom identified as modern Orthodox—believed that many changes, beliefs, and practices trumpeted by the Conservatives simply went too far. The experiences of Kaplan and Goldstein also demonstrate the challenges of both the left and the right—essentially, how to maintain unity while remaining committed to each one’s set of beliefs. The Conservatives were deeply committed to creating their own platform, yet refused to do so if it would alienate the traditionalists and splinter the coalition. The traditionalists, on the other hand, began to fear that their recognition of the Conservative point of view within the United Synagogue might earn them the designation of nonorthodox—a label they desperately hoped to avoid. These challenges would only intensify in the years to come. Finally, though they both challenged inclusivity, the experiences of Kaplan and Goldstein help us to understand that in the 1920s the United Synagogue did not represent a distinct, third religious movement, with clear boundaries to distinguish it from other movements. Instead, it was an organization predicated first and foremost on inclusivity and discipleship. Though the Conservatives could have rallied behind Kaplan and the modern Orthodox could have followed Goldstein, the vast majority did not. Rather, they downplayed their fundamental differences for the sake of unity and chose to identify with the United Synagogue primarily because of their shared commitment to Solomon Schechter and his vision of a unified American Jewry.103

4 On the Brink of Irrelevance


n the early years of the United Synagogue, Schechter’s disciples operated on their own terms—they were the engine driving the train. They worked closely with Schechter to create the United Synagogue and were successful in maintaining the organization’s emphasis on inclusivity. They also fully expected that the vast majority of American rabbis would eventually fall in line and join them in the United Synagogue. They were wrong. Throughout the 1920s, Schechter’s disciples were increasingly marginalized by their colleagues, particularly by modern Orthodox rabbis in the OU and by fervently Orthodox rabbis in the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. These rabbis refused to join the United Synagogue and instead began to define it as antithetical to Orthodoxy—precisely because of its inclusivity and its refusal to repudiate rabbis who deviated from Orthodoxy. Thus, ironically, the United Synagogue’s commitment to inclusivity was making unity increasingly unlikely. While the disciples saw their dream of unifying American Jewry slipping away, they also found their hegemony challenged by an increasingly empowered laity. Congregational lay leaders continued to hold power over rabbis at the local level and often expected more from the rabbi than he could possibly deliver. This, combined with the effects of an American religious depression, led to frequent job turnover and hampered Schechter’s

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disciples’ efforts to shape their congregations as they wished. Moreover, while the laity was firmly in control on the local level, the 1920s saw them gaining increased national prominence as well. All this meant that, by 1927, Schechter’s disciples were on the brink of irrelevance.

Schechter’s Disciples and the American Rabbinate Because they shared so much with them, most of Schechter’s Orthodox disciples hoped their colleagues in the OU would eventually join them in the United Synagogue. Yet few OU rabbis joined the United Synagogue, and a high-profile 1925 court case provided them with the justification to defend that decision and to label the United Synagogue as an organization that was, in their minds, antithetical to Orthodoxy. Solomon Goldman, the selfidentified “Conservative” rabbi of the Cleveland Jewish Center, instituted changes in his congregation that several Orthodox members of his synagogue claimed had veered away from the Orthodox tradition. Goldman’s congregants argued the Cleveland Jewish Center’s constitution “provided that the services of said congregation must be held in conformity with the orthodox law.” They then charged that “for the purpose of destroying the orthodox character of the church,” Goldman had issued a new constitution that would “ignore all reference to Orthodox Judaism” and instead “promulgate and protect the doctrines of Conservative Judaism.” The crux of their argument was that “said Conservative Judaism in spirit and form was antagonistic to said Orthodox Judaism.”1 If OU rabbis could help the congregants prove that Goldman was not Orthodox, and if the United Synagogue continued to embrace diversity and failed to repudiate Goldman’s non-Orthodox practices, then the OU could effectively cast the United Synagogue as an organization hostile to the tenets of Orthodoxy. This would provide OU rabbis with more than enough justification for not joining the United Synagogue, and, with this in mind, the OU Executive Committee—including Herbert Goldstein and Bernard Drachman—joined the congregants in announcing the filing of the suit.2 In addition to the opposition to Goldman from the OU, the Agudath haRabbanim also called him before a religious court to answer the charges that he was “inaugurating changes and modifications in ritual and custom and with preaching liberal views,” but Goldman refused the request because he did not “recognize” the organization’s authority.3

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The plaintiffs in the case listed thirty-eight ways that Goldman had been “opposed and hostile to the doctrine of Orthodox or traditional Judaism and all the ritual and ceremonial observance appertaining thereto.”4 These could be divided into three primary categories: Goldman’s personal religious beliefs, his omission of rituals at synagogue events, and the changes in synagogue worship that he instituted. First, regarding Goldman’s personal beliefs, the plaintiffs accused their rabbi of publicly denying revelation.5 This charge had the clear stamp of Herbert Goldstein, who had initially used this argument to distance himself from Mordecai Kaplan. For the OU, this provided the ideological justification to separate Conservatives from the Orthodox. The second complaint was that Goldman had ignored Orthodox rituals at synagogue events. The plaintiffs alleged that Goldman omitted the Grace After Meals as well as the blessings before the meal at congregational dinners (though Goldman claimed that this was an oversight).6 Moreover, while Goldman left it to his congregants to personally decide whether to ritually wash their hands or wear head coverings during those synagogue dinners, the plaintiffs alleged that not requiring these rituals constituted a break with Orthodoxy.7 The third and most important charge was that Goldman had introduced changes to synagogue worship that violated the tenets of Orthodoxy. These included preventing the recitation of the priestly blessing on holidays,8 removing “the ceremony of kneeling during the services on the Day of Atonement,” and omitting the “El Adon” from Saturday morning services. While these changes, the plaintiffs claimed, separated Conservative from Orthodox, so too, they argued, did preventing the congregation from standing when the Ark was opened,9 reading the Torah while facing the audience, and calling congregants to the Torah using their aliyah number rather than their traditional Jewish name.10 The most important change to worship that the plaintiffs charged violated Orthodoxy, however, was the implementation of mixed seating—which was, many believed, the primary issue of the case.11 The original petition to the court listed first and foremost that Orthodox practices meant that “men and women must be seated separately during the services” and that Goldman had violated this by introducing mixed seating within the congregation.12 Corroborating the views of the plaintiffs, one editorial in the Jewish Forum confirmed the importance of this boundary, declaring that “every orthodox rabbi regards as essential . . . the separation of the sexes at religious services.”13

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Yet, even though the OU rabbis defined mixed seating as behavior antithetical to Orthodoxy, they did not actually have the power to enforce such a boundary. Lay control had long defined American churches and synagogues, and the relationship between clergy and laity was no different in OU congregations. Lay-controlled ritual committees frequently came up with ideas on their own, independent of their rabbis,14 and while the number of Orthodox congregations that adopted mixed seating is difficult to ascertain, one estimate suggests it may have been in the hundreds.15 Many Orthodox rabbis, “torn between piety and prosperity, or influenced by American conditions, made peace with mixed seating,”16 and thus the boundary was much more theoretical than actual. Though the boundary was more theoretical, OU rabbis nevertheless took advantage of the opportunity to define the United Synagogue as antithetical to Orthodoxy. Now armed with what they believed was a clear definition of Orthodoxy, OU rabbis now challenged the United Synagogue to repudiate Goldman’s deviant behavior. The OU leaders believed the case provided the United Synagogue with an opportunity “to indicate where their sympathies lie,” a chance to counter the Cleveland Jewish Center’s claims that its actions were in uniformity with the policies of the United Synagogue.17 Still, even though Schechter’s disciples understood that silence would alienate OU rabbis, and potentially even some within their own ranks, they remained committed to emphasizing similarities and ignoring differences. Elias Solomon reiterated that the United Synagogue was “committed to a comprehensive policy embracing all types having a common aim, however much they may differ in their views as to non-essentials.”18 Though Goldman eventually won the case, the United Synagogue’s response provided enough ammunition for OU rabbis to designate the organization as antithetical to Orthodoxy. While Solomon claimed that the United Synagogue should embrace rabbis regardless of their views on “non-essentials,” OU rabbis now argued that separate seating was in fact “essential” to Orthodoxy and that those who introduced non-Orthodox ritual changes were guilty of “a crime against the unity of Israel.”19 Many OU leaders concluded that, by failing to publicly ostracize Goldman, the United Synagogue was in fact sanctioning non-Orthodox behavior. “We wonder why the United Synagogue has remained silent about this?” the Jewish Forum asked. “Shall we assume that silence means consent? In such case it must be regarded as a silent secession from traditional Judaism, which makes the United Synagogue no longer true to its platform.”20

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Avoiding Common Action Because the OU now viewed the United Synagogue as an organization that was not Orthodox, its rabbis felt justified in shunning the organization— even though the two groups were working toward very similar goals. One area in which both groups worked separately toward the same end was in regard to kashrut standards. Max Drob knew that the United Synagogue’s kasrhut guide had failed to create a uniform standard, and, because of this, many constituents were eating unkosher food without knowing it—or, frankly, he believed, without caring. He mused that “it seems that all the majority of the consumers desire is to see the name Kosher on the window” and “their conscience is clear.” Unfortunately, he believed, all a restaurant had to do was advertise “Dietary Laws Are Strictly Observed,” and they would still “secure the patronage of the most Orthodox Jews,” whether or not they actually employed anybody to oversee and ensure kashrut.21 Drob believed that this problem needed to be solved. Bernard Drachman also understood that there was a problem enforcing claims of kashrut, and Drob and Drachman seemed to be in general agreement on this issue. Drachman complained that there were no standards for restaurant and hotel advertisements and declared that he would not print in the pages of the Jewish Forum “advertisements labeled ‘kosher,’ which were not duly verified by authoritative rabbinic approval.” Though he did not indicate what would constitute appropriate guarantees of kashrut, the Forum did note that it had “consistently refused food and hotel advertisements, unless accompanied by such guarantee.”22 Instead of uniting in common action for a uniform standard of kashrut, Drachman and Drob labored separately, the former on behalf of the OU, the latter for the United Synagogue. Drachman’s Jewish Forum called for a guide under its own auspices just a year after the United Synagogue guide appeared. “Traveling men have frequently complained of the difficulty of getting ‘kosher’ food while on the road,” reasoned an editorial in the periodical. Using remarkably similar language to that previously used by Schechter himself, it contended that “suitable and reliable restaurants which meet the requirements of the observing Jew, are few and far between. Great hardship not infrequently results.” To solve the problem, the Forum “announces that it will print, free of charge, an index to such restaurants and hostelries as furnish the necessary guarantees of ‘kashruth,’ to the satisfaction of the editorial department.”23 Shortly thereafter, the OU began to officially supervise

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kashrut, soon becoming the leading authority with its “OU” label, marginalizing any attempts by the United Synagogue to become the authority on this matter.24 Likely because Drachman believed the United Synagogue was not an Orthodox organization and thus did not have the authority to oversee kashrut, the OU worked separately toward a common goal. Meanwhile, the United Synagogue remained committed to advancing the observance of the dietary laws on its own. Drob hoped to have a ‘“United Synagogue Restaurant’ in every city,” where kashrut would be “strictly and scrupulously observed”—though he still did not pronounce who would have the power to define kashrut.25 He also proudly noted that he had been assisting local communities to supervise the sale of kosher food,26 making it “possible for the observant Jews to obtain strictly Kosher meat.” Moreover, the United Synagogue had “succeeded in putting on the New York market a kosher white wrapped bread, baked under its supervision” and had negotiated for kosher breads in Philadelphia and other cities.27 Yet, despite the common aim, Drob’s United Synagogue and Drachman’s Orthodox Union did not join forces. In a similar unrealized opportunity for common action, the OU and the United Synagogue also chose to work separately to further Sabbath observance. “As the United Synagogue stands unequivocally for both the doctrines and practices of Traditional Judaism,” Drob argued, “it is only natural to expect that alongside the preaching of our faith there will be the earnest and sincere effort to encourage and promote the practice of the Mitzvoth which have preserved that faith.”28 One important way that the United Synagogue’s Religious Observance Committee accomplished this was by insisting that pleas to further Sabbath observance be made “from all United Synagogue pulpits during High Holidays.”29 Additionally, the organization supported the idea of a five-day work week to provide working Jews with the freedom to attend synagogue on the Sabbath.30 The OU, meanwhile, also believed it was necessary to encourage Sabbath observance. Drachman led the Jewish Sabbath Alliance, an independent organization that was closely linked with the OU,31 which “has striven to improve the conditions of Sabbath observance in this city [New York] and country and with much success.” His organization, he believed, would “restore Sabbath observance in America to something like its former glory.”32 Like the United Synagogue, the alliance also worked “to secure legislation guaranteeing [the right to pursue vocations undisturbed on Sunday] to Sabbath observers.”33 With such similar goals, it seems logical that the two organizations could find enough common ground to work together. “The United Synagogue

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seeks the co-operation of all agencies friendly to Traditional Judaism,” declared Max Drob,34 and Elias Solomon explicitly asked that the United Synagogue work with the Jewish Sabbath Alliance.35 Drob also hoped to convene a national convention on Sabbath observance “to which representatives of all existing Jewish bodies should be invited,” because only by “such united effort” could “the sanctification of the Sabbath be restored.”36 On the other side, Bernard Drachman argued that “this is not an Orthodox Jewish concern alone, it concerns in equal measure Reform and Conservative Jews, all who believe in Judaism as a religion and desire to see it maintained as a vital and genuine religious force.”37 He also indicated his willingness to work with other organizations and suggested that “only with a united Jewry can the Jewish Sabbath be firmly established in this country.”38 Yet, despite the common aims and mutual overtures, Drachman was not willing to cede this important task to the United Synagogue—which he undoubtedly believed was not Orthodox—and the two organizations worked separately toward a similar goal. One final example of this phenomenon was the presence of two separate women’s organizations—the Women’s League of the United Synagogue and the Women’s Branch of the Orthodox Union. The Women’s League was founded in 1918, and initially many of its leaders were the wives of Seminary graduates and professors. Mathilde Roth Schechter and Fanny Binswanger Hoffman both served as presidents, while other early officers and executive council members included Racie Adler, Augusta Kohn, Mignon Rubenovitz, Minnie Epstein, Lena Kaplan, Belle Kauvar, and Leibe Solomon.39 The Women’s League was its own organization, though it remained closely affiliated with the United Synagogue. Mathilde Schechter maintained that it was the desire of the Women’s League to cooperate closely with the education, propaganda, and religious observance committees of the United Synagogue, but that the women did not want to unite with the men into a single organization. “They do not wish to lose their identity,” she argued, “because there are many direct questions which the women can thrash out better themselves and also, they are fortunate in having more leisure than the men.” She believed that the Women’s League could be effective by analyzing an issue and bringing its findings back to the United Synagogue.40 The Women’s League was dedicated to furthering traditional Jewish observance, so one of its primary aims was to strengthen Jewish home life. This goal was clearly articulated by Mathilde Schechter, who “realized that on the Jewishness of the home everything else depends.” According to one Women’s League leader, Mathidle “bade us keep ever before us the principal aim of the League: to foster the Jewish sentiment of the home.”41 Another

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member believed that significant numbers of women who were about to start their own households “are quite ignorant of their Judaism, its history, its laws, even of its ideals.” While they felt Jewish, they were “entirely unconscious of any responsibility resting upon them for the preservation of their religion or their people.” She believed that these young women “must be brought once more into a consciousness of their Jewish heritage and all that it implies.”42 To solve this problem, the United Synagogue, the Women’s League, and its affiliates published pamphlets and books with the aims of educating women, fostering their Jewish consciousness, and ultimately strengthening Jewish home life. The sisterhood of Temple Mishkan Tefila of Boston, Herman and Mignon Rubenovitz’s congregation, issued a cookbook containing kosher recipes, holiday foods, and a description of the Passover Seder table. It also contained a description of Jewish home ceremonies, blessings, and references for those who wanted to learn more.43 In 1927 the Women’s League published The Three Pillars: Thought, Worship and Practice for the Jewish Woman, written “with the hope that it will be of service to those who read it, inspiring them with true spirit of Judaism and helping them to observe its precepts.”44 In the spirit of increasing traditional observance, the Women’s League also emphasized worship and synagogue attendance for women. “Today women have liberated themselves religiously as well as politically, and since their status has changed, their duties to the synagogue and to the community have increased,” declared the United Synagogue Recorder in 1924. “Women’s first duty should be to the Synagogue, because through religion they are able to wield their greatest influence.” The Recorder maintained that “they must encourage synagogue attendance by their own presence at services every Friday night and Sabbath morning,” because a synagogue with empty seats “misses an opportunity for invaluable service.” In other words, by attending services and bringing their families with them, women were strengthening Judaism.45 Though it was a separate organization, the Women’s Branch of the Orthodox Union had nearly identical goals. Founded in 1923, the Women’s Branch was “to make orthodox women convincingly articulate in discussing Jewish tradition.”46 Just as the Women’s League of the United Synagogue emphasized Jewish home life, the Women’s Branch of the OU offered a course on “housewivery,” which taught women about kashrut and cooking. The Women’s Branch also produced publications designed to educate women and strengthen Jewish consciousness, including “Marriage and the

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Home: A Jewish Guide for Marital Happiness,” Symbols and Ceremonies of the Jewish Home, as well as a one-page pamphlet called “Yes, I Keep Kosher” that advocated traditional observance.47 Much like the Women’s League, the Women’s Branch of the OU also encouraged religious observance and synagogue attendance among women.48 With so much common purpose, there certainly were signs that the two organizations could work together. Mathilde Schechter emphasized common purpose and argued that “the Reform and the Orthodox and we of the Center-party, most of all, the United Synagogue of America, must be master-builders and build up a flourishing, firm, truly Jewish, religious edifice, whose beautiful influence will radiate everywhere.”49 Moreover, in 1925, the Women’s League, together with the Union of Orthodox sisterhoods, as well as Hadassah, temple sisterhoods, and the Council of Jewish Women, organized a committee to “further co-operation among these organizations in their activities among Jewish women.”50 In addition, though Henry Pereira Mendes rejected the United Synagogue, his wife attended the 1919 Women’s League Annual Convention as a member of the executive council and, the following year, accepted a position as vice president.51 Yet, despite their common goals and the opportunity for common action, the United Synagogue Women’s League and the OU’s Women’s Branch remained two separate organizations, reinforcing the distance between their parent organizations.52 Reflective of this separation, Mrs. Mendes was not listed as having attended the 1920 annual meeting, and she was not reelected as an officer or a member of the executive council.53 Taken together, the end result was that although Schechter’s disciples hoped to unite traditional American Jewry in the image of Catholic Israel, this hope was becoming increasingly unrealistic as the OU was imposing a boundary with the United Synagogue.

The Strength of the Laity While Schechter’s disciples found themselves increasingly rejected by rabbis outside the United Synagogue, they also found themselves marginalized by an increasingly powerful laity—both on the congregational and national levels. One reason for the increased lay presence at the national level was the creation of the Young People’s League (YPL), the impetus for which was the disciples’ sense that the next generation was turning away from Judaism.

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It was widely observed that “in most congregations the proportion of young men and women who attend the services is less than we would have a right to expect in accordance with the percentage of the population that they constitute.” Eugene Kohn noted that “efforts made to improve the situation have been so sporadic” and “no special effort is made to keep alive and strengthen their interest in Judaism.”54 Another disciple believed that American Jewish youth had “been neglected” by “our short-sighted elders.”55 Saving Judaism, argued one individual, would be up to the “thousands of young people who in another decade will be called upon to take up the task at the point where their fathers shall have left it—of preserving and transmitting the Jewish heritage.”56 Of course, because these younger congregants were generally much more supportive of the disciples than the older generation, strengthening the younger element also would bolster the disciples’ status within their congregations.57 In response to these needs, the United Synagogue created the YPL in 1921 for individuals between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. Initially, the YPL brought together representatives from 32 societies, but by 1927 that number had grown to 127 societies with close to 15,000 members.58 While in its early years the YPL provided a national consciousness to young lay leaders, it was also led by disciples and thus reflected their desire to avoid a new movement. Eugene Kohn declared that the new organization would “co-operate with other organizations interested in the propagation of Jewish culture.”59 Another disciple argued that the organization would embrace any group of young people “whose activity lies in the field of Jewish study, or of Jewish observance of Jewish charitable endeavor,” or any combination. Thus, like its parent organization, the scope of the organization would rise above “the confines of any class, sect, or denomination in Israel.”60 Reflecting a similar mission to that of the United Synagogue, the YPL created a late Friday night service that was common to a large number of United Synagogue congregations. While there were significant differences in the service from one congregation to the next, they were generally “universally interspersed with congregational singing, responsive readings in English or Hebrew, and reading in unison in English or Hebrew of various parts of the services,”61 while the English sermon was frequently the centerpiece. Though the YPL was standardizing its own service, the same general format was representative of many OU synagogues as well. Yet, despite the similarity, the YPL failed to convince young OU members to join in large numbers. Instead, by the late 1920s the Orthodox Union had started its Col-

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legiate Branch of the Union of Orthodox Jewish congregations of America, later renamed the Jewish University Club. This seems to have been a shortlived program and did not achieve lasting success. A more formidable opponent was Young Israel, though the relationship of Young Israel to the YPL is multifaceted and deserves further study. Despite a uniform worship service that was similar to that of OU congregations, the YPL moved forward on its own and created a standardized “Guide for Arrangement of Friday Evening Services,”62 which was “compiled to meet the need for a shorter service in the case of young children unable to read the entire service.” While it was not the product of Schechter’s disciples, the guide was approved by the United Synagogue’s Religious Observance Committee, was created with Max Drob’s “co-operation,”63 and it “met with great favor everywhere.”64 Spurred on by their success, the YPL also published a popular “Holy Day Service Guide,”65 distributing a book of standardized synagogue melodies for the High Holidays published by Israel and Samuel Goldfarb.66 By the end of the 1920s, the YPL was promulgating standard Sabbath and High Holiday service guides, a feat Schechter’s disciples had not been able to accomplish for themselves. In addition to the increased national prominence of this cadre of young lay leaders, the Women’s League also continued to nurture laywomen with clout on the national level. At its founding in 1918, the Women’s League had 26 affiliated “women’s Synagogue societies” and 22 members-at-large.67 By 1920, membership had increased to 70 societies and 127 individuals—which meant a total membership of 6,700.68 Five years later, the Women’s League had grown to include 230 sisterhoods and 20,000 women,69 and over 300 women attended the 1927 Convention.70 While the Women’s League was cultivating lay leaders on the national level, it was also undoubtedly fostering a national consciousness among its member societies. With increased national participation and a growing national consciousness among the laity, it is no surprise that they were taking on a greater role at United Synagogue conventions during the 1920s. Max Drob noticed that the 1921 annual convention was “essentially a ‘layman’s convention’” during which members discussed topics important to community members—including synagogue organization, financing activities, Hebrew school management, and the formation of clubs and organizations. “Laymen read papers and in the course of the debate gave the convention the benefit of their practical experience in organizing and carrying on the business side of the congregation.”71 By 1925, one disciple estimated that laymen outnumbered rabbis at the convention by a ten to one margin.72

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Lay leaders were also taking on a greater role among the ranks of United Synagogue leadership. At the United Synagogue’s founding in 1913, rabbis held twelve of the eighteen seats on the United Synagogue’s executive committee.73 By 1927, rabbis held only nine of thirty-three executive council positions,74 and, “in accordance with the avowed policy of the United Synagogue to give laymen the more important part of its activities,” the organization elected Herbert Golden in 1927 as the United Synagogue’s first lay president.75 Schechter’s disciples were certainly ambivalent about the growing power of the laity. On the one hand, creating a cadre of educated lay leaders seemed as if it would further the implementation of Schechter’s vision by increasing the number of foot soldiers. With this in mind, several disciples nurtured the lay leaders within their own congregations. On the other hand, some disciples were concerned that the lay leaders were not yet sufficiently trained to take the reigns of leadership. Samuel Cohen cautioned that in New England “we are not yet sufficiently strong enough and our ideals are not sufficiently widespread to be able to muster a layman who will really devote himself to cause,”76 and Max Drob also questioned whether there were enough qualified laypeople “with whom we can seriously discuss the problems of Jewish scholarship and philosophy.”77 Despite their ambivalence, Schechter’s disciples could only watch idly by as the laity took a greater role on the national stage. But lay power and control also remained as strong as ever on the congregational level. As we have seen, congregational leaders made life difficult for Schechter’s disciples in the years prior to World War I. This continued into the interwar years, as these lay leaders frequently expected more than the rabbi could possibly deliver. “He is expected to be a business executive, a financial agent, a good fellow, a great orator,” Samuel Cohen mused, “and his other work, the work of building up an appreciation of and loyalty to Jewish traditional learning and observance, is too lightly regarded.” If the congregation did not give the rabbi enough time to delicately put his stamp on the congregation, “he is embroiled in a hundred differences and his position becomes impossible.”78 Schechter’s disciples were not the only clergy to struggle with lay control in the interwar years, as this situation also defined American churches. One minister lamented that the Protestant clergy “has no authority within his own borders, and . . . while he is the shepherd he must in all things follow the sheep.” He believed that Protestant minister “is amazingly hampered by lay control in every department of his church activity” and bemoaned that he had “again and again been subjected to the ideas and viewpoints of retired

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grocers and prosperous dry goods merchants who have been the powers that be on the various church boards.”79 One periodical asked readers, “Do Laymen Dominate?” inviting them to submit essays that answered whether “ministers cannot fully follow Christ because [they are] held back by the pressure of laymen who prefer to travel in another direction, or just to sit still in green pastures.”80 The continued power of the laity often created impossible positions for the disciples, and this is just what Phineas Israeli found in Portland, Maine in the 1920s. Israeli graduated from the Seminary in 1902, before Schechter’s arrival, though he viewed himself as a Schechter disciple. His Portland congregation featured an uneasy alliance between progressives who supported ritual changes and traditionalists who opposed them, and Israeli was caught in the middle, unable to simultaneously satisfy both constituencies. The task of creating harmony between the two elements would have been formidable for anybody, but was Israeli the right man to bridge the gap between his congregants? Israeli’s wife Sophie, the sister of Mordecai Kaplan, certainly believed so, maintaining that “in order to keep harmony, the two great extremes of which our congregation exists requires the patience and perseverance of only one like Rabbi Israeli.”81 Kaplan, however, had a different interpretation of his brother-in-law’s work, attributing Israeli’s “lack of success to his intellectual shortcomings,” and he privately wrote that “he is no match for the hard headed and hard hearted Jews who constitute the  .  .  . Orthodox congregations toward which he has always gravitated.” Israeli, Kaplan believed, was “entirely devoid of personal aggressiveness,” and his “intellectual under-development” caused him to be scorned by “those who want a leader to be their superior in intellect and personality.” More broadly speaking, Kaplan believed that “men of his type can not possibly do more than maintain the status quo of some struggling Jewish community. But as to creating new Jewish values,” he observed, and “developing new Jewish ideas, he is no more fitted than the overwhelming majority of the men graduated from the Seminary. He belongs merely to the class of rabbinical breadwinners.”82 While Kaplan’s assessment may have been harsh, the reality was that the demands of the job were simply too great for Israeli. “The condition I found him in is too sad for words,” Kaplan confided to his diary after a visit to a New England sanitarium to see Israeli, who had suffered a nervous breakdown. “He is afflicted with melancholia; he is obsessed by a sense of sin and black despair. He talks or rather mumbles constantly of his having lost his will power or having ruined everybody, etc.”83 While the cause of his

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breakdown is not clear, Israeli’s wife blamed it on the pressures within the congregation, and so too did Israeli himself. “I cannot endanger my health or peace of mind or the welfare of my family,” he insisted, by going to communities where he would face the same pressures.84 The fate of Phineas Israeli certainly distressed his colleagues and underscored the difficulties that Schechter’s disciples faced at the congregational level. “After twenty-five years of active service,” Max Drob informed his peers, Israeli had “suffered a nervous breakdown and has been compelled to give up his work.” For Drob, Israeli’s situation reinforced “the very serious problems” he and his colleagues faced and his belief that he and his colleagues “should at least be given the assurance that they shall never lack the bare necessities of life.”85 Without those basic necessities, Schechter’s disciples would be in no position to implement their teacher’s vision. This strong lay leadership at the congregational level also translated into a lack of job security and short tenures for the disciples. While a handful of rabbis achieved relatively long tenures by the early 1920s, this was by no means the norm. By 1923 some graduates had already served five congregations,86 and, as Max Drob and Elias Solomon learned, even prominence on the national stage was no assurance of job security. Instead, job security was based largely on satisfying the needs of the congregation’s laity. Because a synagogue could fire a rabbi if he failed to accede to their practices and customs, success for Schechter’s disciples was largely predicated on effectively matching a congregation with a rabbi who shared beliefs with its lay leaders. This was not always easy, nor was it consistently possible. In 1922 Cyrus Adler counted thirty men who had requested a new pulpit, and, with the growing number of Seminary graduates, placement was “becoming an increasingly perplexing and difficult problem and there seems to be no definite standards by which the graduates of the seminary conduct these matters.”87 This situation frequently led to fierce competition for jobs and meant that rabbis often applied for positions that did not necessarily fit their religious practices. One disciple, for example, applied for a position in a congregation with an organ, despite his own opposition to its use.88 Louis Epstein planned to leave his Boston congregation for a better opportunity in Philadelphia, but changed his mind after he realized that he was “not a conservative Rabbi” as the congregation wanted, but, rather, “I am Orthodox.”89 Epstein insisted he would need to change the ritual, so as to “be in accordance with my religious views,”90 by having the cantor face the ark, instituting an all-male

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choir, and requiring “strict observance of the Sabbath in connection with all the Synagogue activities.”91 Yet, because the congregation did not necessarily support these ritual practices, Epstein soon grew “more and more convinced that a man of my religious views” would be “out of place” at that congregation.92 While he knew that he might have won the congregation to his viewpoint, it would not have been “without bringing discord into the congregation.”93 If he failed to win over the congregation, however, he would have been out of a job. In addition to lay dominance, winning over a congregation was becoming increasingly difficult because of the religious depression in America during the 1920s that struck both Judaism and Protestantism. “Nothing is more striking,” argued one observer, “than the astonishing reversal in the position occupied by the churches and the role played by religion in American life.”94 One Episcopal bishop in New York noticed “evidence of a sad disintegration of American Protestantism,”95 and the same phenomenon deeply impacted Judaism across the spectrum.96 Within the Reform movement “speaker after speaker” at the 1923 Union of American Hebrew Congregations’ convention “stressed the imminent danger of a religiously ignorant, untaught, and unbelieving generation.”97 One observer complained that synagogues were “being invaded by secularism,” and it appeared that religion was losing out to “automobiles, golf clubs, radios, bridge parties, extension lectures, and the proceedings of various learned and pseudo-learned societies.”98 This environment even reached the most traditional Orthodox Jews, as one speaker at the 1926 Agudath ha-Rabbanim convention lamented that “in recent times . . . the situation has grown precipitously worse. The deficiencies in [Jewish religious] life have multiplied horribly.”99 Thus, by 1927, Schechter’s disciples were finding it increasingly difficult to lead the movement they were creating; they were on the brink of irrelevance. Orthodox rabbis in the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim were rejecting them, shattering Schechter’s cherished hope of unity, of Catholic Israel. Moreover, lay leaders had taken control of the United Synagogue, and they were also dominating congregational affairs. Because of this, Schechter’s disciples frequently bounced from position to position, unable to either please their congregants or implement the vision of their teacher. Their record of accomplishments in the first years of the United Synagogue was so thin that Samuel Cohen told his colleagues in 1927, “The time is rapidly approaching when the first part of the vision of our sainted founder, Dr. Solomon Schechter, will be realized—the United Synagogue will be born.”100 Hardly an encouraging assessment of the organization’s first fourteen years!

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Yet the group of Schechter’s disciples remained unified, still willing to overlook their differences and work effectively together to implement Schechter’s vision. However, if they wanted to stave off irrelevance, they would need to carve out their own niche and, for such strategic reasons, they resolved to create a new movement that would do exactly that.

Louis Epstein, as a member of the Columbia University gymnastics team, 1908  Photo courtesy Richard Epstein

Louis Epstein with his brother at Slobodka, circa 1902  Photo courtesy Richard Epstein

Louis Epstein, as a rabbi in Brookline, Massachusetts  Photo courtesy

Richard Epstein

Louis Epstein with his father Rabbi Ezriel Epstein and his brother Samuel Photo courtesy Richard Epstein

Elias Solomon  Photo courtesy Vivian Rous

Postcard from Herman Abramowitz to Elias Solomon, August 1905  Photo

courtesy Vivian Rous

Solomon Schechter and Herman Abramowitz share an amusement park ride in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  Photo courtesy Vivian Rous

Herman Abramowitz  Photo courtesy Vivian Rous

Solomon Schechter (seated center), together with a group of students and professors  Photo courtesy Vivian Rous

Schechter (center) in Tannersville, N.Y., with a group of students, professors, and wives  Photo courtesy Vivian Rous

5 The Platform of Discipleship


n the United Synagogue’s early years, Schechter’s disciples maintained the principle that they would not take a controversial stand on any issue that threatened to divide their fragile coalition. Be it an authoritative law committee or a single prayer book with a standard liturgy, they consistently avoided any decisions that might alienate their fellow classmates. The United Synagogue was, first and foremost, an organization for all Schechter’s disciples to carry out their teacher’s vision, where they would downplay their differences in order to emphasize their shared goals. It was also an organization through which they hoped to unite American Jewry. While the movement was embracing Catholic Israel, there was no pressing need to define a platform. By the 1920s, however, rejected by the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim and on the brink of irrelevance, Schechter’s disciples began a concerted effort to explain just what they stood for. They were faced with critical questions. How could they transform themselves from an ethnoreligious group with fluid boundaries into the third movement in American Judaism? What would their platform be, and how would it distinguish them from the other movements? For the Conservatives, the answer was relatively easy. They hoped the organization would define “Conservative Judaism” as a narrow, centrist movement that was different from both Reform and Orthodoxy. Yet their dilemma was that while they wanted a platform to distinguish themselves from

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modern Orthodoxy they were unwilling to alienate disciples within their own ranks who identified as modern Orthodox. For the modern Orthodox disciples, the answer was even more contradictory. How could they define a platform that differentiated them from OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis when they still craved their approbation? Their answer was to create a broad, centrist platform, based on consensus and shared elements, that would do little to distinguish Schechter’s disciples from their colleagues in the OU. While the Conservative and modern Orthodox disciples debated frequently throughout the 1920s over the nature of their movement, their different positions seemed irreconcilable. Yet the disciples nevertheless resolved to stay together despite those differences, and they remained committed to implementing Schechter’s vision as a unified group. In order to do so, Schechter’s disciples became a broad centrist movement based not upon a theological platform that distinguished them as a distinct, third movement in American Judaism but rather upon discipleship to Solomon Schechter.

Carving Out a Niche Because Orthodox rabbis outside the United Synagogue had largely rejected them, Schechter’s disciples realized that Catholic Israel was failing. Yet, on the surface, it seemed as if the rest of Schechter’s vision was coming closer to fruition, as both Reform and Orthodoxy appeared to be inching closer to a traditional American Judaism with English, decorum, and modern education. Reform, which had long emphasized English, decorum, and modern education, appeared to some to be moving closer to traditionalism, returning to observances such as the bar mitzvah and the lighting of Hanukkah candles.1 From the perspective of one disciple, Reform leaders were predicting that the movement would soon place “greater emphasis upon the beauty of ceremony in the synagogue and in the home.” That disciple also paraphrased one Reform leader as confessing that “the Reform movement had erred in neglecting the element of emotionalism in religion.” Though Reform was by no means changing overnight, one disciple believed that this was typical of “a new attitude in American Reform Judaism.”2 Yet despite the appearance that Reform Judaism was beginning to look more like Schechter’s vision, Reform rabbis were not joining Schechter’s disciples in the United Synagogue in significant numbers. Because of this, one disciple was afraid that the reverse might occur and the better-organized Reform move-

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ment might actually draw more disciples away from the United Synagogue. If Reform’s push toward traditionalism continued, he feared that “it may yet encroach upon what we are pleased to call Conservative Judaism, and thus possibly dispossess us of a good portion of our rationale.” If there were little separating Reform Judaism from the practices of Schechter’s disciples, “it will leave to Conservative Judaism less and less to hold on to as its nostrum.”3 In addition to the fear that the Reform movement might attract an increasing number of Schechter’s disciples, there was also concern that disciples might leave for the OU or the Agudath ha-Rabbanim because those organizations were also growing closer to Schechter’s vision. “The Orthodox party,” observed one disciple, “has become aggressive in recent years, and is fast learning the lessons of organization.” He maintained that, “having sloughed off their foreign mannerisms, having changed the vernacular from Yiddish to English, they now represent themselves as the exponents of the true American Judaism . . . [and] they are marching ahead with menacing strides.”4 In fact, he believed, some in the RA “are puzzled to understand wherein we conservatives, so called, differ from this revamped orthodoxy which permits decorum in the service and English in the sermon.”5 Moreover, Solomon Goldman asked if “the angel Gabriel were overnight to teach all the members of the Agudat ha-Rabbanim to speak English, and suppose also that the Orthodox synagogues were to introduce decorum, what then would be the function and purpose of the Conservative group?”6 One disciple feared that the result of this encroachment, from both the left and the right, was that “the conservative party is in danger of losing on both wings, on the right as well as the left, as Reform becomes chastened and Orthodoxy becomes preened.”7 He asked, “as Orthodoxy becomes more and more de-Ghettoized and Reform becomes more and more Conservatized, what will be left for the Conservative Jew to do? How will he be distinguished from the other two? With both his wings substantially clipped he will surely be in a precarious position.”8 The question for Schechter’s disciples was clear—should they join the other movements where they might be theologically comfortable, or should they remain unified and carve out a niche for themselves? The resounding answer was that they should stay together and work to define exactly what they stood for and just what held them together as a group. “We have been reticent in taking our due place in American Jewry,” the traditionalist Max Drob declared, calling on his colleagues to clarify just what they stood for. Though Mordecai Kaplan, Jacob Kohn, and Herman Rubenovitz had

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long argued that the United Synagogue needed to carve out its own niche, traditionalists like Drob increasingly began to share a similar sentiment throughout the 1920s. “The time has come for us openly and unequivocally to state our platform and to battle for its adoption,” Drob maintained, and he hoped “to systematize and make possible the proper observance of Judaism.” Drob believed that he and his colleagues “must become militant,” and he called for “periodicals which shall be the organ for our views” as well as “propagandists to plead our cause.”9 Charles Hoffman also joined the call for self-definition and identified two possible ways to achieve it. First, a movement based upon Schechter’s broad vision could include all the disciples, ignoring the major schisms within the group. While this type of movement would seek both “immediate harmony” within, “no matter how deep or our internal differences and divisions,” and “external co-operation” with other groups, it would do little to distinguish Schechter’s disciples from OU rabbis such as Herbert Goldstein, Mendes, and Drachman. It would mean creating a platform based on “practical conformity to the established standards of conduct,” yet, he asked, could a movement survive “without too meticulous a consideration of theoretic doctrines or fundamental principles”?10 For those who argued that it could not, and for those who “deplored the policy of avoidance,” Hoffman offered another option, which “insisted upon a calm but brave consideration of our position on all the great problems that the age presents.” It would “arrive at a solid basis of understanding” by confronting head on the “open variations” and “apparent discords” within the group, in order to create “a solid foundation of the established truths and approved institutions from which a substantial unity could be attained.”11 As we will see, this was easier said than done. In addition to the traditionalists, Conservatives also continued to call for the disciples to define exactly what they stood for and what held them together. One Conservative disciple believed that the group’s initial raison d’être was no longer valid and they needed to articulate a new one. “Heretofore our chief purpose as a conservative party has been to stem a tide, the tide of Reform run wild,” he argued. “Under such circumstances we could afford to be vague about the positive elements of our platform, for there was indeed enough to do to warn against the dangers of unmodified reform, which marched triumphantly in our land.”12 Now he hoped to use their gatherings as “opportunities for self-clarification” and noted that it was worth “full and frank discussion” and, even if no conclusions were reached, “the honest quest of it” (35–36) alone was worth the undertaking.

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However the problem, feared one disciple, was that by continually deferring to the modern Orthodox disciples, the United Synagogue was becoming an Orthodox group virtually indistinguishable from the OU. The Conservative rabbis, he rhetorically asked, “whose point of view and whose congregations would never be tolerated in the Orthodox Union, are not these same men regarded as quasi-heretics by our own ecclesiastical authorities?” He also asked whether there was “ground for the suspicion that many of us here are merely tolerated because of the exigencies of organization which often permit logical inconsistencies to go on?” He argued that the present state of affairs was “a confusing situation, which is bound to work to the detriment of the Conservative party” (35). If Schechter’s disciples wanted to remain a unified group, they would need to define just what they stood for and also what distinguished them from other rabbinical groups.

The Rabbinical Assembly To define just what separated them from everybody else, Schechter’s disciples increasingly turned “to self-scrutiny with more than usual zest” (32). Yet they needed to find a new place to do this, because with the United Synagogue moving to lay leadership, it was no longer a conducive home for their debates. It was in these lay-dominated United Synagogue meetings, one disciple noted, where “some of our men have been known to indulge in mock heroics, posing before their laymen as the brave Luthers who nailed protests on church doors.” The debates, instead, should appear “in the intimate circle of colleagues who need not pose before one another but who can afford to be honest and genuine with one another” (36). Schechter’s disciples found this institutional home in the Alumni Association, which they had renamed the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (RA). As we have seen, the Alumni Association initially had no intention of crafting a platform, but instead was created to further the goals of the Seminary and to strengthen personal ties among the disciples. The organization reflected the emphasis on inclusivity that the name Alumni Association implied, providing an institutional home for all Seminary graduates. Moreover, the Jewish Exponent, when covering the organization’s first meeting, made specific mention of the fact that “the question of religious policy seems to have been left out of consideration; at any rate it has found no place in the resolutions set forth in the association’s preamble. This is very significant in

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so far as it seems that the graduates of the seminary, as a body, have considered the question of theological [sic] as non-germane to its raison d’être.”13 Additionally, Alumni Association president Max Klein declared in 1917 that “the primary function” of the Alumni Association was to “strengthen the spirit of brotherly cooperation among us.” This, he believed, would lead to success “in realizing every other aim dear to our alma mater into the cause we cherish in common.”14 Klein played a critical role determining the direction of the organization and overseeing its transformation, serving as its president from 1916–1922.15 Born in New York in 1885, Klein was a graduate of both the New York City public schools and New York University. He graduated from the Seminary in 1911 and served as the rabbi of Philadelphia’s Congregation Adath Jeshurun for his entire career—over fifty years. While Klein initially viewed the primary function of the organization as a unifying group for Seminary alumni, he soon came to see it as the place where Schechter’s disciples could confront their differences in order to arrive at a platform for their emerging movement. The 1918 name change from Alumni Association to Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America reflected its broader focus—no longer would the group be a home only for graduates of the Seminary, but it would now welcome “rabbis other than [Seminary] alumni who are in accord with the principles of traditional Judaism and the aims of the Seminary.”16 Klein hoped to move the RA into the forefront of the emerging movement by cultivating a membership that reflected a like-minded approach to American Jewish life. He suggested that the RA should both “encourage the affiliation with our body of rabbis who belong to our school of Jewish life”17 and, at the same time, remove from the membership lists those alumni who had not been active within the organization. He believed that their presence was “dangerous to the morale of our organization,” declaring he was “convinced that such action on our part will redound to the welfare of our organization and to strengthening our cause.”18 The move from an organization with obvious criteria for membership— Seminary affiliation—to one based on adherence to a platform was not easy, nor was it straightforward. This was due in large measure to the reality that there was not yet a clear platform to which RA members could pledge their support. In 1923 the RA made a provision “for accepting into the Assembly duly authorized Rabbis, who have graduated from other institutions than the Jewish Theological Seminary or have received the traditional ordination (Semicha) from a competent authority,” yet did not clearly define “traditional”

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or “competent.”19 Several years later the RA declared itself willing to accept a “diploma of graduation from a seminary of recognized standing” or a good record of service in the same congregation for a period of five years as well as a BA degree or equivalent. Applicants who did not attend the Seminary were also required to have been of “unimpeachable character and reputation,” and “adherence to the practices of traditional Judaism is held essential.” While these requirements welcomed rabbis who ascribed to Schechter’s broad vision, the RA also encouraged like-mindedness by requiring new applicants to gain the support of two RA members who were in good standing.20 While the RA’s push for a platform was underway by 1918, it would be another decade before the organization supplanted the United Synagogue as the primary place for Schechter’s disciples to work toward crafting the platform of a new movement. The 1924 RA annual meeting left “scarcely a ripple on the placid oleaginous surface of American Israel’s self-absorption,” mused one younger Seminary alumnus, yet the organization’s import was slowly increasing.21 “The numbers present, while substantial, were not imposing,” observed Charles Hoffman in 1924, but he also noted that, while younger members were in the majority, “it was pleasant to see some of the older members resuming their interests.”22 By the time the United Synagogue selected its first lay president in 1927, symbolically completing its switch from rabbinic to lay control, RA conventions were “becoming regularly more pointed, more interesting, and better attended.”23 By 1928 the RA was becoming the place for Schechter’s disciples to assert their hold over the emergent movement, where they would work to create its platform. That year, the executive council created a committee to write a “definite written constitution” that would “embody our rules and practices as remembered by members of the Assembly as well as the amendments and modifications made at the last convention.”24 Yet, while the role of the RA was growing, Schechter’s disciples still understood both the United Synagogue and Jewish Theological Seminary had important roles to play in the new movement. The RA introduced a resolution that “an organic relation between the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue is highly desirable,”25 and the RA included in its goals its resolve “to cooperate with the Jewish Theological Seminary and the United Synagogue of America” to further its aims. Moreover, the United Synagogue Recorder declared that “the Seminary, the United Synagogue, and the Rabbinical Assembly are the three-fold cord that cannot quickly be broken.”26 Nevertheless, Schechter’s disciples remained committed to defining just what held them together, and thus the creation of a platform became

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a central goal of the RA. All could agree that “the object of the Assembly shall be to promote traditional Judaism, to advance the cause of Jewish learning,” and also “to foster the spirit of fellowship among the rabbis and other Jewish scholars of America.”27 But beyond that there was little consensus. While the title of one roundtable discussion, “Strengthening Our Movement,” certainly implied unity and a conscious decision to remain together as a group, the ultimate question was what their platform would be and how it would distinguish them from the other movements. As one RA member articulated, “the problem in the mind of most of those who took part in the discussion from the floor, was the question: Does the Rabbinical Assembly represent a third party in American Jewry.” In other words, the participants asked, “what is the ‘richtung’ or program of the party; what shall be its policy for the future”?28 It should come as no surprise that the Conservative and modern Orthodox disciples had different answers to this fundamental question. The Conservatives, as we have seen, wanted a platform that would distinguish their movement from Orthodoxy as a narrow centrist movement. Led by Kaplan, Kohn, and Rubenovitz, the Conservatives had initially sought official acceptance by the United Synagogue and then later worked diligently at creating a platform without alienating the traditionalists. Now, moving to the RA and referring to themselves as “progressives,” they maintained the same approach. “There were some sharp words spoken,” as the “‘demand’ on the part of the ‘progressives’ was: ‘Define Ourselves!’” The progressives wanted “to know just where we stand.”29 The answer for the traditionalists was much more complex. They were committed to working together with their Conservative colleagues, but, even though they were being rejected by the OU and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, they had not given up hope that they would one day earn their respect. The traditionalists, as a result, began to define their movement as a broad centrist movement, inclusive of all Schechter’s disciples as well as those in other organizations with similar views. The movement they envisioned would reject the extremes while carving out a broad center, and thus their platform would not distinguish them from their modern Orthodox colleagues in the OU. One disciple who hoped to establish such a broad, centrist platform was Max Drob, who wanted to distinguish his movement from what he saw as the extremes of both the Reform movement and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. First, he unequivocally stated that “we are not Reform,” claiming that it was “our bounden duty to say to our brethren on the left that they who repudiate

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the past can hope for no future.”30 Next, he distinguished himself and his colleagues from the East European traditionalists of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, “our so-called orthodox brethren,” who were “hide-bound” in their Orthodoxy and who “emphasize the past and the future of our religion and neglect the present.”31 Drob was concerned that American Jews presently referred “all ritual and domestic relations problems” to these “European colleagues,” and he hoped that by clarifying what he and his colleagues stood for these issues would instead “be brought to us for solution.”32 While Drob could easily articulate that Schechter’s disciples were neither Reform nor “hide-bound” in their Orthodoxy, the challenge now in front of him was to define what they were. Drob argued that he and his fellow disciples stood for “Traditional Judaism,” which reflected the broad ideals of Schechter.33 He maintained that “Traditional Judaism” was rooted first and foremost in halacha and “differs from the so-called Orthodox Judaism as practiced in Eastern Europe only in method.” Just as Schechter called for a traditional Judaism infused with decorum, English, and modern education, so too did Drob include these elements in his platform. “Without casting any reflection on our East European brethren,” Drob argued, “we believe that Traditional Judaism in this land can only be promulgated in Synagogues that are outwardly as well as inwardly beautiful and at services where decorum and order prevail.” Moreover, he argued that “Traditional Judaism must be preached in English” and Hebrew Schools “must be beautiful . . . and must employ the latest pedagogic methods.”34 The Seminary, he believed, was “an institution for the promulgation of Traditional Judaism,” and Schechter himself “required the professors and the students to observe Traditional Judaism.”35 While Drob was busy defining what the RA would stand for, he nevertheless did not abandon hope that he could still please Orthodox rabbis in the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim. Drob’s definition of traditional Judaism would appeal to many in the OU and might ultimately convince them to join the RA—which he believed was the “logical body to undertake this gigantic task of bringing order out of the chaos which now prevails.”36 Moreover, Drob still maintained the necessity of cooperating with those Orthodox rabbis who did not share all Schechter’s ideals. Making “every effort to convert every American Jew to our point of view,”37 Drob believed it was up to his colleagues “to say to our brethren on the right [that] to be blind to the present endangers our transmission of our past and future.”38 Much like Drob, Charles Hoffman also sought to create a broad centrist platform for the emerging movement, and he similarly drew a distinction

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between his interpretation of traditional Judaism and that of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. “The fulminating of ecclesiastical thunderbolts appears to be a favorite occupation with some of the more extreme of the foreign-born of rabbis in this country and the few others that are under their influence,” he claimed. He mockingly asked, “May it not be suggested to these zealous denunciators that there might be some slight difference between conditions that obtain in Radin, in Vilna, Kalish, Torna, and Tavrig, in Russia, or even in Palestine, and those that exist in this country?” Hoffman was willing to concede to these rabbis the right to operate in their own movement, but questioned “their authority to dictate to all others the prescribed and invariable rules of conduct and of habit that should obtain in their religious life.”39 Hoffman believed that this should be a task of his fellow disciples. Though Hoffman drew a distinction between his vision and that of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, he was nevertheless unwilling to exclude rabbis who could be won over to Schechter’s vision. “Where essential identity exists, where there is a common foundation, in principles a common outlook on life, and a common purpose to accomplish,” unity is necessary, he believed. “Why should Jews be divided?” he asked.40 “Where there are so many and vital problems pressing upon us that call for united spirit and effort, is it well to make every minor custom a great dividing issue, that shall preclude cooperation and destroy unity?” Hoffman wondered.41 Echoing Schechter’s rhetoric, Hoffman maintained that the only way for Schechter’s vision to be “established on a firm foundation in this country” was if his colleagues could “unite all elements in Israel, essentially loyal to traditional Judaism.”42 Thus Hoffman did not draw a boundary with modern Orthodox rabbis in the OU who shared Schechter’s vision. In addition to Drob and Hoffman, a third advocate for a broad centrist platform was Elias Solomon. Solomon was born in Vilna and left for America as a two year old, arriving around the age of ten after brief stops in England, Cyprus, and Palestine.43 Though he graduated from the Seminary shortly before Schechter’s arrival, he considered himself a devoted disciple of “the brilliant scholar Solomon Schechter,” whose guidance and values “helped to shape my career.”44 Schechter’s advice, he claimed, was the “lode-star” of his career,45 and Solomon was also given the honor of delivering a eulogy at Schechter’s funeral, a consequence of the high esteem in which both held each other. A pen given by Solomon Schechter still serves as an heirloom for Elias Solomon’s family.46 For Elias Solomon, any platform needed to represent “the form of Judaism . . . of which Professor Schechter was the great exponent.”47 Solomon de-

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fined this broadly, in a way that would be inclusive of all traditional modern Orthodox rabbis, whether they were in the Orthodox Union or the United Synagogue. “Though hospitable to the idea of necessary progress—especially with respect to enlightened, modern methods in synagogue worship, home ceremonial observances and religious education,” Solomon argued, this form of Judaism was “in all essential things, practices and principles, loyal to the ancestral faith.”48 It “welcomes the light of the intellect as well as the warmth of the heart, which respects pious sentiment and sacred tradition as well as the honest convictions of the rational mind, which combines religious loyalty with culture and refinement.”49 Because Elias Solomon’s platform was based on Schechter’s ideals, he often invoked the image and memory of his teacher to unify his colleagues behind it. “Our duty is clear,” he maintained. “Our founder raised his clarion voice in behalf of the preservation of traditional Judaism,” and it was their responsibility to carry out the task Schechter began.50 To remind his colleagues of this central responsibility, he presented a framed portrait of Schechter to the United Synagogue, with the hope that “the visible presence of our master is always a stimulus and an inspiration to those who take up their life’s work, and seek to carry it forward.” Since not everyone in the United Synagogue had studied under Schechter, “the sight of the benign features of our unforgettable Leader” could, on the one hand, remind his disciples of their shared mission and, on the other hand, also “be a source of inspiration even to those who had not the privilege of knowing him in life.”51 Like both Drob and Hoffman, Elias Solomon also viewed any potential platform as broad and centrist in nature, repudiating both extremes of the American Jewish spectrum. Denouncing the approach of the far right and the far left, he declared that “extremes in any direction cannot perpetuate themselves.” He argued that “the world ultimately wearies of the zealot, the extremist, be he the radical or the reactionary . . . the leadership of the former will sooner or later be repudiated because it is not safe and sane, and therefore, not reliable.”52 Therefore the movement, as conceived by the traditionalist disciples, would be a centrist movement with a broad enough platform that would not clearly distinguish it from the OU. It rejected the extremes of the American Jewish spectrum, calling itself “neither reactionary nor revolutionary,”53 but nevertheless welcomed all who would abide by Schechter’s vision. Thus it was “far from separatist in its disposition,”54 a “unifying movement” that exhibited “a tendency to co-operate so far as it was possible without impairment of principle

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with whatever elements in Judaism that were willing to work together for the great purposes it holds sacred.”55 Yet even though it was not clearly distinguishable from the OU, the disciples still saw themselves at the forefront of a new “movement.” The United Synagogue, declared its official newspaper, was no “mere aggregation of incongruous parts, but a real house or school of thought and of common purpose.”56 The newspaper maintained that the first years of the organization “indicate the gravamen of the movement” as well as its “unity,” “strength,” “permanence,” and “solid foundation of traditional Judaism.”57 While the movement envisioned by the traditionalists was to include both the Conservatives and the modern Orthodox, some nonetheless began to refer to this broad, inclusive movement simply as the Conservative movement. The editors of the United Synagogue Recorder called the United Synagogue an advocate for Conservative Judaism,58 and Elias Solomon also suggested that “the Conservative Jew clings to what is permanent and essential and refuses to disregard what has vitality and power to inspire.”59 While the differences persisted between the Conservative and the modern Orthodox disciples, referring to all the disciples as part of a Conservative movement was certainly one way to distinguish them from the OU. It also highlights the difficulty of attaching labels to their beliefs. Nevertheless, with self-identified Conservatives such as Kohn and Rubenovitz in favor of a narrow centrist platform and traditionalists such as Drob, Solomon, and Hoffman advocating for a broader centrist platform, the stage was now set for a debate over the nature of the RA. This debate would emerge as the law committee moved from the United Synagogue to the RA, and the disciples were forced to determine the scope of the new RA law committee. The traditionalists, who sought a platform inclusive of modern Orthodox rabbis, hoped that the law committee would only issue rulings where there was consensus and universal agreement. This would allow them to veto any rulings that might be considered antithetical to Orthodoxy, theoretically keeping alive the hope that those in the OU, and perhaps even the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, would recognize them as Orthodox rabbis. Thus the law committee would help them to create a broad, centrist movement. The Conservatives, on the other hand, who understood their movement to be something different from modern Orthodoxy, hoped for narrow centrist movement. They believed that an authoritative committee would allow them to institutionalize their differences from Orthodoxy through legal rulings. Were the law committee to be “constituted on a sufficiently democratic basis,” Jacob Kohn told Herman Rubenovitz, “we might have a chance of

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fighting out our battles in the Rabbinical Assembly.”60 Yet Kohn and Rubenovitz were not particularly sanguine that the new committee could advance their agenda if the RA was committed to unifying all disciples. Kohn knew that “there will of course be the eternal struggle on the one hand to limit its function to pure interpretation,” and Rubenovitz also did not “entertain great hopes” about this new committee.61 Moreover, because of the commitment to unity, Kaplan did not believe the law committee would be effective. “I do not think that a hybrid committee consisting of men who do not agree on fundamentals” would be able to “function, much less make any suggestions as to any changes being imperative,” he maintained.62 In the end, the law committee that emerged did not reflect the Conservatives’ hope for a movement that clearly differed from the others, but rather it reflected the traditionalists’ hope for a broad movement that would not draw a boundary with OU rabbis. Thus only “where a decision is unanimous,” the committee decided, “it shall be issued as the authoritative opinion of the Rabbinical Assembly.”63 In all other cases, the RA law committee would only “act in an advisory capacity to the members of the assembly in matters of religious and legal procedure” and would continue to recognize and institutionalize the presence of diversity within the RA.64 The ten-person law committee would “consist of four members representing the liberal tendency within the Rabbinical Assembly, and four members representing the more conservative tendency, and that these eight select two additional members.” Here, the RA used the word conservative to mean traditional, further muddling their use of the term. Nevertheless, each side could issue its own interpretations, and “the committee shall forward the majority as well as the dissenting opinions to the Inquirer.”65 For the traditionalists, the new committee met their goals. It would create a broad centrist platform based on shared elements—however few and broad they were—that might not distinguish them from their modern Orthodox brethren in the OU. Moreover, it would allow them to remain unified with the Conservatives by codifying the elements they all shared, while remaining purely advisory in those areas in which they differed. Content with the arrangement, Epstein and Finkelstein both agreed to serve on the committee,66 and Epstein, Drob, and Finkelstein later validated the RA’s approach, each serving as RA president.67 Those on the left were faced again with an important decision—should they remain with their more traditional colleagues, even if it prevented them from creating a narrow platform to distinguish it from the other movements? Or should they leave the RA and create a platform on their

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own? Despite their disappointment with the nature of the committee, discipleship trumped their desire for clear boundaries, and Kaplan, Rubenovitz, and Jacob Kohn all served on the law committee,68 with Kaplan serving as president of the RA from 1932–33.69 At the same time, some of the Conservative disciples worked on their own, concurrently, toward a narrow platform for their movement. Because Kaplan was “not expecting any progressive or constructive thinking on the part of the hybrid Committee on Law,”70 he resolved to work informally with his liberal colleagues, which he believed would be “much more effective than if we were to go thru the motions of organization.”71 He also continued to work separately from the RA to advocate for “a new principle . . . that will mark a departure from the legalistic attitude taken by Tradition.”72 This new principle would later characterize the Reconstructionist movement.

“The Things That Unite Us” Just as the different interpretations of the emerging movement were embodied in the debate over the law committee, so too did they frame Louis Finkelstein’s 1927 paper, “The Things That Unite Us” and the responses it elicited. As the title of his paper suggests, the traditionalist Finkelstein was concerned with defining a movement by articulating the elements shared by Schechter’s disciples, not necessarily those that distinguished them from the OU. Such an approach would emphasize points of consensus and lead to a broad platform. His more liberal Conservative counterparts, however, disputed the commonalities Finkelstein asserted, but, more importantly, they demonstrated that those commonalities did little to further their own primary goal—to distinguish the RA’s platform from that of OU rabbis. Thus the paper and the discussion following it demonstrate the competing ways in which each side viewed the emerging movement. While Schechter’s disciples had from the start emphasized similarities and ignored differences, Finkelstein feared that this basic principle was under attack. He compared his colleagues to “brothers in a large family, who to all outsiders look and act alike, and yet are continually bickering with one another about their minute differences of taste and manner.” Focusing on small differences, he argued, “may tend to obscure in our own minds our basic unity,” and, because the disciples now only seemed “vaguely aware of our fundamental unity of aim and point of view,” he saw it as his job to remind his colleagues that their differences “are slight in comparison with our

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basic agreement.” He argued that his paper would be “the first steps toward such an analysis”; he would point out “only the more obvious truisms about our relations,” leaving their clarification to further discussion. “The purpose of this paper is not to reveal the hidden,” he told his colleagues, “but to summarize the known.”73 Finkelstein set forth seven points of commonality with his fellow disciples that he believed united them and thus made for a broad platform for their movement. First, he declared that all shared a common conception of God. He maintained that, on one hand, “we feel the exaltation of His inspiration when we read the Bible or study the Talmud or recite the prayers,” yet, on the other hand, “we feel that if God is to be made intelligible to men of intelligence as well as to others, the conception of Him must be stripped of its anthropomorphisms which satisfy only the needs of the uninitiate [sic].” Finkelstein argued that “we must teach our children and our following to feel the presence of God and, at the same time, not to think of Him merely in human terms.” He believed he and his colleagues shared the idea that “there is room for the conception of God that can remain living and effective in our children’s minds.”74 His colleagues on the left criticized Finkelstein’s suggestion that they all held this in common. “We should not delude ourselves into imagining a concensus [sic] of opinion if none exists,” Eugene Kohn maintained, asserting that a “common conception of God . . . is correct only if we hide behind ambiguous language.” Specifically, Kohn felt that “some of us in the Rabbinical Assembly can reconcile their conception of God with the belief that He ordered the extermination of all the Canaanites, while some of us look with a shudder of horror upon such a conception of Him.” Thus, “though we may be united by a common belief in God, we can scarcely be said to have a common conception of Him.”75 Since Eugene Kohn, a liberal disciple, was particularly concerned with articulating the differences from Orthodoxy, Finkelstein’s characterization did little to advance his agenda. “If by anthropomorphism we mean the ascription of physical organs, of dimensions, of weight, or any of the other properties of matter, perhaps we are in agreement on this point,” he conceded. Yet he mused that “such an agreement is hardly significant since it is shared by virtually all theists at the present time.”76 Max Kadushin, also a Conservative, similarly criticized Finkelstein’s claim that he and his colleagues shared a common conception of God. Kadushin argued that “the problem of harmonizing the anthropomorphisms of Biblical and rabbinical literature with a rationalistic conception of God” was a

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very important issue, but by dropping all anthropomorphisms “we should obliterate the concreteness and destroy the quality of the most characteristic portions of our religious literature.” He argued that while “the need for a reconciliation between these elements and modern scientific thought still exists . . . it can best be met by various, and perhaps divergent, schools of interpretation arising in our midst.”77 Moreover, Kadushin also expressed his concern that commonalities that did exist on this point did not distinguish the disciples from other groups— the key aim of the Conservatives. He believed that “metaphysical support for belief in God . . . can never become a matter of common agreement” because each rabbi brought his own perspectives and experiences to the table.78 Thus it was “futile,” he claimed, for his colleagues “to attempt to arrive at a conception of God which will be distinctive enough to mark us off in that respect from Reform thinkers,” because the “philosophic tendencies” of many Reform rabbis “are more in sympathy than with those of our own men.”79 Eugene Kohn and Kadushin also challenged Finkelstein’s assertion that the disciples maintained a common attitude toward Torah. Finkelstein believed this shared attitude was grounded in the historical school and contained two important elements: first, his fellow disciples believed “that Judaism is a developing religion which underwent an historical and definable change through the periods of the prophets and rabbis” and, second, “that this change was not one of deterioration and ossification but of growth, selfexpression, and foliation.”80 While adherence to the historical school may have been universal among the disciples, Conservatives argued that a common conception of the term neither united the disciples nor separated their movement from the OU. This was because the definition of exactly what historical Judaism meant had long been open to interpretation. Five years earlier an editorial in the United Synagogue Recorder had maintained that the term had “definite content,” but, recognizing that it meant different things to different people, the author found it necessary “to prevent misunderstanding and to clarify correct usage.” The editorial argued that the term had been interpreted differently across time and place, noting first how in the nineteenth century many used the term to stand “for the integrity of Judaism as it had developed throughout the ages,” while others believed the term allowed for change, “sanctioned ‘by the collective conscience of Catholic Israel as embodied in the Universal Synagogue.’” In America, reasoned the editorial, historical Judaism meant that “the original basis in the written law received greater emphasis, the

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oral law, or tradition, marking the growth and modification of these original principles as they had developed throughout the centuries.” In other words, “there is no theological copyright connected with the phrase and it is quite possible and indeed an actual practice to attach this label to any particular religious product whose value is thereby to be enhanced.”81 Because of this, it is no surprise that the RA meetings of the mid-1920s featured symposia with titles like “A Definition and Interpretation of Historic Judaism,”82 where Schechter’s disciples tried to sort out just what the term meant. Max Kadushin presented papers such as “Some Implications of Historic Judaism” and “Revitalizing Jewish Ceremonial Observances,”83 while Max Drob delivered a paper entitled simply “Historical Judaism.”84 The Talmudic scholar Dr. Chaim Tchernowitz also attended an RA meeting and emphasized that “Historic Judaism had to be based upon the observance of the Law.”85 There were other views on the meaning and essential components of historical Judaism as well. One person believed that it “endeavors to find the original and fundamental pith of the law, principle or institution and traces its growth as developed by tradition in the various conditions and changing situations through which it passes in its course through the centuries.”86 Louis Ginzberg argued that historical Judaism “attempts to create new equivalents for old values.”87 Thus, while Schechter’s disciples may have all shared a belief in historical Judaism, they did not share a clear understanding of what the term meant. This is particularly important because, as Hoffman pointed out, the distinctions between the different interpretations of historical Judaism “may seem refined,” “but the little variations were not without their significance when interpreted in terms of conduct, observance and practical instruction and decision.”88 While it is clear that Schechter’s disciples did not share a common understanding of historical Judaism, mere support for the various interpretations of the term also did not distinguish them from the OU. Mendes, Drachman, and other OU rabbis certainly agreed with the idea that Judaism was a developing religion, and the OU even initially declared its mission “to advance the interests of positive Biblical, Rabbinical and Historical Judaism.”89 Thus the Conservatives argued that while Finkelstein’s common conception of Torah did not unite Schechter’s disciples, it also did not distinguish them from other groups. Finkelstein’s third common element revolved around the implications of historical Judaism—that he and his colleagues shared a common “attitude toward change in the ceremonial.” He believed that, in the spirit of historical Judaism, innovations that brought Jews “back to God, to the Torah, and

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to the synagogue, will doubtless be accepted,” just as changes have taken place in the past.90 Finkelstein maintained that historically, changes “were justified by the fact that they helped to save Judaism in crucial periods.” For example, he cited the Maccabean innovation allowing war in self-defense on the Sabbath and Isaac Elchanan Spektor’s permission for a woman whose husband was lost at sea to remarry. Therefore he believed a consensus existed among his peers for similar changes. Those changes, Finkelstein argued, must be designed to strengthen Judaism, noting that “there is all the difference in the world between proposing a change in a single law for the sake of saving the Torah as opposed to disregarding the whole of the Torah.” Finkelstein maintained that he and his colleagues “are a unit in opposition to any attempt to put Judaism in a strait-jacket.”91 With a seeming consensus on the mere fact that Jewish law has and could continue to adapt, Finkelstein also believed his colleagues were united on just how that change could take place. Yet his assessment was somewhat of a contradiction. He first seemed to argue that his colleagues should determine how and when changes would take place. “If a breach is to be made in the levee,” Finkelstein argued, “it is better to make it deliberately, thoughtfully, intentionally, and intelligently so that we may control the waters.” Yet he also backpedaled a bit, suggesting that his colleagues could only implement a change after it had already proven itself successful. He noted that in the past “such voluntary breaches in the wall of Judaism” have been made, but only when “first demonstrated to the satisfaction of the scholars and leaders.” The present problem, he maintained, was that there was no group of rabbis who represented the “scholars and leaders” of American Judaism, because “today there is such a lack of authority in Judaism and the rabbis are so hopelessly divided.” As a result, Finkelstein concluded that the breach in the levee should not be “thoughtfully” made by the disciples, but rather by the people Israel. He trusted that “if the shifting values and the introduction of new devices will actually bring Jews back to God, to the Torah, and to the synagogue, they will doubtless be accepted.”92 Schechter’s liberal disciples pounced on Finkelstein’s argument, maintaining this demonstrated that the disciples did not in fact share a view toward changes in ceremonials. Eugene Kohn called Finkelstein’s notion that Schechter’s disciples did not have the authority to change laws on their own “a deliberate evasion of our most serious responsibilities.” He thought that sanctioning change in ceremonials was the responsibility of educated rabbis, not “the ignorant masses, whose religious observance or non-observance is not based on an enlightened understanding of Judaism.” “Since we

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all concede that change is necessary,” he asked his colleagues, “is it not the duty of the Rabbinical Assembly, precisely because it is an assembly of rabbis, to seek to discriminate rationally, on the basis of knowledge and experience, between innovation and innovation, rather than to evade the issue by leaving it to chance?” Kohn believed that this policy of “evasion” was equally offensive to those “on the one hand, who see a grave danger to Jewish tradition in the intransigency of Orthodoxy to changing conditions and new ideas, and to those of us, on the other hand, who equally see danger in the tendency of Conservatism to abandon time-honored practices.”93 Max Kadushin also disagreed that rabbis in the RA were united in their attitude on changes toward the ceremonial. “I have never read so tolerant and clever an apology given for those who want change by one who does not want it,” he declared. Kadushin maintained that “the introduction of the criterion of success for revolutionary changes in [ceremonies] enables those with Dr. Finkelstein’s scruples to regard, if not with approval at least with some partisan interest, the activities of the revolutionaries.” Kadushin believed that while Finkelstein may have been correct to say all disciples believed Jewish law had changed in the past, the method for future change was not something with which his colleagues could agree. Though the two groups clearly differed on just how change could take place, they remained united because they had thus far deferred to the expertise of Louis Ginzberg, the Seminary’s professor of Talmud. Ginzberg deeply influenced the emerging movement’s view on Jewish law, as he served as the longtime chairman of the United Synagogue’s committee on the interpretation of Jewish law and helped to shape the decisions made by the RA law committee.94 Ginzberg believed Jewish law had historically adapted to its external environment, and he argued that “Judaism always recognized the fact that there are greater truths and lesser truths, Catholic truths and individual options, forms which are essential and forms which are not essential.”95 Yet, for Ginzberg, while Judaism had evolved and would continue to evolve, he believed Seminary students themselves did not have the power to dictate that evolution.96 Instead, this was a task for all of Catholic Israel. Ginzberg’s interpretation, while theoretically providing hope for liberals’ aspirations, was squarely in line with that of traditionalists like Finkelstein. The traditionalists hoped that by opposing changes, unless sanctioned by the rest of the Orthodox world, they could anticipate the possibility of rapprochement with their other Orthodox colleagues. Finkelstein’s fourth, fifth, and sixth platform elements were not controversial, but they also did not distinguish Schechter’s disciples from the other

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movements. Finkelstein’s fourth element was a common attitude toward Palestine. “We want to see Palestine rebuilt as the spiritual center for Israel,” he claimed, maintaining that his colleagues viewed Palestine “as an ultimate, a thing that is good in itself, whose welfare we seek for its own sake.” Though Kadushin did not agree entirely, both he and Kohn conceded that this was essentially a shared element.97 Yet their attitude did not distinguish Schechter’s disciples from the OU, which adopted a resolution supporting Zionism in its first meeting and declared that “the restoration to Zion is the legitimate aspiration of scattered Israel.”98 Fifth, Finkelstein believed that all of Schechter’s disciples shared a common “attitude toward [the people] Israel.” Sixth, he also considered Schechter’s disciples to share a common attitude toward the Hebrew language, as they were all “entirely sympathetic to the establishment of Hebrew as the language of conversation, Jewish literature and learning.”99 Yet, while Kohn and Kadushin offered no objections, Kohn pointed out that they also shared these elements with a significant number of Orthodox and Reform Jews.100 Thus Finkelstein’s first six points represented the traditionalists’ attempt to create a broad centrist platform that was based on consensus and shared elements and would not exclude the OU. The response of the Conservatives similarly reflected their vision for the movement, but they expressed their frustration that Finkelstein’s platform would not distinguish them from other groups. “I do not mean to imply that we hold none of these things in common,” Eugene Kohn argued, “but that we also share them with the great mass of loyal Jews in Orthodox and Reform ranks.” He argued “that we agree[,] in taking an affirmative attitude toward maintaining the integrity of the Jewish people and the continuity of Jewish history, that we have in common a devotion to Palestine and the Hebrew language and literature and a devotion that is based on an appreciation of the spiritual values inherent in Jewish tradition rather than on a chauvinistic assumption of racial superiority.” Yet he believed that Finkelstein’s elements gave “the impression that these common attitudes not only unite us, but differentiate us from other groups in Israel which rally around the Orthodox Yeshiva or the Reform Hebrew Union College.” According to Kohn, Finkelstein had not “proved the thesis that he maintains.”101 While Kohn felt the shared elements did not distinguish the disciples from other groups, he also believed the elements that might distinguish Schechter’s disciples from other groups were not shared by all the disciples. “As to the things that we do not share in common with all loyal Jews,” he suggested, “we find that we too are divided with regard to them.” In other words, Kohn did not believe that Finkelstein came close to articulating the

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“spiritual platform, so to speak, of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Rabbinical Assembly.”102 There was, however, a final element of Finkelstein’s platform that both Eugene Kohn and Max Kadushin agreed distinguished Schechter’s disciples from any other group: their shared commitment to the Seminary, which had been shaped by Schechter—and their common identity fostered by their affiliation with it. In addition to his first six points, Finkelstein also argued that “our unity is symbolized for us by the Seminary” and included all RA members, young and old, alumni of JTS and other institutions, by declaring them either “natural or adopted children.” He claimed that “as our Alma Mater we all owe it loyalty and gratitude, and these we give the more willingly because it serves as a source of encouragement for us when sometimes we falter, and as a center around which we can always gather.” Finkelstein even accounted for the diversity within the RA by pointing to the Seminary, suggesting that through the faculty “we find our own differences ably reflected.” He understood that “through it we became not only comrades in arms, but also brothers. After we have said everything about our similarities and likenesses,” he continued, “there remains but one thing to be said, and that is we are all of us ‘Seminary men.’”103 Though the Conservatives still hoped for a platform that distinguished them from other groups, they believed this common identity was the only thing that both united the group and distinguished it from other movements. “None of us can fail to agree with Dr. Finkelstein’s valuation of the Seminary,” Kadushin argued. “The Seminary does symbolize and embody the things that unite us.” He believed that the “best commentary on its effectiveness is Dr. Finkelstein’s closing sentence, ‘After we have said everything about our similarities and likenesses there remains but one thing to be said, and that is: we are all ‘Seminary men.’”104 Eugene Kohn wholeheartedly agreed that Schechter’s disciples were united by their shared commitment to the Seminary and that this “single exception” to Finkelstein’s list was the only shared factor that differentiated them from other groups. “The only effective bond that unites us and distinguishes us from other Rabbinic bodies . . . is our common devotion to the Seminary,” he firmly believed. This bond was very important and “should not be underestimated. The ties of sentiment based on memories of common or similar experiences in student days and further cemented by later association in grappling with similar problems, however different the solutions we may propose for them, possess a force and validity that cannot be denied.”

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Kohn understood that it was not a shared platform that distinguished them from groups like the OU, but rather that they were “united in that we want to be united.”105 It was clear that the disciples were united first and foremost by a shared commitment to fulfilling the vision of Solomon Schechter, the man they viewed as a father, friend, and teacher. Moreover, Kohn realized that the bonds between them were in many ways social and dated back to their Seminary days. As we have seen, most of these men had arrived in America in their teenage years or in their early twenties. The American-born among them had helped the recent immigrants learn English and master American culture, while the East Europeans who had received traditional educations shared their knowledge with those who had different backgrounds. They had socialized together and some had even lived together, and these bonds, not doctrinal similarities, acted as the glue that held this group together. Kohn thought this “sense of mutual friendship and co-operation, and the satisfaction even in coming together for our annual disputations on the things on which we differ transcends those differences and makes it possible for us to work together effectively for the advancement of Judaism in all those aspects that we do share with all loyal Jews.” He argued that “these differences do not threaten our organic unity so long as our common loyalty to the Seminary and to all that it has meant in our personal lives impels us to bring our disagreements to the same council table, in the hope of mutually influencing one another if not convincing one another.”106 By the late 1920s, Schechter’s disciples remained committed to working together, overlooking their fundamental differences in their quest to implement their teacher’s vision. Thus, while the unity envisioned by Schechter and embraced by his disciples allowed the emerging movement to outlive its charismatic leader, it ultimately prevented those disciples from articulating a platform that distinguished their movement from the others. Because of their continued embrace of diversity, the new movement adopted the broad, centrist platform that was envisioned by the traditionalists. As a result, Schechter’s disciples were never able to create a platform for their emerging movement that carved out a unique place for them on the American Jewish spectrum.

6 A Task Left Unfinished

“It is high time for our men to formulate in clear tones the philosophy of our position in Jewish life,”1 declared Israel Levinthal in 1932. Five years after “The Things That Unite Us,” Schechter’s disciples were still no closer to creating a platform that both unified them and distinguished them from the other movements. The final opportunity for them to do so would be their attempt to solve the problem of the agunah, the “anchored” wife. According to Jewish law, a woman must receive permission from her husband for a divorce, and if the husband is missing or refuses to grant the request, the woman is forbidden to remarry. Schechter’s disciples agreed on the necessity of solving what they viewed as a grave injustice, but their respective solutions highlighted the deep chasm between how the Conservatives and the modern Orthodox disciples viewed the emerging movement. The Conservatives were more interested in solving the problem and less concerned about gaining the support of the other rabbinical organizations. The more traditional disciples, however, refused to accept a solution if it meant estranging themselves from rabbis in the OU and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim—whose support on the issue was not forthcoming. Because the Conservatives were unwilling to implement a solution without the support of their modern Orthodox colleagues in the RA, the organization was gridlocked and unable to solve the pressing issue of the agunah.

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The agunah issue remained a prime focus of Schechter’s disciples until the end of their careers. Unable to implement a solution, they began to hand the issue—and with it the fundamentally divided movement—to a new generation of rabbis. These rabbis had not studied with Schechter, nor were they as committed to implementing his vision of Catholic Israel. Instead, with the creation of a new prayer book, this new generation began the slow process of redefining Conservative Judaism so that it could become the third movement in American Judaism.

The Agunah The agunah issue was so troublesome in part because it offered a superb opportunity to define and apply the principles of historical Judaism to an issue of critical import to the American Jewish community. In the words of one rabbi, the issue points to “the very crux of our position—whether we can apply the principle of historical development to traditional Judaism.” He maintained that the issue “offers a splendid test case of our contention that traditional Judaism possesses sufficient vitality and flexibility” to adjust to “modern needs.” The issue, he believed, was “of fundamental importance for our movement,” and if the RA could not apply the principle of an evolving halacha to practical problems, “then there is no alternative for us, except, either to adopt Orthodoxy or Reform.”2 The issue was so troublesome that one rabbi observed the agunah question had “at times plunged the [Rabbinical] Assembly into the despair of utter hopelessness and futility.”3 The agunah issue had been a focus of Schechter’s students since the 1920s. One younger Seminary graduate who did not study under Schechter concluded in 1924 that “our compliance with Rabbinic law has been of course necessary and yet has forced us to assent to much injustice thereby.”4 In his memoir, Herman Rubenovitz recalled that he was approached by a young woman who was unable to obtain a divorce from Orthodox authorities, despite her terrible circumstances. The woman had married at age sixteen and soon discovered that her husband had previously spent time in jail. After they were married, he was jailed again, subsequently paroled, and he then disappeared. Once he had been missing for ten years, the woman sought a divorce so she could remarry, but no Orthodox rabbi would grant her request. Rubenovitz reported that she came to him “because she heard that while I was a traditionalist, I might be more liberal in the interpretation of the ancient law.” After hearing her story, he wrote to seminary officials

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and recalled that he was told definitively, “There is nothing that can be done for this young woman under the Jewish law. . . . Every Conservative rabbi must refuse to officiate at her marriage ceremony.” He then wrote to the woman and told her of the Seminary’s decision.5 Upon hearing the news, the woman asked Rubenovitz if Jewish law required “a Jewish woman to suffer the rest of her life at the hands of a man such as I have described to you, don’t you think that it is about time that law was changed?” Rubenovitz believed her argument was “sure to find its way to the heart and conscience of every thoughtful person,” but “the real question was whether beyond an expression of sympathy there was aught to be done for her.” He then wrote to his fellow Seminary alumni, enclosing the woman’s letter to him. “Should we not of the Alumni see to it that action be taken to remedy what is an intolerable situation?” he asked.6 He argued there was “a moral issue involved, which has to be faced.” He also insisted the Jewish law of divorce placed the man over the woman and “is completely at variance with the trend of modern life in these matters.” Rubenovitz believed it was the duty of the Rabbinical Assembly to find a way to solve this problem, and creating a rabbinical committee that could grant divorces in such instances, he believed, “would be entirely in accord with the true spirit of the Jewish law, which is above all a law of justice.”7 There was near universal agreement amongst the laity, the modern Orthodox disciples, and the Conservatives on the necessity of solving the problem of the agunah. Indicative of their growing voice on the national stage, the laity, particularly women, pushed strongly for a solution to the agunah issue, and they looked to the rabbis to solve the problem. In 1926 the Midwest branch of the Women’s League of United Synagogue resolved to “call upon the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary and upon the Committee on Interpretation of Jewish Law to study this question and to develop a method within the law by which this terrible injustice and cruelty may be removed.”8 In 1929 the Women’s League argued that the agunah situation in Europe must be solved and that “our Rabbinical authorities should not hesitate to meet together in order to discuss the possibility of introducing measures of relief which would be in harmony with the spirit of Traditional Judaism.” Members of the Women’s League also suggested that “it is to be hoped that orthodox Jewesses in the United States of America will raise their voices, in unison with their sisters in other lands, in demanding that these matters shall receive the attention of the Rabbinical authorities of the world.”9 The Women’s League demanded “justice for the Jewish women” and wanted the RA to put a procedure in

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place “so as to check at once the accumulation of cases of suffering and injustice.”10 These demands suggest that the women were not only gaining a stronger voice on the national stage but that they also understood the rabbis to be the authorities on Jewish law. With the laity empowering them, the RA went to work to solve the problem of the agunah. Conservative disciples believed that, founded on the principles of historical Judaism, Jewish law should evolve to solve this problem, and they also believed they themselves could play a role in finding a solution. One Conservative disciple argued that “the menace which threatens the continuity of historical Judaism is the refusal to budge out of the state of arrested development.” He maintained that to those who believed Judaism was “not an heirloom by heritage, an historical code, having its roots in the past, a characteristic adjustment to environment, a constant evaluation of life’s content, there comes the imperative to consider, and if necessary to revise, the letter of tradition in order to retain, and maintain, its spirit.”11 The traditionalists, who also adhered to the ideas of historical Judaism, agreed there was a problem, but found it necessary to solve it in a way that would be acceptable to their Orthodox colleagues in other organizations. Leading the charge to do so was Louis Epstein, who believed that because he was a staunch traditionalist who identified as Orthodox, he would have the credibility to offer such a proposal on behalf of the RA. Epstein had studied at the well-respected Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania and was well-versed in the area of Jewish marriage law, having published The Jewish Marriage Contract: A Study in the Status of the Woman in Jewish Law in 1927 and he delivered a paper titled “Marriage Adjustment” the following year.12 Moreover, Epstein also felt qualified to offer an acceptable solution because he had long been deferential toward the Agudath ha-Rabbanim, insisting earlier in his career that the United Synagogue seek its support before making any major decisions. His respect for these Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis remained strong as he grappled with the solution to the agunah issue, and he was unwilling to alienate the “foremost teachers of the day from all corners of Israel.” He characterized himself as a “callow student who wallows in the dust of the feet of those who raise high the flag of the Torah and I have no desire to question the received tradition.”13 Epstein believed he could solve the agunah issue in a way that would be acceptable to rabbis in the Agudath ha-Rabbanim as well as those in the OU. With the aim of furnishing an acceptable solution to everyone, in 1930 Epstein offered his colleagues a far-reaching resolution to the agunah problem, in which he argued there was precedent for retiring practices that were both

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antithetical and offensive to modern sensibilities. He noted that “polygamy, physical punishment of a wife for disciplinary purposes . . . and many other things at which the Jewish conscience would be scandalized are still permitted by Jewish law.” As these practices were no longer in use, he concluded “we are higher morally than our code,”14 and laws “basically unsound and unfair to the woman” should also be relegated to the past. He argued it was necessary to solve the agunah problem because many Jewish women were simply ignoring Jewish law, and he feared “the purity of Jewish family life is being broken down,” and it was necessary to act quickly “lest we lose the last thread of respect for Jewish law.”15 Epstein proposed a plan he hoped would spark a debate that would lead to a solution to which all Orthodox rabbis could agree. His plan was that a husband would make out a document at the time of the marriage that would permit a divorce in his absence. This could be done in a brief ceremony before the wedding, and Epstein believed this plan had “overcome in a satisfactory manner” the “certain legal difficulties” inherent in creating such a complex solution. He planned to send a pamphlet to rabbis worldwide and elicit their responses, and hoped to create “a sizable volume on this subject representing real erudition.”16 Epstein was ready to take an active role in the debate and was “prepared to do a good deal of writing and printing and circulating of halachic material that will strengthen our arguments in the eyes of the rabbinate.” He thought that “with perseverance and without impatience, we shall find more and more rabbis coming to our aid in defense of the woman’s rights before Jewish law.”17 Though Epstein hoped for feedback that would spark debate, his plan fell flat. Epstein sent his proposal to nearly one thousand rabbis throughout the world, and, even though “it was ignored by most of them,” the rabbis who responded “said that while they found no serious objection to my proposal on the basis of law, it could not be considered until approved by the leading scholars in Israel or until a Sanhedrin of such scholars be assembled.”18 This stymied his plan because there was nothing to debate—the rabbis of the world did not offer their criticism or counterproposals, but replied instead with a resounding lack of urgency. Because of unwillingness to go ahead without the support of Orthodox rabbis in other organizations, which he did not have, Epstein’s plan languished. In 1935 Epstein reintroduced his proposal, again seeking a response from Orthodox rabbis outside the RA, but this time he had the unanimous support of the RA law committee. He planned to spend time “organizing the members of our Rabbinical Assembly into an effective force behind this

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innovation, inform them sufficiently in the legal and theoretical aspects of this innovation as well as in its practical application,” and prepare them for the debate he hoped would follow. He thought that, with an informed group of colleagues squarely behind his proposal, he could “make our innovation known and acceptable to the Jewish community” and make it “acceptable to the rabbinate of the world, who, though given the opportunity now for five years to express their opinions,” had declined his debate.19 That acceptance was not forthcoming. Rather than engaging in halachic discussion, as Epstein and the RA had again hoped, the rest of the Orthodox world used the proposal as an opportunity to distance themselves from the RA. Just as they had done in the Cleveland Jewish Center case, these rabbis declared the RA antithetical to Orthodoxy, which to them justified the decision not to support the RA’s plan. Shortly after the resolution, “a ferocious attack appeared in the Yiddish papers under the signature of the Agudat ha-Rabbanim,” which was intended to discredit members of the RA.20 The organization encouraged rabbis worldwide to “protest against the Conservative rabbis and their vicious machinations,”21 lumping Epstein together with his Conservative colleagues, though Epstein himself identified as Orthodox. Moreover, the Agudath ha-Rabbanim published a book Epstein believed deliberately misconstrued his work in order to call into question his qualifications. Its president called Seminary graduates “ignorant” and “utterly unqualified to serve as teachers in Israel.”22 But Agudath ha-Rabbanim members weren’t the only Orthodox rabbis to criticize Epstein’s plan—modern Orthodox rabbis in the OU also took the opportunity to distance themselves from Schechter’s disciples. Yeshiva University’s modern Orthodox leader, Bernard Revel, signed on to a plan that would excommunicate anyone who officiated at a wedding that incorporated Epstein’s proposal,23 and one RA member observed that, because “the Orthodox Union started a campaign of vituperation,” the idea of discussion had become unlikely. He believed the situation now amounted to a “classstruggle,” and Orthodox leaders “used this as an opportunity to declare war on the Conservative rabbis as a class.”24 Without the support of rabbis in the OU or Agudath ha-Rabbanim, and based upon past precedent, it was no surprise the RA refused to implement Epstein’s plan. Likely seeking the approbation of the Orthodox rabbis with whom he identified, Max Drob also came out against the Epstein plan. Signing his name “Rav Max Drob,” and emphasizing his scholarly credentials before the other Orthodox rabbis, he argued Epstein’s plan included both “violations of technicalities” as well as violations of the “basic principles in

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the giving of a get.” His conclusion was that until there was a better plan “the rabbinical assembly would be foolish to introduce so dubious a solution for the agunah problem.”25 While Drob’s view may have been in the minority within that RA, it nevertheless carried the day because the RA refused to alienate its Orthodox members. Drob was not willing to agree to a solution that would put him at odds with OU or Agudath ha-Rabbanim rabbis, and, unwilling to alienate Drob, the RA made it clear that it would not articulate “principles which would be in conflict with Orthodox practice.”26 In addition to pacifying its own Orthodox members, the RA may have been particularly unwilling to offer a solution without the consent of other Orthodox rabbis because of the gravity of the issue. If an RA rabbi approved a divorce that was not recognized by Orthodox authorities, a future child of the divorcee would be considered a mamzer and only allowed under Jewish law to marry another mamzer or descendant of a mamzer. Thus unity on this issue was critically necessary if the disciples wanted to evade the thorny question of just who was a Jew and avoid the creation of scores of Jews who were not recognized by traditional Jewish authorities.27 Though unwilling to act without the support of the entire Orthodox world, the RA was not, however, prepared to close the door on the issue altogether and reiterated “its conviction that the agunah problem can be solved on the basis of Jewish law and [that the RA] is determined to find such a solution.”28 The goal remained to “explore all possible means of winning the co-operation of the Orthodox rabbinate” to find a solution. “Should we find that our colleagues of the old-school persist in abdicating their responsibility,” one younger RA rabbi maintained, “we shall have to mobilize public opinion which is latently with us so as to formulate and implement a solution which will be Halakically valid.”29 To the great consternation of the disciples—Conservative and modern Orthodox—this appeared to be a frustrating example of paralysis on the part of the RA. Because they couldn’t agree on a platform, a definition of historical Judaism, or a method for its implementation, they were unable to agree on a solution to such a pressing communal issue. At the 1937 convention, “disappointment was expressed by several members at the neglect of the Committee to arrive at principles affecting vital legal problems about which some legal action must be taken.”30 Eugene Kohn told his colleagues that “it is a great disappointment to me that I can only speak of our having given consideration to the problem, not of having made any appreciable headway in its solution.” He maintained that “we should be stultifying

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ourselves and should be recreant to our duty as religious leaders, if, by our inaction we give ground to the charge that Jewish religion is indifferent to the suffering of the agunah and that our Torah is a system of law but not an instrument for the achievement of justice in the service of humanity.”31 Epstein himself was also frustrated and, after years of disappointment, was unsure of his next move. He told his colleagues he was unaware of “what our Committee can do further on the subject of the agunah. We await instruction from the Convention.”32 Epstein tried again unsuccessfully in 1940 to win the RA over to his proposal, but his attempt was derailed by the continued insistence that Orthodox rabbis outside the RA support any plan. Respecting that viewpoint, one RA member argued that, because the RA was still “committed to the preservation of traditional Judaism,” the organization “lacks jurisdiction and authority” to introduce such a proposal “over and against the opposition, no matter how it be motivated, of the religious leaders of the Orthodox communities.”33 Frustrated by the inability to solve the problem, rabbis in the RA seemed to sense futility and increasingly turned away from the issue. Though Epstein published a new book in 1941 where he reiterated his plan together with some of the leading halachic objections and his responses, his colleagues did not seem to care. One younger Seminary graduate told his colleagues of his regret “that so few of us have had the requisite leisure to peruse the book.” Speaking for himself, he admitted he had “only dipped into it here and there.” He also reported that while some rabbis did “not find any grave legal objections to it,” they were “apathetic to its adoption.” The result, he concluded, was there was “no real enthusiasm on the part of the Committee for the immediate implementation of the proposal.” Instead, he argued that the agunah was “the victim of conditions not of our making and quite beyond our control at present, but eventually some way will be found, I am sure, to afford her relief.”34 While the RA as an organization remained unwilling to act, the agunah issue was the last straw for Epstein. Although he had long identified as Orthodox, he was frustrated other rabbis outside the RA did not recognize him as such, and for him the issue crystallized that he was now part of a Conservative movement that was different from Orthodoxy. Whereas earlier in his career he specifically argued that “I am not a conservative rabbi; I am Orthodox,”35 he now was convinced he had erred in identifying as Orthodox for so long. He now maintained it was Conservative rabbis, not Orthodox rabbis, who “devised means to find new ways to approach the younger

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generation and to draw their hearts closer to traditional Judaism” and who strengthened Judaism so it remained true to Jewish law and also adapted to American life. Epstein believed Orthodox rabbis ignored important issues like the agunah, and the issue convinced him he was now part of a new Conservative movement.36 For those rabbis who had been agitating for a solution to the agunah problem for nearly two decades—Conservatives and modern Orthodox alike—they could only sit by and watch, frustrated that the RA had failed yet again to apply historical Judaism to everyday life. Epstein seemed to understand this had been their last chance. He hoped his work on the agunah issue would “keep the question alive, even if only for theoretical purposes, in the hope that it may receive better treatment at the hands of the next generation of Rabbis.”37

The Prayer Book and the Passing of the Torch A changing of the guard would be exactly what it would take for the emerging Conservative movement to begin the process of creating a program of its own and for it to take its place as the third movement in American Judaism. While the agunah debate demonstrates Schechter’s disciples were gridlocked and unable to create a program for their emerging movement, the publication of a single new Sabbath prayer book revealed that a new generation of Seminary graduates was prepared to solve the paradox Schechter’s disciples could not and begin to create a standardized program for Conservative Judaism. Because there was no single book for United Synagogue congregations to use during the Sabbath service, each chose from a handful of texts, creating great diversity from one congregation to another. Exacerbating the situation was the reality that many rabbis were increasingly relying upon innovative “English hymns, Hebrew melodies, responsive readings for various occasions, meditations, and the service for the house of mourning,” few of which appeared in existing books.38 Rabbis in each congregation were forced to create their own materials, intensifying variations from one congregation to the next and causing a tremendous duplication of effort. Believing it was up to rabbis “to create new forms and rituals to meet the needs that face” congregants, Herman Rubenovitz was one of several rab-

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bis who created leaflets and pamphlets for his own congregation. Together with his congregation’s ritual committee, Rubenovitz decided to assemble his own services into a supplementary book, tentatively calling it Prayers and Hymns for the Synagogue, School and Home.39 While Rubenovitz did not envision this project as a full-scale prayer book revision, he nevertheless wrote “to the other conservative rabbis of New England,” in the hope he could convince “all the conservative congregations of New England” to join “together in publishing a supplement to the regular prayer book.”40 He asked three younger Seminary graduates to prepare material for Passover, Friday nights, and Rosh Hashanah, and Rubenovitz was to prepare the supplementary material for Yom Kippur.41 Rubenovitz called this “the first attempt made by a group of conservative congregations to standardize their services and to discuss their needs in a matter of ritual,” and, because the “United Synagogue is in no position to do anything,” he and his fellow New England colleagues “must try to help ourselves.”42 The project soon grew in scope. “The time has now come when we ought to grapple with this problem in a more thorough and comprehensive manner than we have attempted heretofore,”43 Rubenovitz argued, and he called for his colleagues to prepare “a draft of the needs of a conservative congregation in the field of ritual.”44 Rubenovitz’s idea soon spread beyond New England, and he hoped to compile all the pamphlets and booklets that had been produced by his colleagues, with the intention of editing them into a supplementary book of prayers and hymns.45 In 1932 the RA created a standing committee on ritual, and, representative of the changing of the guard, Hoffman, Drob, Rubenovitz, and Jacob Kohn did not serve, while other younger Seminary graduates did.46 This committee sent out a questionnaire to gather statistics and facts, to collect the various pamphlets being used in congregations, and “to ascertain the new innovations, and to get expressions of opinion from our men.”47 Several congregations indicated they already used supplementary sheets and pamphlets for patriotic holidays such as Thanksgiving, Washington’s Birthday, Mother’s Day, and Armistice Day.48 One rabbi told of how he printed a Friday evening prayer binder, where pages could be removed or interchanged easily, preventing the confusion that resulted from skipping around the prayer book while haphazardly referring to loose sheets of paper.49 When asked whether they would like to see a supplementary prayer book that would include responsive readings and new prayers, eighty rabbis said yes and only eleven said no.50

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Despite the mandate, ten years passed “without any serious attempt having been made to translate the implications of that splendid report into concrete action.” An RA committee reported in 1942 that “with but few exceptions, there have been no significant changes in the pattern of our religious worship and the same complaints, dissatisfactions, and problems that troubled us then are still very much with us,” yet, because of a lack of action, “we are, today, exactly where we started a decade ago.”51 Frustrated with the lack of follow-through by the RA, individual rabbis produced their own materials. Rubenovitz and a fellow disciple published a guide to the Selichot service; another disciple produced a mourner’s home service.52 While these all filled a need, none “achieved wide and general acceptance,” and their influence was limited.53 Despite their inability to succeed on this small scale, the RA soon took on the grander challenge of publishing a single Sabbath and Festival prayer book—which was to stand in sharp contrast to the two versions of the prayer book that had appeared in 1927 to very limited fanfare. This new book was to incorporate supplementary materials and also standardize the service in United Synagogue congregations. While a few rabbis wanted vast revisions in the new book, the majority simply wanted an improved English translation, a large variety of well-arranged responsive readings, and new prayers in Hebrew and English—a formula “that gives expression to the needs and yearnings of the Jewish people in the modern world.”54 The book, they hoped, would temper the “chaos and confusion,” that reigned as “no two rituals are identical, except in the several instances where a strictly orthodox service is maintained.”55 An RA prayer book commission was authorized to prepare a new Sabbath and Festival prayer book, with the expectation that it would be ready by 1945.56 The Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book appeared in 1946 under the joint auspices of the RA and the United Synagogue, and while the book in many ways represented the emergence of a more unified Conservative movement, it also announced the arrival of a younger generation of rabbis who had no personal connection to Schechter. Several of Schechter’s disciples did serve on the prayer book commission, including Elias Solomon, Jacob Kohn, and Israel Levinthal.57 However, many of Schechter’s other students were conspicuously absent from the project. Two of those were Mordecai Kaplan and Eugene Kohn, who spurned this new attempt at a prayer book and instead created their own Reconstructionist Sabbath Prayer Book.58 Most indicative of the passing of the torch was the leadership of the prayer book com-

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mission by younger Seminary graduates who had no personal connection to Schechter. Robert Gordis chaired the commission, Max Arzt served as secretary, and Morris Silverman edited the book. A subcommittee of Arzt, Gordis, and Silverman took on added responsibilities and “met between plenary sessions.”59 These rabbis produced a widely accepted, single prayer book that stood in sharp contrast to the two versions of the Festival Prayer Book produced by Schechter’s disciples.60 Whereas the 1927 United Synagogue festival prayer book was used in less than one out of every four congregations, the new book quickly achieved widespread acceptance. By 1948 there were 185 congregations using 39,200 copies,61 and, by 1949, over 300 of the United Synagogue’s 365 congregations used the book,62 creating a “recognizable,” though not “total,” “uniformity in many of our congregations.” The result of this standardization was that “people feel quite at home, when they go from one congregation to another,”63 and one younger Seminary graduate astutely observed “the future chronicler of our movement will probably rank as the most significant single achievement in the direction of a philosophy for Conservative Judaism, the publication of our Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book.”64 As this new generation of rabbis took the stage and became more influential in the RA, a growing chasm was emerging between the younger generation, which insisted on a platform, and the disciples, who remained committed to inclusivity. Herman Rubenovitz, for one, resented the “group of very clever young men whose language I do not speak and who would probably not understand me.” He believed that “a more deferential attitude toward the methods and religious modes of past generations” was needed, “but it is just such humility which seems to be lacking in certain quarters.”65 Sensing an abandonment of Schechter’s vision, Louis Epstein tried valiantly to convince the younger generation to maintain the inclusivity of the past and to recognize their place as “links in a golden chain of tradition fashioned and made vital by an unusual personality—Solomon Schechter.” Epstein viewed it as the duty of these younger rabbis, “who were born a number of years after Schechter’s death,” to apply the principles of historical Judaism and Catholic Israel to contemporary American Jewish life, the concepts and values these younger rabbis learned while students in “Schechter’s Seminary,” even if they had not studied with Schechter himself. Epstein told them they had an awesome responsibility to fulfill, as they “will share with me and with my generation of graduates the honor of being described as ‘Schechterians.’”66

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The “Academy on High” As the younger generation took a greater stake in shaping the emerging movement, the most sobering sign of the torch being passed was the death of the disciples in increasing numbers. When one seminary alumnus who graduated shortly before Schechter’s arrival died suddenly, in 1927, the United Synagogue Recorder ominously declared “the day of reckoning has begun.” It called his death a “solemn declaration” that “the early graduates of the Seminary have reached the age” when “from time to time, and one by one, they shall fall by the wayside. It is hard to realize this flight of time.” The Recorder suggested that “we are wont still to consider the graduates of the Seminary as the younger generation now in its full maturity, but the founders have nearly all passed to their eternal reward and the turn has now come to the next generation.”67 As member rabbis died, RA conventions would “pause for a moment in the consideration of living issues to shed a tear and pay a tribute to the memory of those of our colleagues who during the past year have been called to the ‘Academy on High.’”68 Rabbis would also frequently eulogize their colleagues. Signs that the generation of Schechter’s disciples was leaving the scene were unmistakable. Though they may have been frustrated by the inability of the older generation to create a platform, many tributes to the departed by the younger generation speak to the respect that they held for their elders. After the passing of one disciple, a younger graduate spoke of how younger rabbis “frequently turned to him for guidance and regarded him as a close friend and counselor.” These younger colleagues “came to admire him and were often imbued with a desire to model their careers after his.” He compared his life to a musical instrument and told his colleagues that “they who have heard the melody will have its notes ringing in their ears for many days to come. . . . We have heard the melody and we have been given a righteous memory.”69 After Charles Hoffman died in 1945, another younger rabbi recalled years earlier, when Hoffman “would speak with a forceful sincerity that laid his convictions strongly upon his audience.” Hoffman “was always listened to with respect; after all, he was the Seminary’s oldest graduate,” though “we younger men could not always see eye to eye with him.” As the younger graduate surveyed the changing landscape, he reflected that with Hoffman’s “passing a generation of Jewish life moves off the scene—what a generation! What it saw! What it experienced! And, what it planned and built!”70 The words of eulogy written by Schechter’s disciples about their own classmates demonstrate that the bonds of friendship remained strong

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throughout their lives. When Hoffman died, Elias Solomon recalled his “classmate, colleague and life-long friend” as a man who held “a high conception of the dignity of his sacred calling, a sincere single-minded attachment for traditional Judaism.”71 Hoffman’s career was “a complete refutation of the view  .  .  . that America is a land which, spiritually speaking, ‘eateth up its inhabitants,”72 and “loyalty to the Torah was ever his watchword.” He strove to be “the Jewish saint so graphically portrayed by Professor Schechter in his writings.”73 Two years after Hoffman’s death, the RA lost another pioneer—Herman Abramowitz of Montréal. Two years after that, in March 1949, Louis Epstein died, and a lifelong friend and colleague painted a picture of a life that was representative of his generation. “I see him vividly at the age of twenty, an age when, feeling our powers,” he told his colleagues at Epstein’s funeral, “we begin to shape our world through the eyes of our own ideals. We were members of an intimate group of devoted friends. How we struggled, how we disputed among ourselves!” “Earnestly and heatedly,” he recalled, “we helped to clarify the thinking within our group.” That colleague told of how Epstein’s career followed the path of many of his classmates. “Doubts assailed him in Dallas; disillusionment in Toledo. Throughout this period, his soul was in conflict.” When he arrived in Boston, however, he found the success many of his colleagues never did. In his congregation “the young loved him; the elders revered him.” His rabbinical colleagues “respected his learning and revered his character. They came to him frequently for guidance in the law of Judaism, and he responded with learned dissertations. They gave him their confidence.” To Epstein’s friends and other colleagues he said, “the curtain has fallen—the curtain has fallen for us, the finite, the mortal. The curtain has risen for him to life eternal.”74 C. David Matt, a disciple who was also a poet, eloquently reflected on his own fleeting generation. Shortly after the deaths of four colleagues, he wrote that the four men “have labored well” and “have left numerous disciples” of their own. He wrote that “in a way, these older colleagues marked the end of a generation.” He told his fellow rabbis, “realizing the inevitability of ‫‘ דור הולך‬one generation passeth away’ they must have been gladdened by the realization that ‫‘ דור בא‬a succeeding generation cometh.’” He closed by asking that they, “their colleagues, old or young, be privileged to carry on the consecrated tasks of these colleagues,” and asked them to perpetuate “their spirit of loyal service to God and to Israel.”75 Later, in 1949 and in memory of Epstein and two others, he published a poem in the

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Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly, called “A Rabbi Died.” The final verses are as follows: A rabbi died; the golden tongue was stilled! Yet, whilst disciples lovingly recall His name and quote the precepts he had taught, His lips, as ’twere, speak deathless in the grave. A rabbi died; his sorrowful colleagues Appraisingly lament his people’s loss; And though they know not whose the summons next, They vow the vineyard zealously to keep.76

Conclusion Deceptive Retrospect and the History of Conservative Judaism


hile Schechter’s disciples had created the framework of Conservative Judaism, they were never able to create a program or platform that would distinguish it from the other movements. It would only be with the rise to leadership of a younger cadre of rabbis— who had no personal relationship with Schechter—that the movement would begin to develop a narrower, centrist platform. This new generation held a fundamentally different view of the movement than the 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. In redefining the movement, these rabbis marginalized Solomon Schechter, whose inclusivity and Catholic Israel stood in the way of what they hoped their movement would become. Instead, they 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. As we have seen, this was not the case at all.

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The Rise of a New Generation Though the younger generation undoubtedly respected Schechter’s disciples, they were nevertheless prepared to create a clearer definition of Conservative Judaism once their elders had passed from the scene. In 1948 the RA dissolved its Committee on Jewish Law and replaced it with the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Much like the previous law committees, the decisions of the CJLS would not be binding, and instead it would offer both majority and minority opinions, and member rabbis could follow whichever they preferred. Moreover, continuing the tradition of previous law committees, the RA refused to “apply sanctions against members who refuse to accept even a unanimous decision.”1 Yet what was revolutionary about the CJLS was that it did not shy away from controversial decisions that might alienate the traditionalists. Seeking to continue the policy of previous committees, Louis Epstein offered a resolution that the new RA committee “shall be instructed to hold itself bound by the authority of Jewish law and within the frame of Jewish law.” Such a statement would certainly allow the modern Orthodox disciples to at least claim the RA was not antithetical to Orthodoxy. Yet, in perhaps its most provocative move yet, the RA rejected the resolution; instead, the new committee would be committed to “the raising of the standards of piety, understanding, and participation in Jewish life.” This was a monumental change that indicated a willingness to alienate the traditional, modern Orthodox disciples for the sake of a platform and a preparedness to break definitively with rabbis in the OU and Agudath ha-Rabbanim.2 That definitive break would not take long, and in 1950 the committee issued two landmark rulings announcing to American Jewry that a distinct Conservative movement had arrived. The first, authored by Morris Adler, Jacob Agus, and Theodore Friedman,3 none of whom studied under Schechter, began with a seven-point “program for the revitalization of the Sabbath.”4 These younger Seminary graduates first emphasized various elements of home observance and synagogue worship that were not controversial. However, there were two elements in particular that confirmed the emerging movement was prepared to boldly distinguish itself from the other Orthodox rabbinical associations and, in the process, alienate the modern Orthodox rabbis within its ranks. First, responding to the reality that automobiles were often necessary in suburban America, the ruling declared that

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refraining from the use of a motor vehicle is an important aid in the maintenance of the Sabbath spirit of repose. Such restraint aids, moreover, in keeping the members of the family together on the Sabbath. However, where a family resides beyond reasonable walking distance from the synagogue, the use of a motor vehicle for the purpose of synagogue attendance shall in no way be construed as a violation of the Sabbath but, on the contrary, such attendance shall be deemed an expression of loyalty to our faith.5

This ruling indicated that the movement was prepared to make major changes to halacha on its own, without the support of the broader Orthodox rabbinate. In a similarly controversial ruling, the committee also allowed the use of electricity to further home Sabbath observance. Because the CJLS viewed Jewish law “as an instrument of the people, for the enrichment of the spiritual life of our people and not as an end in itself,” and because “in modern life the use of electricity is essential to the normal comforts of living,” it was prepared to argue that “great stress was laid in our tradition on the duty of having one’s home brightly illuminated in honor of the Sabbath. Therefore, in the spirit of a living and developing Halachah responsive to the changing needs of our people, we declared it to be permitted to use electric lights on the Sabbath for the purpose of enhancing the enjoyment of the Sabbath, or reducing personal discomfort or of helping in the performance of a mitzvah.”6 While rabbis in the RA were not bound by either ruling, the organization nevertheless boldly declared to American Jewry that it had no problem if the OU or the Agudath ha-Rabbanim pronounced the RA to be antithetical to Orthodoxy. At the same time, they were also making it clear they were prepared to alienate the modern Orthodox rabbis within their ranks. Previously, the RA had deferred to Schechter’s Catholic Israel when seeking to make Jewish law more compatible with modern life. This meant that without the support of the broader Orthodox rabbinate, the RA (and before that the United Synagogue) refused to reinterpret Jewish law on its own. This was an acceptable compromise to the Orthodox disciples and held them in coalition with the Conservatives. Discipleship and a commitment to implementing Schechter’s vision held the group together despite the lack of a clear platform. For rabbis in the next generation, however, who did not study with Schechter and were not as committed to his vision of unity, discipleship was not enough. Instead, these younger rabbis used the CJLS and its 1950 rulings

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to begin to articulate a new platform that could both hold them together and distinguish them from other groups. Though the rulings were not binding on RA members, they did underscore the new reality that Conservative Judaism was emerging as a more unified movement that was no longer insistent upon deferring to the multifaceted Orthodox world.

Schechter’s Movement As the new generation was redefining the movement, and as Schechter’s disciples were passing from the scene, the disciples frequently reflected on the movement they had worked so hard to shape. For those whose careers we have followed, their evaluations of the emerging Conservative movement were based primarily on how well Schechter’s vision had been implemented. Some perceived the movement to be a failure because they believed the decisions of 1950 were the culmination of a slow process of abandoning Schechter’s traditionalism. Others believed Schechter’s vision defined the movement, and, while it had not quite been realized, it was close to fruition. Another group argued that Schechter’s vision had already been implemented and that the Conservative movement represented the realized vision of Solomon Schechter. However they interpreted Schechter’s vision, they were first and foremost Schechter’s disciples, and they evaluated the movement based on how well their teacher’s vision had been realized. For one group of traditionalists, Schechter’s vision was all but abandoned by the 1950s because they thought their teacher had intended the movement to be much more traditional than it had become. Included in this group is Max Drob, who believed that the movement failed to implement Schechter’s vision because both he and his fellow disciples were unable to successfully impart the message of Jewish observance to American Jewry. In 1929 Drob laid out his belief that Schechter stood for traditional Judaism, which he defined largely as a commitment to religious observance. But, while Drob worked tirelessly to further religious observance, he was bitterly disappointed that he could not impart this message to those whom he hoped to influence. Seminary students turned a deaf ear to Drob, and in 1935 he opted not to go “through the meaningless motions of accepting the appointment” as an alumni adviser because “the students assigned do not even report to me.” He believed that, instead of him, “the students should be assigned to alumni whom they consider it worth their while to consult and follow.”7 While this indicated Drob’s feeling of alienation, it also suggests that the younger generation—who

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were largely responsible for the decisions of 1950—were on the whole more liberal than Drob might have liked. While Drob was concerned that his fellow RA members were becoming more liberal, he was also deeply troubled that his own congregation, the Concourse Center of Israel in the Bronx, was also rejecting what he saw as Schechter’s version of traditional Judaism. Drob would “complain bitterly . . . over the fact that his congregants at the Concourse Center would not keep the law as he deemed proper.” Louis Finkelstein recalled that “Drob couldn’t understand that he was hired by a Conservative, mostly non-observant, congregation who wanted the rabbi to be ‘Orthodox’ for them.” Finkelstein told Drob’s grandson that Max Drob would often cry over the status of his congregation.8 On top of the alienation Drob felt from his colleagues and congregants, he was also bitterly disappointed that his own children also “moved increasingly away from Jewish tradition,” rejecting their father’s message.9 Thus, in Drob’s mind, traditional Judaism—the Judaism for which Schechter stood—had failed, as rabbis, laymen, and even his own family had turned away from that message. Herman Abramowitz also perceived the Conservative movement to be a failure because he thought that it had abandoned Schechter’s traditionalism. When he agreed to join the United Synagogue at its inception, Abramowitz expected the influence of “so-called Conservative congregations” to be limited, and he fully expected traditional congregations like his own to be “the overwhelming majority.” The United Synagogue constitution stated “as clear as could be desired that it does not sanction or endorse any of the innovations that so-called Conservative congregations have adopted,”10 but, for Abramowitz, the publication of the 1927 festival prayer book represented a radical break from the intentions of his teacher. Though the two versions of the book were intended to maintain inclusivity, the liberal version represented an explicit recognition of liturgical changes in United Synagogue congregations, and for Abramowitz it meant the abandonment of Schechter’s traditional Judaism.11 While Abramowitz believed that the Conservative movement had betrayed Schechter, he nevertheless was certain that he had been true to his teacher by modeling his own Montréal congregation upon Schechter’s ideals. Schechter himself had visited Montréal shortly before he died, and, as the story goes, he commented on how much he liked what he saw in the congregation. Abramowitz’s successor, Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat, recalled how the congregation clung to this and resisted changes to things that Schechter had especially enjoyed.12

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In addition to implementing Schechter’s vision within his own congregation, Abramowitz also believed he had done the same throughout Canada. In a typewritten, undated document found among his papers after his death, Abramowitz claimed his “rabbinical activities have been confined solely to Canada,” and it was in “the somewhat narrow confines within which the forty years of my rabbinate have been spent.” Forgetting or discounting his years of national service to the United Synagogue—or perhaps viewing them as a failure—he wrote that “cultivating only one vineyard also has its advantages. It sometimes gives you a chance to see the fruit that it yields.” Though his work at the national level did not turn out as he had hoped, he brought “the seminary ideology” to Canada “at just the right time,” and, because of its lay leadership, “Canadian Jewry has to this day remained preponderantly conservative,” seemingly using the term conservative to mean “traditional.” Thus Abramowitz was able to “look back upon the past with gratitude to G., and say, ‘How goodly has been my portion; how pleasant has been my lot.’” While he believed the Conservative movement had betrayed Schechter’s vision, he felt he had instituted that vision on his own on a smaller scale.13 Charles Kauvar also believed the Conservative movement had abandoned the traditionalism of its founder, and by the early 1950s he was deeply skeptical of the movement’s ability to remain true to Schechter’s vision. For Kauvar, the term Conservative connoted institutional affiliation and not religious practice. He believed that Schechter would have wanted, and seen no contradiction with, congregations in the movement that were “traditional and observant, in the full sense of the word.” He pointed to Abramowitz’s “Orthodox” congregation, “and many others that are traditional like my own,” but “belong to the United Synagogue and, therefore, call themselves Conservative.” The problem, however, was that by 1940 he began to feel that the liberals in the organization had skewed Schechter’s message and that “some of the present Conservative Rabbis are neither traditional nor observant.” Like Drob, Kauvar suggested that many of his colleagues, who as a whole were much younger than he was, “do not have either the courage or the decency to admit that they are practically Reform, and so they hide their Leftist attitude to Judaism under vague terms.” Though “the Conservative Movement” had been “founded by the late Dr. Solomon Schechter,”14 Kauvar believed it was abandoning the traditionalism of its founder. As we will see, Kauvar’s frustration boiled over during the course of the 1950s and ultimately led to his estrangement from the movement he had been so instrumental in shaping.

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While Drob, Abramowitz, and Kauvar each perceived the movement as having abandoned Schechter’s vision, several other disciples felt it could still be realized if it continued to strive for Catholic Israel. Jacob Kohn, for example, believed at the end of his career that success was near because a unified American Jewry was just over the horizon. Kohn, however, did not always think that way. He recalled when he was younger that he was “puzzled” by how a group of synagogues that differed in their approach to mixed seating, use of the organ, and style of prayer books could possibly be unified. He had viewed with deep suspicion the idea that Conservative Judaism could “embrace all those who are essentially loyal to Jewish tradition” and not insist on “complete conformity or complete uniformity in their method of worship.” “To us young men at the time,” Kohn recalled, “that seemed evasive.” He told of how “we youngsters at the time were not quite satisfied with it. We thought it was too vague and ambiguous.” Over the course of his career, however, Kohn changed his mind and stated that, initially, “we thought they were wrong. I have since changed my mind” and now “I think Dr. Schechter was right.”15 Schechter’s legacy, according to Kohn, was twofold. Schechter, he believed, had been right about the concept of historical Judaism. “We don’t merely transmit tradition, we select from it that which we think is most fit to stir the heart and mind and to survive in the future that faces us. In that sense, Dr. Schechter is right.” Second was his philosophy of Catholic Israel. “The last arbiter as to what is truly Jewish is the conscience of the Jewish people,” Kohn now believed, and Conservative Judaism “remains true to Schechter’s interpretation of these words.”16 Catholic Israel also meant inclusivity within the Conservative movement, and on his eightieth birthday, in 1961, Kohn told the National Jewish Post of his belief that Schechter’s vision of a unified traditional Judaism would soon become a reality. He now felt that a single, American Judaism would emerge, one that was centrist in character. He believed that Reform was becoming more traditional, as evidenced by a greater amount of Hebrew in its prayer book, and that Orthodoxy was becoming more liberal. “Who,” he asked, “would have imagined Orthodoxy sanctioning late Friday evening services?” Though “certain extremist Orthodox groups may stand aside in protest,” Kohn prophesied that “there will be a merger of the groups as they become more organized” and that a single American Judaism would emerge. Though he had “institutional relations with the Conservative,” Kohn announced, “I consider myself an American Jew.”17 For Kohn, this American Judaism would be the successful implementation of Solomon Schechter’s inclusive vision.

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Like Kohn, Elias Solomon also believed Schechter’s vision could soon be realized if the movement remained true to Catholic Israel. Schechter founded the United Synagogue, Elias Solomon argued, “for the purpose of establishing a union to promote traditional Judaism.” When Solomon asked whether Schechter’s vision had been “fully realized,” his answer was simple: “Hardly.” He argued, “We are still practically at the beginning of the work of unifying, strengthening and coordinating the forces of Conservative Judaism in America.”18 He believed “admittedly more might have been achieved over the period of 30 years. But the failure to do so should be laid at the door of all who were in a position to help, laymen and rabbis, who lacked the vision and far-sightedness to realize the significance and potentialities of the Movement.” He believed Schechter “would plead for a courageous, more dynamic, more dramatic effort to strengthen Judaism” and proclaimed “it is not too late yet,” to achieve this. He pointed to the opportunity presented by the postwar period, and he told his colleagues that Schechter’s “hope that the United Synagogue would prove to be his best legacy to American Israel, can yet be realized.”19 Working tirelessly as a unifier was one of Schechter’s most important ideals, and Solomon carried this with him throughout his career. He believed the American rabbi faced “a tremendous task ahead” and, because of that, “there is an imperative need of the closest bond of union, of a complete rapprochement among all the forces that stand for Conservative Judaism.”20 He told his audience at a testimonial dinner in his honor in 1951 that “I early came to realize the value of the contribution made by all our groups to Jewish life in America.” Solomon believed “no one group can boast of being the sole possessor of the whole truth or of all the wisdom.” “American Jewry will be the wiser for adopting, and adapting, if need be, the best and most useful features in the program and policies of each of its component theological groups.” He noted Schechter’s opposition to divisive labels and argued that “the history of the American Jewish Community during the last half century should teach us the error and folly of division and party strife.”21 In an era when the Conservative movement was trying to figure out how to distinguish itself from other movements, Solomon’s insistence that a unified traditional Judaism could still work was indicative of his belief that Schechter’s vision could still be realized. Like Kohn and Solomon, Israel Levinthal similarly felt that Schechter’s vision could be realized, and he too considered inclusivity to be one of the movement’s great strengths. “We shall always have different points of view,” he maintained, and he believed that “it is precisely through conflict

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of opinion that truth emerges.”22 He argued that the Conservative movement was becoming known as the “middle road,” between Reform and Orthodoxy, and that such a designation was not a bad thing because “it means the acceptance of the best inherent in both extremes” (64–65). He allowed that “the strength of the Conservative ideology lies in the fact that it has accepted this truth as basic in its entire approach to Judaism—and especially in its attitude toward the subject of Jewish Law and Jewish religious practice” (65). As we have seen, the force behind this approach was Schechter himself. Yet Levinthal was not only concerned about inclusivity within the movement; he was particularly concerned as to whether the idea of Catholic Israel could create a means by which the ideas of historical Judaism might be implemented. Levinthal believed one inspiration for the movement could be found in Frankel and the German historical school (62), which meant that “the Conservative movement recognizes and holds in high reverence the authority of the sages of the past; but it also recognizes the fact that each age brings forth new problems and new conditions of life which were unknown to the leaders in the past” (71). While Levinthal suggested the movement’s ideological underpinnings were in the German historical school, he nevertheless believed “Conservative Judaism, as a movement, is definitely an American product” that “really began with the coming to these shores of the great scholar and unique personality, Solomon Schechter” (62). Schechter, he maintained, “laid the foundation of the movement which was to symbolize the synthesis of traditional Jewish learning and observance with the historical approach in Judische Wissenschaft as the guiding principle of a renascent Jewish spiritual life in America” (63). Although Levinthal believed the movement would ultimately succeed when it implemented the philosophy of historical Judaism, the paralysis on display during the agunah debate suggested that this had not yet occurred. The United Synagogue and the RA had consistently shied away from potentially divisive issues, and thus “it is in the application of this philosophy, however, that the Conservative movement, to quote a keen critic within its own ranks, ‘has been slow and fumbling.’”23 Levinthal believed that, in order for the movement to fulfill Schechter’s vision, American Jewry needed to understand rabbis of the present had both the authority and the duty to implement the ideology of historical Judaism. He believed that one “weakness of the Conservative movement can be traced to the hesitancy of both its rabbinic and lay leaders to put into effect its philosophy, because of their desire to avoid a religious

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conflict, a kultur kampf, within the ranks of our people.”24 Moreover, he argued that “if its performance and achievements have been less than its promise, it is due primarily to deficiencies in its leadership rather than in its ideology.”25 He was concerned that “many still hesitate to regard rabbinic leaders of our day, who are concerned with the vexing new problems that face us, as having the same authority as those rabbis of the old school who are not at all troubled with these problems.”26 In order to realize the true potential of the movement, Levinthal believed “learned leaders of the new age must grapple with these new problems and conditions and find a solution for them through a re-interpretation of the old Law.”27 Catholic Israel, Levinthal believed, “will have the deciding voice,” implementing the ideas behind historical Judaism, and thus leading to the success of his teacher’s vision.28 Whereas Kohn, Solomon, and Levinthal believed Schechter’s vision was on its way to realization, Herman Rubenovitz and Louis Epstein considered it to have already been implemented. They felt the Conservative movement already defined just how historical Judaism could be used to solve the problems of the day—thus marking a clearer boundary with the other Orthodox organizations. Early in his career, Rubenovitz wanted Schechter to delineate the boundaries of a new movement as much as Kohn did. He was convinced Schechter would have supported this idea had it not been for Cyrus Adler, who, Rubenovitz believed, was the true advocate of the inclusive policy and “who held out for a colorless name which would not commit us to do anything definite.” Rubenovitz maintained that Schechter favored the name Jewish Conservative Union, which implied a specific platform, but Schechter’s hands were tied.29 Because Rubenovitz believed Schechter himself would have had no problem with a platform, he saw no contradiction between Schechter’s teachings and a unified Conservative movement with distinct boundaries.30 By the end of his career, Rubenovitz continued to view the Conservative movement as Schechter’s legacy. He was deeply inspired by “the truly amazing growth of our movement” and attributed that growth to “a halfcentury of continuous pursuit of the tasks pointed out to his disciples by Dr. Schechter.” Schechter stood for historical Judaism, which required “the duty of carrying forward, however cautiously and deliberately, the process of the development and adjustment of traditional Judaism to the moral and intellectual needs of the day.” Rubenovitz believed “it is this tendency which distinguishes Dr. Schechter’s outlook and philosophy of Jewish life and differentiates it from the Orthodox and Reform schools of thought.” Schechter’s

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vision of “a living, developing tradition” had become “the soul and essence of the Conservative Movement.”31 Louis Epstein also believed Schechter’s vision had been implemented, and the agunah issue demonstrated that it had been necessary to abandon Catholic Israel to implement the broader message of his teacher, which, in retrospect, is a great irony. Epstein spent much of his career equating Schechter’s brand of Judaism with a unified American Jewish community and he consistently reached out to an Orthodox world with which he closely identified—he even called himself an Orthodox rabbi for much of his career.32 However, the agunah issue changed Epstein’s identity, making it necessary in his mind to abandon his Orthodox identity if he wanted to remain committed to Schechter’s traditional Judaism,that was relevant to the needs of the day. Because, in his mind, the rest of the Orthodox world had rejected historical Judaism by not adapting Jewish law to solve the plight of the agunah, he believed it had also rejected Schechter’s message that halacha could become more relevant in the modern world. Epstein believed it was the Orthodox Union and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim that had, by this act, forced him to sever his ties with Orthodoxy and to identify with a Conservative movement, the only movement that stood for Schechter’s vision.

Reconstructionism While many of Schechter’s disciples evaluated the movement based upon how well it had implemented Schechter’s vision, a small group of rabbis began to feel that the movement had not achieved its aim precisely because of Schechter’s vision. Led by Mordecai Kaplan and Eugene Kohn—and inclusive of many younger Seminary graduates—these rabbis believed the true ideology of the movement was to be found in the German historical school. For them Schechter’s Catholic Israel and his insistence on diversity had actually prevented Conservative Judaism from implementing the ideas of historical Judaism and had paralyzed the emerging movement. They maintained that, in order for the Conservative movement to reach its full potential, it would need to issue clear rulings on matters of pressing import to American Jewry, even if this meant creating divisive boundaries with traditionalists. Because the Conservative movement was unwilling to do this during the era of Schechter’s disciples, many of these rabbis sowed the seeds for what would eventually become the Reconstructionist movement. While Reconstructionists such as Kaplan would later reject the idea of historical

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Judaism entirely, one of the initial reasons they created Reconstructionism was to implement the ideas of historical Judaism they believed Schechter had stifled. For much of his career, Mordecai Kaplan criticized the emerging movement’s lack of boundaries, and in the postwar era he emerged as the leader of the Reconstructionist group. Kaplan’s ideas changed markedly throughout his career, as he identified as Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist at various points, and his views on Conservative Judaism also changed over time. By 1960 he had come to determine that Conservative Judaism “was conceived in Germany” in the mid-nineteenth century and was predicated on the historical school and the ideas of Zacharias Frankel.33 Kaplan believed the movement “affirms the principle that Jews must continue to regard Rabbinic Judaism as the authoritative norm of Jewish life,” and any changes adopted must be “within the framework of Rabbinic Judaism itself” (374). While Israel Levinthal also argued that the precursor to Conservative Judaism was to be found in the ideas of the historical school, Kaplan differed in that he believed Schechter had hindered the realization of that ideology. As an example, Kaplan cited the 1918 failure to create an authoritative law committee and lamented that the insistence on inclusivity and Catholic Israel prevented the committee from taking a definitive stance on pressing issues of the day. “What kind of law does the Historical School expect the Jews to live by if no one is qualified to interpret it?” Kaplan asked, likely referring to Louis Ginzberg’s belief at the time that Seminary graduates were not qualified to change the law on their own (378). Because of their unwillingness to alienate the Orthodox, Kaplan believed “the spokesmen of Conservatism, however, have thus far been unable to prove how any vital change which circumstances call for can be adopted in accordance with this principle” (374). Thus Kaplan found Catholic Israel to be “the greatest stumbling block that Conservatism could have placed in the way of any intelligent solution to the practical problems involved in living as a Jew” (376). Catholic Israel, he believed, “operates like the turnstile which, in Mother Goose Rhymes, says of itself: ‘I am in everyone’s way, but no one I stop’” (378). Thus Kaplan believed that, in large part because of Schechter’s ideas, Conservative Judaism “turns out to be a method of salvation by evasion. It evades outward difficulties and inner conflicts, instead of coming to close grips with them” (370). Eugene Kohn, who followed Kaplan to Reconstructionism, was also critical of Schechter for not offering an effective means by which historical Judaism could be implemented. He saw Schechter as someone who should

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be lauded for his scholarship, but he also believed Schechter should not be credited with setting into motion the wheels of a Conservative movement. In 1934 Kohn argued Schechter was “probably the leading exponent of the science of Judaism in America as well as one of the leading protagonists of the Conservative outlook.” The problem as he saw it, however, was that “the conservation of Judaism under the new conditions of life cannot be achieved by intellectual activity alone,” and “the practical American temperament is impatient of theoretical discussion.” Conservative Judaism, he believed, was “not adequate to the situation,” because it had not articulated the mechanism by which historical Judaism could be implemented. The movement, he believed, lacked “a clearly formulated method by which both continuity and adaptability can be assured,” and Schechter’s Catholic Israel, he felt, was not the answer. As a result, Eugene Kohn included Schechter with leaders of the old Seminary—all of whom he credited only with “pioneer efforts” to “establish the Conservative movement on a firm basis.”34 Because Eugene Kohn and Mordecai Kaplan believed Schechter had failed to lay out an effective enough vision of how historical Judaism could be implemented, they began the slow process of creating a movement of their own that did. One of the most important steps in this process was the creation of the Reconstructionist prayer book in 1945, edited by Eugene Kohn and Kaplan. This new book sidestepped inclusivity, adapting prayers in a way they knew would alienate Schechter’s more traditional disciples as well as rabbis in the OU and the Agudath ha-Rabbanim. While Kohn and Kaplan knew many Jews were “attached to the traditional prayer book by sentiments of deep and sincere piety and deplore any deviation from its time-honored text,” they maintained that a worship service derived from such a traditional book “has not sufficed to preserve the spirit of worship among Jews.” They cited several attempts to create “new forms of Jewish liturgical expression,” which “failed to rekindle in the Jew the spirit of worship.” Because of this, Kohn and Kaplan maintained, “it is necessary to make changes in the content of the prayer book.” They argued that though “it is necessary to retain the classical framework of the service and to adhere to the fundamental teachings of that tradition concerning God, man and the world,” they believed “ideas or beliefs in conflict with what have come to be regarded as true or right should be eliminated.” Kohn and Kaplan hoped “the revision of the traditional prayers” would “help the worshiper to experience the presence of God in his personal and communal life. And it should so unite the worshiper with Israel as to put him in

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possession of the living truth which Israel has learned concerning man’s task on earth.”35 While Eugene Kohn and Kaplan were implementing the ideology of historical Judaism as they saw fit, they initially did so while remaining within the framework of the Conservative movement. “Essentially, Conservatism connotes institutional and organizational affiliation,” their periodical argued, suggesting that the Conservative movement came together “on the basis of accident of graduation.” Because the RA was to them in many respects simply an alumni association, they saw no problem with concurrently working on their own to create a “school of thought, a point of view, a philosophy and a program.” Reconstructionism and Conservatism could coexist, they believed, because the former had “no intention of organizing competitive institutions or organizations” with the latter.36 For example, Kaplan, as noted previously, served as RA president from 1932–33, and Eugene Kohn held the same title from 1935–37. Ira Eisenstein, Kaplan’s son-in-law and fellow Reconstructionist leader, also served as president of the RA from 1952–54. As a result, many saw the Reconstructionists as the left wing of the Conservative movement. As late as 1958, one chronicler of Conservative Judaism argued “the highly articulate Reconstructionist position” had deeply influenced the RA, but “has failed to create a party.”37 Yet, while Reconstructionism was not necessarily antithetical to the Conservative movement by the early 1950s, there is no question there was a growing split between the two groups, and by the 1960s the Reconstructionists were barreling ahead toward a definitive break. By 1960 Kaplan was so frustrated that he now rejected the ideology of historical Judaism entirely, suggesting it “has been a positive hindrance to any improvement or enlightenment of the law, precisely because those who think of new problems in terms of historical analogies get tangled up in their own traces and think that what has been must remain forever.”38 Kaplan now noted that the difference between Conservative Judaism and Reconstructionism was “while in Conservatism the main concern is what to do with Halakha, the traditional laws . . . the main concern of Reconstructionism is what innovations to introduce to render Judaism not only livable but a source of spiritual and moral creativity.”39 These ideas ultimately pushed the Reconstructionists from the RA and the emerging Conservative movement, a process that was finally completed in 1968 with the creation of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.40 While Kaplan was distancing himself from the RA, his colleagues in the RA increasingly understood Kaplan to be advocating a principle that was beyond the scope of their emerging movement.41

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From Schechter to Frankel While many of Schechter’s disciples judged the movement by how well it implemented their teacher’s vision, the Reconstructionists suggested his vision was in fact what stood in the way of the realization of historical Judaism. In this they were joined by a generation of younger Seminary graduates— many of whom had studied with Kaplan—and many of whom maintained that the decisions of the CJLS were the logical expression of Frankel’s historical Judaism, the ideology upon which they believed the movement was based. Suffering from deceptive retrospect, these younger rabbis ignored the fact that inclusivity, rather than boundaries, was the hallmark of the movement during the first half of the twentieth century. Instead, because they viewed the movement not as it actually evolved but as they hoped it would become, they erroneously marginalized the role of Schechter and his disciples in the emergence of Conservative Judaism. One of the most important ways this new generation sought to “recover the roots” of Conservative Judaism was by writing its own history of the movement,42 and one of the most prominent rabbis to take on this task was Mordecai Waxman. Writing from the perspective of the 1950s—after the decisions of the CJLS—Waxman argued the movement always stood for historical Judaism as it was interpreted at the time he was writing. His history thus sought the roots of that concept, and he found them in “the ideas of the Historical School, articulated by Zacharias Frankel and his contemporaries in Germany, that Judaism was a changing and developing entity which through the ages had recognized the temper of the times and changing conditions and had adjusted to them without sacrificing its own integrity.”43 That ideology, he believed, first emerged in America not with Schechter but rather with Sabato Morais and Alexander Kohut, two of the founders of the old Seminary. He argued that the founding of the old Seminary in 1887 was intended “to give expression to their idea,” and it was at this point that “Conservative Judaism found its formal expressions” (7–8). Thus he concluded that “there is a clearly defined Conservative movement, that it was an ideology, and that it is considerably more than the product of American sociological forces” (3–4). This, of course, meant that according to this theory Schechter was merely a link in a much longer chain that carried back to Frankel and across the Atlantic. But not only does Waxman marginalize Schechter, he was also utterly critical of his ideas. Catholic Israel, Waxman believed, was “a nimble paradox born in the fruitful mind of Solomon Schechter” (14), and, because

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of it, “for years its leaders denied that it was a party or denomination within Judaism and sought to avoid becoming one.” According to Waxman, while Catholic Israel hindered the emergence of the movement, it was also never intended to define the Conservative movement’s approach to implementing historical Judaism. Waxman argued that Conservative Judaism “asserts the right of its rabbinical body, acting as a whole, to interpret and to apply Jewish law” (20, my emphasis). He maintained that “this principle has, for most of the life of the Conservative movement, been honored more in theory than in practice, it remains a fundamental outlook and in the last few years it has begun to be implemented” (20). With this in mind, Waxman considered the “development of an increasingly complex organizational structure, the debates on ideology, and the increasing projection of a Conservative viewpoint” to be what “converted Conservative Judaism from a tendency into a movement” (34). In so arguing, Waxman marginalized the staunch commitment to Catholic Israel that characterized the movement over the first half of the twentieth century. Moshe Davis also argues the historical school in Germany was the direct precursor to Conservative Judaism, and he does so in a way that similarly marginalizes Schechter. Davis begins by arguing American Jewry was divided by its response to “the real challenge to Jewish religion in America[, which] was to answer the question of the relevance of the Jewish faith to American society in an age of enlightenment, individualism and equalitarian thought, scientific progress and intellectual achievement.”44 One response, believes Davis, was that of Reform, which “held that, in order to fulfill its role in the world, Judaism must constantly keep pace with the changing age, incorporating and reflecting modern developments, without necessarily being bound by the historic evolution and continuity of the Jewish tradition” (11). A second response was that of the Orthodox, but his definition of Orthodoxy is far more extreme than we have seen to be the case. Orthodoxy, Davis maintains, was dominated at the end of the nineteenth century by traditional East Europeans, and “even at the beginning its position was clear, constant, and always mindful of the great dangers to Judaism present in the emancipated society of America.” Davis argues that “Judaism, the Orthodox group taught, insists on the adjustment of life to the Law and not the Law to life” (12). Because Davis creates such broad categories, he leaves a significant amount of space in the center for his third response to the challenge of American Jewish life—what he labels the historical school. The historical school, he believed, was shaped in Europe by men like Frankel and was first

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articulated in America by Isaac Leeser—a problematic assertion because Leeser himself identified as Orthodox. “The Historical school,” he maintains, “was no less inspired by the divine character of Jewish law, taught by the Orthodox, nor by its moral purpose as stressed by Reform. Indeed, leaders of this group maintained that both these fundamentals of the Jewish tradition come into their fullest significance only when they are viewed as part of the totality of the historic Jewish experience” (13). Davis believes the historical school evolved “from its formative period as an approach to Jewish life and tradition in America until its emergence as the Conservative Movement” (14). This definition, however, does not distinguish between modern Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism and mistakenly assumes that the fervent Orthodoxy of the late nineteenth century also characterized the Orthodoxy of the twentieth century. This argument also marginalizes the role of Schechter and prizes that of the old Seminary, as Davis suggests the emergence of Conservative Judaism occurred before Schechter even set foot on American soil. He argues that the process of “organizing the Historical School” took place from 1886–1902 (229), beginning with the creation of the old Seminary. Once the historical school was organized, the leaders of the reorganized Seminary “worked together with lay members of the historical school to establish the Seminary on permanent foundations as the center of Conservative Judaism” (322). These leaders brought Schechter with the goal of “continuity of purpose” (324), and thus the process of organizing the historical school ended with Schechter’s arrival in America. While Davis calls Schechter the “chief architect of the Conservative Movement,” he believes Schechter understood he was shaping “the creation of his predecessors” (326). Finally, Abraham Karp also maintains that the origins of the movement were to be found in Germany and its emergence in America predated Schechter’s arrival. “An understanding of the European situation will lay the basis for an evaluation of what was happening in America,” he suggests, and he believes that Conservative Judaism’s “beginnings are in the rediscovery of authentic Judaism by nineteenth century Jewish scholarship, which disclosed the evolving, dynamic nature of Judaism.”45 He argued that such a belief was called the positive-historical school, and that the origins of the movement were “in the ideological gropings [sic] and commitments, the pronouncements and programs of those religious leaders whom Dr. Davis calls the Historical School in nineteenth century America.” These nineteenth-century leaders were the “forefathers,” distinguishable from their “spiritual heirs” (48). Thus, for Karp, Schechter was not the inspira-

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tion but the “living bridge between the Historical Schools in Europe and America, and between their institutional manifestations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (38). Karp also demonstrates just why it was so important to his peers to search for the movement’s history and demonstrate that Conservative Judaism did in fact have its own clearly defined ideology and boundaries. “Did Conservative Judaism emerge out of the ideological ferment of nineteenth century Jewish life, or is it a product of the sociological scene of twentieth century America?” (33). he asks. The implications here are significant and may account for the deceptive retrospect of his peers. If it did not have a clear ideology, he asked, was it only a “temporary refuge for faint-hearted Reformers and for men of Orthodox convictions who are ready to compromise for convenience?” Such a movement “will disappear when those whose minds lead them to Reform will take on the courage of conviction, and for those for whom Orthodoxy is the way will no longer feel compelled to compromise” (33). In other words, for Karp, the only way to ensure the future of the Conservative movement was to demonstrate that the formative Schechter years did not define it, but rather had temporarily prevented the Conservative movement from reaching its true expression. The contrasting interpretations of the movement by Schechter’s disciples and the new generation is striking. As we have seen, the years prior to 1950 were defined by the disciples’ commitment to Schechter and his vision of Catholic Israel. Because they were unable to implement historical Judaism in a way that would not alienate those within their ranks or in other rabbinical associations, the disciples did not act, blurring the boundary with Orthodoxy. Such was the movement they created, yet the movement was redefined by many in the next generation who, operating backward, mistakenly believed the decisions of 1950 had always defined the movement. They believed the Schechter era stood in the way of the movement reaching its true expression, and, as a result, their inspiration behind the movement moved from Schechter to Frankel. By seeing the movement as they wanted to, this next generation fell victim to deceptive retrospect and created the myth that Conservative Judaism had always been a movement with clear boundaries. This myth still persists, and, as we have seen, nothing could be further from the truth.



n the decades after Solomon Schechter’s disciples passed from the scene, the Conservative movement grew to be the largest of American Jewry’s three primary religious movements. Following the broader trend in American life, during the postwar years Jews, in significant numbers, moved to the suburbs where the Conservative movement met with great success. One estimate suggested that, between 1945 and 1965, approximately one-third of American Jewry relocated from city to suburb; another observer maintained that the suburban Jewish population doubled in the 1950s. Before they left for the suburbs, many of these Jews had already lost any attachment to synagogue life, yet they retained a Jewish identity simply by living in densely packed urban Jewish neighborhoods. In the suburbs, even in those that drew disproportionate numbers of Jews, Jews were widely scattered, and Jonathan Sarna argues that “Judaism could no longer be absorbed, like sunshine, from the surrounding atmosphere.” Something needed to be done if these new suburban Jews were to remain Jewish, and many of these suburbanites decided to build synagogues to give their new Jewish communities a central address.1 As they founded new synagogues, these Jews needed to decide with which movement to affiliate. Frequently the congregants would invite Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform representatives, each of whom would answer questions and explain the benefits of their particular approach to

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Judaism. After weighing the presentations, the congregants would vote and choose the movement that best met their needs.2 In this competitive marketplace, the newly redefined Conservative movement appealed to these suburbanites for many reasons. First, in an era during which Americans had moved toward the center, Conservative Judaism rejected what its representatives claimed were the extremes of both Orthodoxy and Reform. Second, the movement’s decisions in 1950 to allow its members to drive to synagogue and permit limited use of electricity on the Sabbath seemed to fit well with the suburban, automobile-based lifestyle. Third, Conservative synagogues appealed to suburban Jews because of their embrace of the synagogue center concept. Synagogue centers tried to combine social and religious life under a single roof, and this was appealing to suburban Jews who may have turned away from religion but still wanted to affiliate with a Jewish institution. Fourth, the movement also emphasized decorum, differentiating itself from immigrant Orthodox synagogues, which many Conservative Jews associated with “the smell of herring and the sight of spittoons.” Fifth, Conservative synagogues, as we will see, appealed to suburban Jews because of their emphasis on harmonizing modern gender norms with synagogue life. And, sixth, suburban Jews were particularly concerned about providing a Jewish identity for their children, and the Conservative movement placed a particular emphasis on education.3 For all these reasons Conservative Judaism found itself in the best position to meet the needs of these suburban Jews. As the numbers of suburban Jews rapidly increased, so did the ranks of the Conservative movement. Between 1945 and 1965 approximately 450 new congregations chose to join the Conservative movement, more than new Reform and Orthodox affiliates combined.4 In 1956–57 alone, 130 new affiliates joined, bringing total membership to 628 congregations. That grew to 778 congregations, in 1964, and continued to rise, reaching 832 in 1971.5 As a result of this significant growth, the Conservative movement became the largest of American Judaism’s religious movements.6 Some thought that, in time, the vast majority of American Jews would become Conservative. The postwar growth of Conservative Judaism owed much to its shift from an all-embracing Catholic Israel to a movement of the religious center, positioned between Orthodoxy and Reform. As the Conservative movement increasingly presented itself as a separate movement, its rabbis increasingly identified with that movement; they defined themselves more as “Conservative” and less as “Orthodox.” According to Jeffrey Gurock, the new generation of rabbis that began to emerge from the Seminary in the late 1940s–

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1950s “no longer spoke of themselves as ‘modern Orthodox rabbis.’ They were part of a growing and conquering Conservative movement.”7 As a result, traditionalists within the movement found themselves increasingly in the minority. Not constrained by an unyielding commitment to Schechter and his Catholic Israel, the more liberal elements within the movement no longer felt compelled to avoid controversial decisions that alienated those religiously to their right. As the movement continued to veer away from its founders’ inclusive intentions, modern Orthodox rabbis in the Conservative movement were confronted with the challenge of what to do. One modern Orthodox Schechter disciple felt so alienated by the changes taking place around him that he actually left the movement he had been so instrumental in founding. Charles Kauvar, who identified as Orthodox and spent his entire career in Denver, retired from his congregation and, in his new role of rabbi emeritus, immediately clashed with his more liberal successors. His first replacement, Ephriam Bennett, arrived in 1953 and began to deliver sermons on “Conservative Judaism.”8 Already uncomfortable with these sermons, Kauvar was also concerned when Bennett planned to invite boys and girls to read from the Torah during a graduation ceremony—an act he believed was “contrary to the tradition of our Synagogue.”9 He was again disappointed when he discovered that Bennett was not planning to hold the early morning service before the graduation and was further incensed that Bennett and his supporters were trying to delete the word orthodox from the synagogue charter and replace it simply with a commitment “to cherish and promote traditional Judaism.” Rather than fight further with Kauvar and his supporters, Bennett resigned in 1954 and was replaced by Gershon Winer. Again the new incoming rabbi sought to push the congregation to the left and again he failed; Winer was not rehired when his two-year contract was fulfilled.10 This time, though, the disappointed Winer brought an ethics complaint against Kauvar before his colleagues at the Rabbinical Assembly.11 “The Kauvars,” the RA’s president concluded, “had been far from gracious in their treatment of younger colleagues.”12 Charles Kauvar’s experience with his successors highlights the strained relationship between Schechter’s disciples and the younger rabbis, yet it is also reflective of the reduced role and frustrations of the modern Orthodox rabbis who still remained in the RA. In 1957 Kauvar publicly resigned, expressing disappointment at how, in his view, the movement had been hijacked away from what he believed Schechter intended. Kauvar wrote that, having been a founder of the RA, he knew “it was the intention of the found-

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ers that the Rabbinical Assembly be an instrument to cherish and promote Traditional Judaism in an ideal American setting without deviating in any way from Torah-true Judaism.” He maintained that since about 1940 RA leaders had: chosen to introduce a new “philosophy” of Judaism, and have condoned changes and innovations and interpretations which in my judgment are contrary to the spirit and letter of the Torah, and which are not consistent with the principles upon which the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue were founded. The protests of those members of the Rabbinical Assembly who have remained true to the original pattern have been ignored and at times even ridiculed.

Unable to “remain a member of a Rabbinical Organization which has rejected many of the religious principles and precepts upon which I have based my personal life and my ministry as a rabbi,” Kauvar left the RA, thus ending his affiliation with the movement that he had worked so diligently to create.13 While the Denver case demonstrates how modern Orthodox rabbis were becoming increasingly uncomfortable in the RA, it also demonstrates how traditional synagogues “that were still comfortable defining themselves as Orthodox” also fell out of favor and faced rejection from the United Synagogue.14 While there remains some debate as to whether Kauvar’s congregation resigned its membership or was expelled, it ceased paying dues to the United Synagogue and in 1958 joined the OU.15 The Denver case demonstrates the difficulty faced by Conservative Judaism as it transformed itself from a broadly inclusive movement to one that sought to define clear boundaries for itself. In the movement that Schechter and his disciples created, diversity was inherent—it was characteristic of Seminary professors, Seminary students, RA members, United Synagogue congregations, and lay leaders. Now the younger leaders of the movement sought to impose boundaries upon the group. This entailed making difficult choices. While the pre-1950 movement would have been loath to exclude a traditionalist like Kauvar, the redefined movement, seeking to establish its “centrist” credentials and promote ideological clarity, was now much more willing to let him leave. Kauvar’s departure was not the last. The more the Conservative movement identified itself through its opposition to Orthodoxy, the more it

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alienated its traditionalist wing. In the 1970s the issue of gender equality within Judaism threatened to produce a schism. In 1972, a group of women calling themselves Ezrat Nashim approached the RA with a list of demands that were reflective of the broader feminist movement around them. They believed that women should be counted in the minyan, and in 1973 the CJLS deemed this an acceptable practice, though it did not require its congregations to abide by the ruling. The change was well received, and within a decade nearly sixty percent of Conservative congregations counted women in the minyan. Ezrat Nashim also wanted women to fully participate in all observances, including reading from the Torah, and by the mid-1980s, and with permission from the RA, over three-quarters of all Conservative congregations called women up to the Torah.16 These developments served to further distinguish Conservative Judaism from Orthodoxy. Traditionalists within the movement were appalled. The most controversial request by Ezrat Nashim was the demand to ordain women as rabbis. While counting women in the minyan or calling them to the Torah would be an individual choice for each rabbi and congregation, recognizing a woman as a Conservative rabbi and member of the RA would redefine the entire movement. Much as the agunah issue had earlier threatened to divide the coalition of disciples, the question of women’s ordination, in the words of Seminary chancellor Gerson Cohen, might mean “tearing our movement apart.” On the one hand, Saul Lieberman argued that “since a woman is not fit to judge [issues of Jewish law], and she cannot become qualified for this,” women must not be ordained. On the other hand, Robert Gordis maintained that “both on ethical and on pragmatic grounds, taking into account the crying needs of Jewish life and the call for equal opportunity . . . their ordination is highly desirable.”17 During the era of Schechter’s disciples, the movement would have likely sidestepped the issue, much as it had done with the authoritative law committee, the guide to kosher restaurants, and the agunah. Now, however, willing to make decisions on its own, the RA prepared to act—even if that meant alienating the Orthodox. In 1979 an RA commission voted eleven to three to support women’s ordination, while the more Orthodox-leaning Seminary faculty voted twenty-five to nineteen to table the motion. In response, the RA began to discuss how to admit women into the RA without waiting for the Seminary to act, with some rabbis suggesting it should accept women trained at other institutions. Faced with the decision to accept women as students or to have the RA potentially accept female rabbis ordained at other seminaries, Gerson Cohen was initially reluctant, but later

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strongly advocated their acceptance, and the measure passed the Seminary in 1983.18 Thus, while the decision to ordain women was ultimately made by the Seminary, that decision was made only after pressure from the RA— suggesting once again that it was the rabbis who drove the Conservative movement’s policies forward.19 Not surprisingly, traditionalists in the movement felt alienated by this decision, which ran counter to Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law. As a symbol of their opposition, the traditionalists created the Union for Traditional Conservative Judaism, which initially advocated for traditional practices within the movement. Feeling increasingly alienated, however, the group later renamed itself the Union for Traditional Judaism and, as Kauvar had done earlier, left the Conservative movement’s orbit. Not all traditionalists joined them, however, and much diversity remained. President Alexander Shapiro, of the RA, recognized this in the mid-1980s, and he argued it was imperative that his organization have “a healthy right wing, as well as left and center.”20 As the decision to ordain women created more distance between the Conservative movement and Orthodoxy, it also strengthened the desire to create a distinctive platform for Conservative Judaism, the very antithesis of a broadly encompassing Catholic Israel. Robert Gordis properly called this “a major step toward the self-definition of our movement.”21 This march toward self-definition would continue in 1985, when the RA and the Seminary formed a commission on the ideology of Conservative Judaism. In 1988 the Seminary, the RA, the United Synagogue, the Women’s League, and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs jointly released a Statement of Conservative Principles, Emet Ve-Emunah.22 For the first time, the Conservative movement had a platform, yet, reminiscent of the challenges faced by Schechter’s disciples, the platform ended up being broadly encompassing. It could not be otherwise without alienating broad swaths of the movement. Gordis recognized this and argued that, on the one hand, “there was the inherent difficulty of its producing a document that would exacerbate differences within the movement by seeking to define its position on controversial questions. On the other hand, the attempt to avoid this result might produce a bland statement that would paper over the differences by issuing an anthology of platitudes.”23 Though the movement was now willing to draw boundaries and create a platform, Gordis’s dilemma was clearly a legacy of how Catholic Israel and diversity had defined the movement up until mid-century. Today, as the Conservative movement hurtles into the twenty-first century, it continues to be characterized by the diversity inspired by Schechter

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and embraced by his disciples as well as by the subsequent push to define the movement’s boundaries more definitively. This is true for the movement’s three primary institutions—the Seminary, the RA, and the United Synagogue. The Jewish Theological Seminary, for example, now defines itself as the “primary religious, spiritual, and leadership fountainhead of Conservative Judaism”; it no longer seeks to represent all of American Judaism as Schechter had hoped. The new goal is “to reach out to the vital, capacious religious center of North American Jewry,” echoing the way in which Charles Hoffman and Elias Solomon hoped to capture the broad center.24 Yet its faculty is still characterized by tremendous variety. The RA likewise understands that Conservative Judaism has become a distinct movement, yet it also recognizes its inherent diversity and similarly reaches out to the broad center of American Judaism. The RA sees its approach to Judaism as one that is different from that of Orthodoxy, combining “fidelity to inherited tradition and the courage to integrate necessary change,” and insisting “on observance of tradition and respect for visionary change.” Moreover, while the movement had once deferred to Catholic Israel and Orthodox authorities to harmonize Jewish law with modern life, the Conservative movement now “places its trust in its rabbis to be interpreters of halakhah and guides to Jewish life and learning.”25 Yet, for the moment, the RA is still committed to its own diversity, still allowing its members to choose whether to abide by its halachic rulings.26 Moreover, the RA recognizes different practices in the American Jewish community and embraces such diversity: Our understanding of Judaism embraces and celebrates the diversity of K’lal Yisrael, the entire Jewish people. Membership in the Jewish community does not require uniformity of practice or of thought. We hold out an open hand to any Jewish movement or ideology committed to the values of our heritage and to the well-being of our people. At the same time, we aggressively reach out to all Jews—and interested nonJews wishing to pursue a Jewish path of holiness and meaning. We are happy to provide access to the profound treasures of Jewish texts, history, lifestyle, and spirituality for all those who seek.27

Additionally, while United Synagogue congregations still display diversity, the organization has clearly embraced the idea that it represents a separate movement—having changed its name from the United Synagogue of

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America to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, reflective of its narrower focus. Conservative Judaism today stands at a crossroads. Recent decades have seen its numbers sharply decline. Once the largest grouping in American Jewry, only 33 percent of Jewish households belonging to synagogues in 2000 affiliated with the Conservative movement—compared to 39 percent with Reform.28 The movement still grapples with the question of how to create a distinct platform while embracing its diversity. After a debate that again threatened to tear the movement apart, the Seminary decided to ordain openly gay and lesbian rabbis, and the RA chose to recognize them as Conservative rabbis. This further alienated the traditionalists and gives credence to Jeffrey Gurock’s argument that today “most Orthodox and Conservative Jews possess different religious values, belonging to synagogues that are ritually distinctive and are led by rabbis whose background, training, and orientation are fundamentally different.”29 However much the movement still embraces diversity, it now largely reaches out to Jews in the broad center of American Jewish religious life; it no longer hopes to win over the Orthodox. Which way will the movement go? Will it return to Schechter’s Catholic Israel, seeking to unite the American Jewish world behind a message of a traditional Judaism that is relevant in the lives of modern Americans? Or will it heed the call of the rabbis of the 1950s who sought to transform the movement into one with clear boundaries that would distinguish it as a separate “brand”? Struggling between a commitment to tradition and a desire for change, between those who advocate for a broadly encompassing “big tent” movement and those who seek a more narrowly defined, ideologically coherent one, the Conservative movement faces difficult choices. It will be best prepared to confront them if it understands itself historically and appreciates the way in which Schechter’s disciples created this American religious movement.


AH American Hebrew AJA American Jewish Archives AJHS American Jewish Historical Society AJTSA Archives of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America AJYB American Jewish Year Book CCARYB Central Conference of American Rabbis Year Book HR Herbert Rosenblum Personal Collection JE Jewish Exponent JF Jewish Forum JTSSA Jewish Theological Seminary Students’ Annual PRA Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly Ratner Ratner Center Archives, Jewish Theological Seminary of America RRCA Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Archives USAAR United Synagogue of America Annual Report USR United Synagogue Recorder


In troduc tion 1. Jonathan Sarna, e-mail to author, November 26, 2007. 2. For more on the historical school argument, see Moshe Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism: The Historical School in Nineteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1963); Mordecai Waxman, ed., Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism (New York: Burning Bush, 1958); Neil Gillman, Conservative Judaism: The New Century (West Orange, NJ: Behrman House, 1993); Abraham Karp, “The Origins of Conservative Judaism,” Conservative Judaism 19, no. 4 (Summer 1965); Hasia Diner, “Like the Antelope and the Badger: The Founding and Early Years of the Jewish Theological Seminary, 1886–1902,” in Jack Wertheimer, ed., Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1997), vol. 1. 3. The term deceptive retrospect is used by Jonathan Sarna, based on Oscar Handlin’s argument regarding attitudes toward refugees and the Holocaust. Handlin argues that “the absolute clarity of the moral issue in retrospect will be deceptive if the glare prevents scholars from perceiving the genuine dilemmas of the people who make uncomfortable decisions at the time.” Oscar Handlin, “A TwentyYear Retrospect of American Jewish Historiography,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly 65, no. 4 (June 1976): 306; “Jewish Community Histories: Recent Non-Academic Contributions,” Journal of Ethnic History 6, no.1 (Fall 1986): 65. Some may argue that deceptive retrospect is too passive a term and instead view the creation of the historical school argument in the context of an “invented

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tradition.” I have found no evidence, however, that adherents of the historical school argument consciously created a new tradition. See Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983). 4. Marshall Sklare, Conservative Judaism: An American Religious Movement (New York: University Press of America, 1985). Sklare is the primary proponent of this theory, and his work was first published in 1955. 5. J. Gordon Melton, “Introduction, When Prophets Die: The Succession Crisis in New Religions,” in Timothy Miller, ed., When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate of New Religious Movements (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 5. 6. Sklare, Conservative Judaism, 257. 7. Max Weber, The Theory of Economic and Social Organization, ed. and trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons (New York: Free Press, 1947), 358–59. 8. Lorne L. Dawson, “Charismatic Leadership in Millennial Movements: Its Nature, Origins, and Development,” in Catherine Wessinger, ed., Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 9. Weber, The Theory of Economic and Social Organization, 359. 10. George Scheper, “Charisma,” in Lindsay Jones, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion, 2d ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005), 3:1544. 11. Weber, The Theory of Economic and Social Organization, 246. 12. William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark, “Cult Formation: Three Compatible Models,” Sociological Analysis 40, no. 4 (1979): 291–93. 13. Dawson uses this term in his work and cites Brian R. Wilson, The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 7; and Richard J. Bord, “Toward a SocialPsychological Theory of Charismatic Social Influence Processes,” Social Forces 53, no. 3 (1975): 483–97. 14. USAAR (1913): 9. 15. The theory I present here for the transition from Schechter to the United Synagogue is similar to the process by which Christian Metz transferred institutional authority within the Amana Society to his disciples, also empowering them during his lifetime and preparing them to stand on their own after his eventual death. See Jonathan G. Andelson, “Postcharismatic Authority in the Amana Society: The Legacy of Christian Metz,” in Miller, When Prophets Die, 42–45. See also Melton, “Introduction,” 10. 16. This concept is central to the essays in Miller, When Prophets Die. 17. Sefer ha-Yovel shel Agudath ha-Rabbanim ha-Ortodoksim de-Arsot ha-Brit veCanada (New York: n.p., 1928), quoted in Jeffrey S. Gurock, Orthodox Jews in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 18. 18. Jonathan Sarna, “Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue,” in Jack Wertheimer, ed., The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1987), 380–81. 19. Jeffrey S. Gurock, From Fluidity to Rigidity: The Religious Worlds of Conservative

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and Orthodox Jews in Twentieth-Century America (Ann Arbor: Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, 1998), 31–32. 20. “The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations,” AH, July 4, 1913, HR, American Hebrew folder. 21. Fredrik Barth, “Introduction,” in Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969), 15, 20. 22. Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries; Sylvia Barack Fishman, Jewish Life and American Culture (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999), 182; Sylvia Barack Fishman, Double or Nothing? Jewish Families and Mixed Marriage (Lebanon, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2004), 12. I thank Sylvia Fishman for helping me to understand the ways in which these concepts apply to the Conservative movement. 23. Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, 13–15. 24. Kai Erikson, “On the Sociology of Deviance,” in Joseph Goldstein and Abraham S. Goldstein, eds., Crime, Law, and Society (New York: Free Press, 1971), 88. 25. Adam Ferziger, Exclusion and Hierarchy: Orthodoxy, Nonobservance, and the Emergence of Modern Jewish Identity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005). 26. The idea that some Seminary rabbis may have sought the approbation of the Agudath ha-Rabbanim and its rabbis was suggested to me by Jeffrey Gurock. I thank him for this observation. 27. Chana Kronfeld, On the Margins of Modernism: Decentering Literary Dynamics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), quoted in Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004), 22–23.

1. Solomon Schechter and the Ch arism atic B ond 1. Hoffman to Schechter, July 15, 1900, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 4, folder 22. 2. Hoffman to Schechter, April 30, 1901, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 4, folder 22. 3. Hoffman to Schechter, n.d., AJTSA ARC 53, box 1, folder “Dr. Schechter—copy of letter to.” 4. Julius Greenstone, JE, April 25, 1902, quoted in Mel Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” in Jack Wertheimer, ed., Tradition Renewed (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1997), 1:56. 5. Herman Rubenovitz, “Tributes to Rabbis Emeriti: June 26, 1947,” PRA (1947): 387. 6. David Starr, “Catholic Israel: Solomon Schechter, A Study of Unity and Fragmentation in Modern Jewish History,” 16, 21 (Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 2003). Norman Bentwich, Solomon Schechter (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1940), 29. Bentwich cites the shammash of the synagogue in Foscani, who later moved to New York. 7. Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, 29.

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8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., 30–35. 10. Starr, “Catholic Israel,” 31, 32, 45. 11. Ibid., 32–33. 12. Ibid., 35–37. 13. Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, 43. 14. Ibid., 40–41. 15. Starr, “Catholic Israel,” 66. 16. Ibid., 63. 17. Ibid., 66. 18. Matthew LaGrone, “Between Fire and Ice: Studies in Jewish and Christian Centrism in the Nineteenth Century” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 2008), 22. 19. Ismar Schorsch, “Schechter’s Seminary: Polarities in Balance,” Conservative Judaism 55, no. 2 (2003): 6, quoted in LaGrone,“Between Fire and Ice,” 29–30. 20. Pamela S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 223. 21. Solomon Schechter, Studies in Judaism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1945), 1:vii. 22. Schechter, “His Majesty’s Opposition,” in Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (Westmeade: Gregg International, 1969), 240–41. 23. LaGrone, “Between Fire and Ice,” 19–22. 24. Ibid., 23. 25. Ibid., 34, 35, 37, 40. 26. Ibid., 23. 27. Ibid., 52–53. 28. Solomon Schechter, “Altar Building in America,” in Schechter, Seminary Addresses, 87. 29. Bentwich, Solomon Schechter, 211. 30. Schechter, “The Charter of the Seminary,” in Seminary Addresses, 25. 31. Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 58. 32. Schechter, “The Charter of the Seminary,” in Seminary Addresses, 11. 33. Schechter, Studies in Judaism, 1:xviii. 34. LaGrone, Between Fire and Ice, 61–63. 35. For more on the early seminary, see Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 263– 67; and Robert E. Fierstein, A Different Spirit: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1886–1902 (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1990). 36. Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 46–56. 37. Solomon Schechter to Mayer Sulzberger, March 5, 1900, in Meir Ben Horin, “Solomon Schechter to Judge Mayer Sulzberger: part 1, Letters from the Pre-Seminary Period (1895–1901),” Jewish Social Studies 25 (October 1963): 276, quoted in Jonathan D. Sarna, “Two Traditions of Seminary Scholarship,” in Wertheimer, Tradition Renewed, 55. 38. Schechter, “The Charter of the Seminary,” Inaugural Address, November 20, 1902, in Schechter, Seminary Addresses, quoted in Sarna, “Two Traditions,” 56.

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39. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 98–102. 40. Ibid. 41. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 88–89; Baila Round Shargel, Practical Dreamer: Israel Friedlaender and the Shaping of American Judaism (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1985), 7, quoted in Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 63. 42. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 91. 43. Solomon Goldman quoted in Abraham Halkin, “Alexander Marx,” American Jewish Year Book (1955): 588, quoted in Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 62. 44. Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 62. 45. Ibid., 63. 46. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 148. 47. Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 63. 48. Israel H. Levinthal, The Message of Israel: Sermons Addresses Memoirs (New York: Lex), 200. 49. Solomon Schechter to Louis Marshall June 2, 1910, quoted in Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 68. 50. David Weinberg, “JTS and the ‘Downtown’ Jews of New York at the Turn of the Century” in Wertheimer, Tradition Renewed, 2:39; David Ellenson and Lee Bycel, “A Seminary of Sacred Learning: The JTS Rabbinical Curriculum in Historical Perspective” in Wertheimer, Tradition Renewed 2:542. 51. Ellenson and Bycel, “A Seminary of Sacred Learning,” 539–45. 52. Scult, “Schechter’s Seminary,” 74–77. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid. 55. Weber, The Theory of Economic and Social Organization, ed. and trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons (New York: Free Press, 1947), 358–59. 56. Solomon Schechter, “Address Delivered at the 1913 Convention,” USAAR (1913): 14, 17. 57. Ibid., 17–18. 58. Ibid., 19. 59. Ibid., 17–18. 60. Ibid., 14. 61. Lorne L. Dawson, “Charismatic Leadership in Millennial Movements: Its Nature, Origins and Development,” in Catherine Wessinger, ed., Oxford Handbook of Millennialism (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 62. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 187–88. 63. Schechter to Bentwich, June 1, 1902, AJTSA, quoted in Herbert Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America” (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 1970), 72. 64. Dawson, “Charismatic Leadership in Millennial Movements.” 65. Israel Goldstein, My World as a Jew (New York: Herzl, 1984), 1:37–38. 66. Ibid.

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67. Alexandra Lee Levin, The Szolds of Lombard Street: A Baltimore Family, 1859– 1909 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1960), 330–31. The letter from Henrietta Szold is not cited in this text. 68. Dawson, “Charismatic Leadership in Millennial Movements.” 69. Dawson uses this term in his work and cites Brian R. Wilson, The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 7; and Richard J. Bord, “Toward a SocialPsychological Theory of Charismatic Social Influence Processes,” Social Forces 53, no. 3 (1975): 483–97. 70. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 11. 71. Herman Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart (Cambridge: Nathaniel Dame, 1967), 25. 72. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 214–15; Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 1–5. 73. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 80–81. 74. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 130, 134–35, 138, 193–94; Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 174–76. 75. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 202–4; Israel Levinthal, “Pamphlet Dedicated to May R. Levinthal After Her Death,” 1966, Ratner Levinthal Collection, box 14, folder 8, 4. 76. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 4; Jacob Kohn, “Education,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 1, 21. 77. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 142–43. 78. Raphael Melamed was born in Palestine; C. David Matt, “Memorial Resolutions: In Memoriam: Herman Abramowitz, Arthur Ginzler, Phineas Israeli, Raphael Hai Melamed: a Tribute,” May 18, 1948, PRA (1948): 313; Israel Elfenbein was of Austro-Hungarian descent; Elfenbein to Adler, January 26, 1922, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 24; Rudolph Coffee was born in Oakland; “Biography Sheet,” n.d., Ratner RG 15A, box 4, folder 27. 79. Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1890–1950 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994), 151–52. 80. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 19. 81. Henrietta Szold to Frank Schechter, August 31, 1924, quoted in Mel Scult, “The Baale Boste Reconsidered: The Life of Mathilde Roth Schechter (M.R.S.),” Modern Judaism 7, no. 1 (February 1987): 13. 82. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 19. 83. Joseph Hevesh, “Appreciation of Dr. Schechter,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 85. 84. Israel Levinthal, “Pamphlet Dedicated to May R. Levinthal After Her Death,” 1966, Ratner Levinthal Collection, box 14, folder 8, 5. 85. Shuly Rubin Schwartz, The Rabbi’s Wife: The Rebbitzin in American Jewish Life (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 36. 86. Jacob Kohn, “The Beauty of Mrs. Schechter’s Character,” USR (October 1924): 6, quoted in Schwartz, The Rabbi’s Wife, 36. 87. Scult, “The Baale Boste Reconsidered,” 14.

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88. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 18–19. 89. Ibid. 90. Ibid. 91. Charles Kauvar to Mathilde Schechter, November 30, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence Letters, vol. 3. 92. Phineas Israeli to Mathilde Schechter, November 24, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence letters, vol. 2. 93. Paul Chertoff to Mathilde Schechter and Family, November 26, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence Letters, vol. 1. 94. Moses Eckstein to Mathilde Schechter and Family, November 29, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence Letters, vol. 1. 95. Charles Hoffman, “The Master Workman,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 91. 96. Joseph Hevesh, “Appreciation of Dr. Schechter,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 86. 97. Elias Solomon, “Dr. Solomon’s Eulogy at the Funeral,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 157. 98. Charles Kauvar to Cyrus Adler, July 22, 1902, Ratner RG 15A, box 15, folder 13 (2 of 2), Record B. 99. Herman Abramowitz to A.S. Solomons, September 7, 1902, Ratner RG 15A, box 1, folder 7. 100. Bernard Figler, Canadian Jewish Profiles: Rabbi Dr. Herman Abramowitz, Lazarus Cohen, Lyon Cohen (Gardenvale, Quebec: Harpell’s Press Co-Operative, 1968), 89–90. 101. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 195–97. 102. Ibid., 201. 103. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 22. 104. Jacob Kohn, ND, AJTSA, ARC 70, box 1, folder “On Schechter: Personal Reminiscences by Jac. Kohn.” 105. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 4. 106. “A Trumpet for All Israel,” Time (Oct. 15, 1951); 54, quoted in Jeffrey Gurock, Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 57–58. 107. Joseph Hevesh, “Appreciation of Dr. Schechter,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 85. 108. Talk delivered by Epstein, n.d. (likely from 1945), Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. 109. Ibid. 110. Jacob Kohn, ND, AJTSA, ARC 70, box 1, folder “On Schechter: Personal Reminiscences by Jac. Kohn.” 111. Herman Rubenovitz, “The Architect of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter: As I Knew Him,” unpublished sermon, 1963–64, AJTSA, ARC 53, box 2, folder “Schechter, Solomon.” 112. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 207. 113. Kaplan, USAAR (1917): 30.

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114. Goldstein, My World as a Jew, 1:49. 115. Elias Rabinowitz to Abrahams, April 20, 1909, Ratner RG 15A, box 22, folder 10. 116. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 26. 117. Ibid., 29. 118. Jacob Kohn, “New York and Ansche Chesed,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 5. 119. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 205–6. 120. Eckstein to Schechter, August 22, 1912, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 15. 121. Drob to Schechter, October 19, 1913, Ratner RG 15A. 122. Rosinger to Friedlander, August 30, 1910, Ratner RG 15A, box 23, folder 10. 123. Aaron Drucker to Schechter, October 22, 1905, Ratner RG 15A. 124. Samuel Rosinger, August 11, 1911, Ratner RG 15A, box 23, folder 10. 125. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 28. 126. Ibid., 31–34. 127. Ibid. Rubenovitz’s experience, however, was rare, as generational splits within a congregation generally meant endless headaches and eventual failure for seminary graduates. Often, both the older and younger elements peaceably existed by each hiring their own rabbi to represent their interests. The younger group would hire a Seminary graduate, while the older generation would hire a more traditional Yiddish-speaking rabbi. Very frequently, however, the balance of power would shift to the older generation, making the task of the Seminary rabbi virtually impossible. 128. “Church War at Height,” Washington Post, January 10, 1911, 16. 129. Egelson to Schechter, March 11, 1913, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 18. 130. “Rabbi’s Plan Decried,” Washington Post, December 27, 1910, 2. 131. Egelson to Joseph Jacobs, November 21, 1910, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 18. 132. Washington Post, December 27, 1910, 2. 133. Egelson to Jacobs, November 21, 1910, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 18. 134. Ibid. 135. “Church War at Height,” Washington Post, January 10, 1911, 16. 136. President Louis Sarasohn to Paul Chertoff, July 12, 1915, Ratner RG 15A, box 4, folder 22. 137. Chertoff to Schechter, August 3, 1915, Ratner RG 15A, box 4, folder 22. 138. Chertoff to Davidson, September 26, 1915, Ratner RG 15A, box 4, folder 22. 139. Samuel Rosinger to Israel Friedlaender, August 2, 1910, Ratner RG 15A, box 23, folder 10. 140. Letter to Epstein, August 24, 1915, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1A. 141. Moses Abels to Schechter, July 14, 1908, Ratner RG 15A, box 1, folder 1A (1 of 2). 142. Letter from Rosinger, ND, Ratner RG 15A, box 23, folder 10. 143. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 209. 144. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 35. 145. Kauvar to Schechter, Ratner RG 15A, box 15, folder 13 (1 of 2). 146. Hevesh to Schechter, 1911, Ratner RG 15A, box 13, folder 21.

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147. Blechman to Schechter, March 11, 1912, Ratner RG 15A, box 2, folder 31. 148. Naomi Cohen, Encounter With Emancipation: The German Jews in the United States, 1830–1914 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1984), 192. 149. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 206. 150. The following Seminary alumni were CCAR members in 1914: Moses Abels, Alter Abelson, Morris Baron, Rudolph Coffee, Aaron Drucker, Louis Egelson, Bernard Ehrenreich, Joseph Hevesh, and Benjamin Tintner. “List of Members,” CCARYB (1914): 386–95. Israel Goldstein recalled in his memoir that at least three rabbis from his class left the Seminary before graduating and moved to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. These included Bernard Heller, Joseph L. Baron, and William Schwartz. Goldstein argues that he also considered joining the Reform movement because he was troubled by “knotty points of Jewish theology and practice.” He did not join the Reform movement, however. “Reform Judaism struck me as a synthesis of negatives,” he argued, and he was also particularly concerned about the anti-Zionist atmosphere. Goldstein, My World as a Jew, 1:45. 151. Ratner RG 15A. These four rabbis, Abels, Coffee, Egelson, and Hevesh, corresponded with Schechter between 1913 and 1914. 152. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 18. 153. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 138–39. 154. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 25. 155. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 204. 156. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 4. 157. Max Hoffman to Schechter, ND, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 4, folder 24. 158. Blechman to Cyrus Adler, March 26, 1903, Ratner RG 15A, box 2, folder 31. 159. Eugene Kohn to Schechter, November 2, 1911, Ratner RG 15A, box 16, folder 11. 160. Goldstein, My World as a Jew, 1:41. 161. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 11. 162. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 202–3. 163. Jacob Kohn, “Student Days,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Memoirs,” 8–9. 164. Ibid., 11–14. 165. Ibid., 4. 166. Joseph Hevesh, “Appreciation of Dr. Schechter,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 86. 167. Robert Hains, interview by author, Portland, ME; Vivian Rous, interview by author, Durham, NH, November 14, 2007. 168. Levinthal, The Message of Israel, 203. 169. JTSSA, 1914, 11, 14. 170. JE (June 21, 1901): 10, quoted in Robert E. Fierstein, “A Noble Beginning: The Seminary Alumni Association, 1901–1918,” in Robert E. Fierstein, ed., A Century of Commitment: One Hundred Years of the Rabbinical Assembly (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000), 4. The association outlined its other goals as promoting spiritual and scholarly life, advancing the prestige of the Seminary, striving for

176  •  1. solomon schechter and the charismatic bond

a stronger financial base for the Seminary, and developing the intellectual and spiritual standing of the members. 171. “Circular,” May 11, 1908, AJTSA, ARC 53, quoted in Fierstein, “A Noble Beginning,” 8.

2. The United Synag o gue and the Tr ansition to P ostch arism atic Au thorit y 1. Schechter to Adler, March 26, 1912, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 1. 2. David Starr, “Catholic Israel: Solomon Schechter, a Study of Unity and Fragmentation in Modern Jewish History,” 291 (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2003). 3. Rodney Stark, “How New Religions Succeed: A Theoretical Model,” in David G. Bromley and Phillip E. Hammond, eds., The Future of New Religious Movements (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), 20–21. 4. Dianna Tumminia, uses the term charismatic labor. See Tumminia, When Prophecy Never Fails: Myth and Reality in a Flying-Saucer Group (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), cited in Dawson. 5. Herman Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart (Cambridge: Nathaniel Dame, 1967), 30. 6. Rubenovitz to Schechter, December 10, 1913, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 6, folder 26. 7. Schechter to Kohn, December 18, 1913, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 4, folder 53. 8. Schechter to Rubenovitz, November 15, 1915, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 6, folder 26; Rubenovitz to Schechter, November 18, 1915, ibid. 9. Epstein to Schechter, November 17, 1913, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1A. 10. Ibid. 11. Pamela S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 156–57; Charles Kauvar, “Autobiographical Questionnaire,” AJA SC-6212. 12. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 156. 13. Kauvar to Schechter, May 20, 3/3, Ratner RG 15A, box 15, folder 13 (2 of 2). 14. Ibid. 15. Kauvar to Schechter, February 29, 1912, Ratner RG 15A, box 15, folder 13 (1 of 2); Kauvar to Schechter, December 30, 9/0, Ratner RG 15A, box 15, folder 13 (1 of 2), record A. 16. Adler to Schechter, September 8, 1910, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 1. 17. Adler to Schechter, October 24, 1910, ibid. 18. Adler to Schechter, November 28, 1910, ibid. 19. Larry Shinn, “Conflicting Networks: Guru and Friend in ISKCON,” in Rodney Stark, ed., Religious Movements: Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers (New York: Rose of Sharon, 1984), cited in Stark, “How New Religions Succeed,” 16. 20. Ibid. 21. Schechter to Rubenovitz, May 16, 1910, HR, binder A. 22. Rubenowitz, The Waking Heart, 35–36.

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23. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 142. 24. Schechter to Hoffman, 1902, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 4, folder 22. 25. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 142. 26. Hoffman to Rubenovitz, December 27, 1909, AJTSA, cited in Herbert Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America” (PhD diss., Brandeis University, 1970), 148. 27. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 36. 28. Rubenovitz to Schechter, n.d., AJTSA, ARC 101, box 6, folder 26. 29. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 36. 30. Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 145. 31. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 36. 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid., 38. 34. Hoffman to Friedlaender, September 19, 1910, Ratner RG 15A, box 13, folder 26. 35. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 37. 36. Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 160. 37. Minutes of the Gratz College meeting, available in handwritten form (Mrs. Kohn’s) in the Rubenovitz Archives, AJHC, AJTSA, cited in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 159. 38. Adler to Schechter, November 28, 1910, in possession of Mrs. Wolfe Wolfinsohn, (daughter of Cyrus Adler), Cambridge, MA, cited in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 161. 39. Adler to Schechter, August 3, 1909, HR, Schechter Letters. 40. Adler to Rubenovitz, December 23, 1910, HR, binder A. 41. Ibid. 42. Minutes of the Gratz College meeting, available in handwritten form (Mrs. Kohn’s) in the Rubenovitz Archive, AJHC, AJTSA, cited in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 160. 43. Hoffman to Rubenovitz, March 9, 1911, HR, binder A. 44. Rubenovitz to Hoffman, March 14, 1911, HR, Hoffman Letters. 45. Kohn and Kaplan to “Colleague,” July 7, 1912, HR, binder A. 46. Hoffman to Rubenovitz, February 16, 1911, HR, binder A. 47. Schechter to Adler, July 19, 1911, AJTSA, ARC 101, box 1. 48. Schechter to Friedlaender, February 7, 1913, HR, Friedlaender Letters. 49. Adler to Schechter, February 2, 1912, AJTSA, Solomon Schechter Papers, cited in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 145. 50. Schechter to Rubenovitz, May 16, 1910, HR, binder A. 51. Schechter to Friedlaender, February 7, 1913, HR, Friedlaender Letters. 52. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 44. 53. Schechter to Friedlaender, February 7, 1913, HR, Friedlaender Letters. 54. AH (February 28, 1913): 493, quoted in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 215. 55. Mendes to Schechter, March 14, 1913, AJA, MS39, box 1, folder 3.

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56. Schechter to Mendes, February 21, 1913, ibid. 57. Minutes of the Gratz College meeting, available in handwritten form (Mrs. Kohn’s) in the Rubenovitz Archive, AJHC, JTSA, cited in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 160. 58. Adler to Schechter, January 28, 1912, HR, Solomon Schechter Letters. 59. Kohn and Kaplan to “Colleague,” July 7, 1912, HR, binder A. 60. Elias L. Solomon, The Master’s Bequest: Thirty Years of the United Synagogue of America (New York: United Synagogue of America, 1944), 4. Solomon defines such congregations as those “that recognized the need and the wisdom of preserving in the modern, Western setting, the essential features of the ancestral Faith, with due emphasis both upon loyalty to our inherited religion and on the framework called for by our Twentieth Century American environment.” 61. Solomon Schechter, “Address Delivered at the 1913 Convention,” USAAR (1913): 21. 62. Ibid., 18. 63. Ibid., 19. 64. USAAR (1913): 4. Jeffrey Gurock argues that, by his count, approximately half the congregations were founded in the nineteenth century, comprised of German Jews. He notes that two others were headed by Seminary rabbis and had East European members. See Jeffrey Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective (Hoboken: Ktav, 1996), 395–96n85. 65. Max Drob to Schechter, April 25, 1915, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 10. 66. Washington Heights Congregation, B’nai Yisrael Fiftieth Anniversary, 1914– 1964 (New York: n.p., 1964), 1–2, quoted in Jeffrey S. Gurock, From Fluidity to Rigidity: The Religious Worlds of Conservative and Orthodox Jews in TwentiethCentury America (Ann Arbor: Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, 1998), 20. 67. Jacob Kohn, “Ansche Chesed,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, “Memoirs” folder. 68. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 34. 69. Rubenovitz to Schechter, n.d., AJTSA, ARC 101, box 6, folder 26. Rubenovitz to Hoffman, March 14, 1911, HR, Hoffman Letters. 70. USAAR (1913): 10. 71. USAAR (1919): 4, 8–10, 62–66. 72. USAAR (1913): 3–4. 73. Ibid. 74. “Preamble of the Constitution of the United Synagogue of America,” USAAR (1913): 9. 75. Ibid. 76. Mendes to Adler, February 14, 1913, AJA, MS39, box 1, folder 3. 77. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 191–92. 78. Mendes to Adler, February 14, 1913, AJA, MS39, box 1, folder 3. 79. Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective, 221.

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80. Mendes to Adler, February 14, 1913, AJA, MS39, box 1, folder 3. 81. “The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations,” AH, July 4, 1913, HR, American Hebrew folder. 82. “The United Synagogue of America, An Address delivered by Dr. C.  E. Hillel Kauvar,” July 25, 1914, 9. 83. Ibid., 8–9, 16. 84. USAAR (1913): 14, 21. 85. Adler to Rubenovitz, January 30, 1911, HR, binder A. 86. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 183–84. 87. “Members of the United Synagogue,” USAAR (1919): 62–66; CCARYB (1918): 293–94, 300. 88. Herbert Goldstein, Deposition in Katz vs. Goldman, 1927, Aaron Reichel Personal Collection, notecard 2423.1. 89. “Members of the United Synagogue,” USAAR (1919): 62–66; See Ratner RG 15A finding aid for alumni names and year of graduation, though this information may not be complete. 90. Cyrus Adler, ed., The Jewish Theological Seminary of America: Semi-Centennial Volume (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1939), 61, quoted in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 221–22. 91. AH (July 12, 1912): 293, quoted in Rosenblum, “The Founding of the United Synagogue of America,” 189. 92. J. Gordon Melton, “Introduction, When Prophets Die: The Succession Crisis in New Religions,” in Timothy Miller, ed., When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate of New Religious Movements (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 9–10. 93. USAAR (1914): 3–6; USAAR (1915): 3–6. 94. Melton, “Introduction,” 8. 95. Ibid., 9–10. 96. Jonathan G. Andelson, “Postcharismatic Authority in the Amana Society: The Legacy of Christian Metz,” in Miller, When Prophets Die, 29, 34, 42–44. The United Synagogue was officially incorporated on April 24, 1916 with the approval of the Governor of New York, under the “Laws of New York—By Authority. Chapter 268.” See USAAR (1917): 9–14. 97. Epstein to Mathilde Schechter, December 1, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence Letters, vol. 1. 98. Joseph Hevesh, “Appreciation of Dr. Schechter,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 84. 99. “Abstract of the Minutes of the Organization Meeting of the United Synagogue of America, Held February 23, 1913, at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America,” USAAR (1913): 7; “Congregations Enrolled in the United Synagogue of America,” USAAR (1915): 41–46. 100. AJYB (1915–1916): 320–21. 101. Adler to Rubenovitz, January 30, 1911, HR, binder A.

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102. Charles Hoffman, “The Master Workman,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 92. 103. Eugene Kohn, “Dr. Schechter as Jew and Theologian,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 125. 104. “Dr. Solomon’s Eulogy at the Funeral,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 156–57. 105. J. S. Minkin, “An Appreciation,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 140, 144. 106. Phineas Israeli to Mathilde Schechter, November 24, 1915, AJTSA, Schechter Condolence Letters, vol 2. 107. Herman Abramowitz, “A True Jewish Scholar,” JTSSA, Schechter Memorial Edition, May 1916, 58. 108. “United Synagogue of America Executive Council Minutes,” May 30, 1916, AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “United Synagogue Minutes, Executive Council Minutes, 1913–14.” 109. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, March 21, 1918, HR, binder A. 110. Herman Rubenovitz, USAAR (1917): 26. 111. Report from Herman Rubenovitz, May 30, 1916, AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “United Synagogue of America, Executive Council Minutes, 1913–14.” 112. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, March 21, 1918, HR, binder A. 113. Doctor Kohn, “Response to Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1918): 49–50. It is not clear if this refers to Jacob Kohn or Eugene Kohn. 114. Israel Friedlaender, “Minutes from the 1917 Annual Convention,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder 15. This passage appears to have been edited out of USAAR (1918): 48. 115. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 100; Louis Ginzberg, “Report of Acting President Louis Ginzberg,” USAAR (1919): 20. 116. Louis Epstein, “Response to Report, Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1918): 45–46. 117. Rabbi Davidowitz, “Response to Report, Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1918): 46. 118. “Herman Rubenovitz,” AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “Minutes from the 1917 Annual Convention,” 13. Rubenovitz’s comments, however, appear to have been edited out of USAAR (1918): 47, but apparently were made between the words of Eugene Kohn and Leon Kohn. 119. Louis Ginzberg, “Report, Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1918): 45. 120. Charles Hoffman, “Response to Report, Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1918): 48. 121. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 100. 122. Louis Ginzberg, “Report of the Committee on Authoritative Board for the Interpretation of Jewish Law,” USAAR (1917): 45.

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123. Solomon Schechter, “Address Delivered at the 1913 Convention,” USAAR (1913): 22. 124. Alexander Marx, “Report of Committee on Dietary Laws,” USAAR (1914): 46. 125. Solomon Schechter, “Response to Report of Committee on Dietary Laws,” USAAR (1914): 47. 126. Alexander Marx, “Report of Committee on Dietary Laws,” USAAR (1914): 47. 127. Solomon Schechter, “Response to Report of Committee on Dietary Laws,” USAAR (1914): 47. 128. Directory of Kosher Hotels, Boarding Houses and Restaurants in the United States (New York: United Synagogue of America, 1919), 8, 12, 18, 20, 22, 28. 129. Elias Solomon, “Report of the Committee on Religious Observances,” USAAR (1918): 34. 130. Directory of Kosher Hotels, Boarding Houses and Restaurants in the United States; USAAR (1918): 80–93. 131. Sefer ha-Yovel shel Agudath ha-Rabbamin ha-Ortodoksim de-Artsot ha-Brit veKanada (New York: n.p., 1928), 81–82, quoted in Gurock, American Jewish Orthodoxy in Historical Perspective, 125. 132. Michael Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 295. 133. Schechter, Seminary Addresses and Other Papers (Westmeade: Gregg International, 1969), xii, quoted in Sarna, American Judaism, 205. 134. “Constitution of the United Synagogue of America, a Union for Promoting Traditional Judaism,” USAAR (1913): 9. 135. Jacob Kohn, USAAR (1918): 68. 136. Rabbi Davidowitz, USAAR (1918): 69. 137. Cyrus Adler, USAAR (1918): 67. 138. Israel Friedlander, USAAR (1918): 68. 139. Rabbi Davidowitz, USAAR (1918): 69. 140. USAAR (1918): 76. 141. USAAR (1918): 3.

3. A “Heretic,” a “M averick ,” and the Ch allen ge to In clusi vit y 1. These terms come from their respective biographers. Jeffery S. Gurock and Jacob J. Schachter, A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Aaron I. Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi (Norfolk: Donning, 1984). 2. Kaplan to Schechter, March 18, 1911, AJTSA ARC 101, box 4, folder 46. 3. Kaplan to Alvin Johnson, April 30, 1933, RRCA. 4. Kaplan, “Schechter’s Influence on American Judaism,” Reconstructionist 6, no. 17 (December 27, 1940): 7.

182  •  3. a “heretic,” a “maverick,” and the challenge to inclusivit y

5. Mordecai Kaplan, The Religion of Ethnical Nationhood (New York: Macmillian, 1970), quoted in Mel Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century: A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan (Detroit: Wayne State, 1993), 110. 6. Kaplan to Alvin Johnson, April 30, 1933. RRCA. 7. Mendes to Adler, February 14, 1913, AJA, MS39, box 1, folder 3. 8. Friedlander, Julius Greenstone, Kaplan, Jacob Kohn, Max Margolis, and Rubenovitz to “Dear Friend,” June 9, 1919, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 3, folder 5. 9. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 14 1919, HR, binder A. 10. Friedlander, Greenstone, Kaplan, Jacob Kohn, Max Margolis, and Rubenovitz to “Dear Friend,” June 9, 1919, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 3, folder 5. 11. Mordecai Kaplan, “A Program for the Reconstruction of Judaism,” Menorah Journal 6 no. 4 (August 1920): 195. 12. “The Society of the Jewish Renascence,” Maccabaean 34, no. 4 (November 1920): 111, quoted in Gurock and Schachter, A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community, 108. 13. Mordecai M. Kaplan, main diary, July 28, 1919, quoted in Richard Libowitz, Mordecai M. Kaplan and the Development of Reconstructionism, Studies in American Religion 9 (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1983), 93. 14. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, February 3, 1921, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 4. 15. Kaplan to “friend,” November 15, 1920, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 4, folder 14. 16. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, January 27, 1921, HR, binder A. 17. Ibid. 18. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, April 16, 1920, HR, binder A. 19. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, January 27, 1921, HR, binder A. 20. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, February 9, 1921, HR, binder A. 21. Ibid. 22. Kaplan journal, December 29, 1918, quoted in Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 182. 23. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 287. 24. Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 257. These chapters were led by Max Arzt ’21, Solomon Goldman ’18, Max Kadishin ’20, and Morris Silverman ’22, among others. 25. Kaplan journals, September 28, 1923, quoted in Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 256. 26. Israel Goldstein, Rubenovitz, Jacob Kohn, Max Kadushin, and Arthur Neulander to “Dear Colleague,” January 12, 1922, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 54. Kaplan did affiliate with the CCR, agreeing to serve as an editor of its publication. “Meeting of Publication Committee,” April 3, 1922, HR, binder A. 27. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 17, 1922, HR, binder A. 28. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, February 3, 1921, HR, binder A. 29. “Meeting minutes at home of Dr. Kohn,” January 19, 1922, HR, binder A. 30. “Meeting of the Conference of Conservative Rabbis,” March 22, 1922, HR, binder A.

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31. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, October 31, 1922, HR, binder A. 32. Kohn to Rubenovitz, November 28, 1922, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 4, folder 13. 33. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 17, 1922, HR, binder A. 34. Rubenovitz to Jacob Kohn, April 11, 1927, HR, binder A. 35. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, February 24, 1927, HR, binder A. 36. Rubenovitz to Max Kadushin, June 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 37. Rubenovitz to Kaplan, June 14, 1927, HR, binder A. 38. Ibid. 39. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, February 24, 1927, HR, binder A. 40. Kadushin to Kaplan, April 14, 1927, HR, binder A. 41. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 42. Ibid. 43. Rubenovitz to Kadushin, June 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 44. Rubenovitz to Kaplan, April 15, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 45. Rubenovitz to Jacob Kohn, April 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 46. Rubenovitz to Jacob Kohn, April 11, 1927, HR, binder A. 47. Rubenovitz to Kaplan, April 6, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 48. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, April 20, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 49. Kaplan to Solomon Goldman, May 13, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 53. 50. Goldman to Eugene Kohn, May 25, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 53. 51. Kadushin to Rubenovitz, June 8, 1925, HR, binder A. 52. Kadushin to Kaplan, April 14, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 53. Eugene Kohn to Kadushin, June 1, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 54. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, October 13, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 55. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, April 20, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 56. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, October 13, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 57. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, April 20, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 58. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, October 13, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 59. Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 276. This included Kadushin, Goldman, Simon Greenberg, and Moses Hadas. 60. Rubenovitz to Kohn, April 25, 1928, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 14. 61. Herbert Goldstein, “Unpublished Memoir,” Reichel Personal Collection, 10, 18; Moshe D. Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in America (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996), 79; Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi, 29–31. 62. Mrs. Jack Levine (Herbert Goldstein’s sister), interview with Aaron Reichel , July 26, 1972, Reichel Personal Collection. 63. AH (July 16, 1915), in Goldstein Scrapbook 1, Reichel Personal Collection, 26. JE (June 28, 1918): 2. 64. Leon S. Lang to Goldstein, February 14, 1939, Reichel Personal Collection, Notecard 2979.1. Goldstein was $22.50 in arrears. 65. Rebecca Fischel Goldstein, January 17, 1937, Reichel Personal Collection, notecard 2423.2. 66. Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi, 45.

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67. Ibid., 34–42, 44; Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in America, 143. 68. Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi, 41. 69. Rebecca Fischel Goldstein, May 10, 1922, Reichel Personal Collection. 70. Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi, 49. 71. Ibid., 48. 72. Ibid., 50. 73. Julius Greenstone to Kaplan, July 8, 1914, Kaplan Archive, RRCA, quoted in Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 109. 74. Max Drob, “A Reaffirmation of Traditional Judaism,” PRA (1929): 43. 75. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 72–73. 76. Drob, “A Reaffirmation,” 43. 77. Ibid., 44–45. 78. Sanford Drob, “Max Drob and Traditional Judaism: A Personal Retrospective,”, (accessed May 19, 2010). 79. Drob, “A Reaffirmation,” 45. While many of these criticisms of Kaplan occurred later in his career, it is important to note also that much of Goldstein’s comments about Kaplan occurred after Kaplan had moved closer to Reconstructionism. 80. Drob, “A Reaffirmation,” 49. 81. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 14 1919, HR, binder A. 82. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, January 27, 1921, HR, binder A. 83. Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 211–12. 84. Kaplan journals, June 9, 1915, quoted in Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 109. 85. Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 226–29. 86. Ibid., 186. 87. Ibid. 88. bid., 287. 89. Kaplan diary, March 12, 1917, quoted in Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century, 229. 90. Reichel, The Maverick Rabbi, 46. 91. “New Yorkers Heard Yesterday—Goldstein Discusses Jewish Ceremonies,” New York American, April 5, 1937, Reichel Personal Collection, notecard 2791. 92. Max Drob, “Report of the Committee on Religious Observance,” USAAR (1920): 84. 93. Max Drob, “Sabbath and Kashruth,” USR (July 1920): 3. 94. Max Drob, “The Seminary Commencement: Rabbi Drob’s Address,” USR (July 1923): 2. 95. Epstein, “Report of the Committee on the Interpretation of Jewish Law.” USAAR (1920): 90. 96. Louis Ginzberg, “Current Aspects in Judaism,” USR (April 1923): 2. 97. Max Drob, “The Achievements of the United Synagogue Convention,” USR (April 1921): 3. 98. Louis Ginzberg, “Current Aspects in Judaism,” USR (April 1923): 2. 99. Ibid., 3.

4. on the brink of irrelevance  •  185

100. Ibid. 101. Ibid. 102. This refers to Herman Abramowitz. See interview with Wilfred Shuchat, interview by author, March 14, 2007. 103. Fredrik Barth, “Introduction,” in Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969), 14–15.

4. On the Brink of Irrelevan ce 1. “Petition,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, May 11, 1925), 2. 2. “Seek Court Order to Restrain Rabbi,” New York Times, May 7, 1925, 40. 3. “Ignores Orthodox Rabbis,” New York Times, March 16, 1925, 34. 4. “Amended Petition,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, February 16, 1928), 3. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., 3, 5. Goldman claimed that saying the grace after meals was never intentionally omitted. See “Separate Answer of Defendant Solomon Goldman,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, March 22, 1927), 7. 7. “Amended Petition,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, February 16, 1928), 4; “Separate Answer of Defendant Solomon Goldman,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, March 22, 1927), 8. 8. “Amended Petition,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, February 16, 1928), 4. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid., 4–5. The plaintiffs accused Goldman of abolishing the practice of reading biblical names when someone was called to the Torah, likely meaning that he called them by number instead. While Goldman admitted to some of the accusations and denied others, whether or not the congregation made these changes is not particularly important for our purposes. What is critical is that the Orthodox side was defining these behaviors as deviant. For Goldman’s response, see “Separate Answer of Defendant Solomon Goldman,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, March 22, 1927). 11. Goldstein called mixed seating “the crux of the controversy in the celebrated Cleveland Jewish Center case.” See “OU Decides to Create National Board for

186  •  4. on the brink of irrelevance

Jewish Education,” Jewish Daily Bulletin, November 22, 1927, 1, 3, Reichel Personal Collection, notecard 2794.6. 12. “Petition,” Abraham A. Katz et al. v. Solomon Goldman et al., C.P. 241,977, C.A. 9034 (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, May 11, 1925), 3. “Amended Petition,” ibid. (Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, February 16, 1928), 3. 13. Isaac Rosengarten, “Uniting for Traditional Judaism,” JF (June, 1925): 232. 14. Jenna Weissman Joselit, New York’s Jewish Jews (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 72. 15. Jeffrey S Gurock, Orthodox Jews in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 159. 16. Jonathan Sarna, “Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue,” in Jack Wertheimer, ed., The American Synagogue: A Sanctuary Transformed (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1987), 381. 17. Isaac Rosengarten, “Uniting for Traditional Judaism,” JF (June 1925): 232. 18. Ibid., 231. The Solomon quotes are attributed to him by the editorial’s author, who claimed that he made them during the bar mitzvah convention of the United Synagogue in Atlantic City. 19. Ibid., 231. 20. Ibid., 232. 21. Max Drob, “The Problem of Kashruth,” USR (January 1921): 13. 22. Isaac Rosengarten, “Advertising ‘Kashruth’ and Traveling Men,” JF (July, 1920); 370. 23. Ibid. 24. Saul Bernstein, The Orthodox Union Story: A Centenary Portrayal (Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1997), 91–92. 25. Max Drob, “Report of Committee on Religious Observance,” USAAR (1920): 85. 26. Max Drob, “Report of the Religious Observance Committee,” Herald of the USR, May 1, 1925, 5. 27. Max Drob, “Report of the Religious Observance Committee,” USAAR (1926): 27. 28. Max Drob, “Report of Committee on Religious Observance,” USAAR (1920): 84. 29. Max Drob, “Report of the Religious Observance Committee,” Herald of the USR, May 1, 1925, 5. 30. Rabbi Louis Feinberg, “Report of the Convention Committee on Religious Observance,” USAAR (1920): 86. 31. Bernstein, The Orthodox Union Story, 57. The Jewish Sabbath Alliance grew out of the OU and remained closely affiliated with it, and its longtime president was the OU’s Bernard Drachman. 32. Drachman to Leon Huhner, June 19, 1925, AJHS, I-282, box 1. 33. Bernard Drachman, “Undated report of the Jewish Sabbath Alliance of America, Delivered at ‘The Sabbath Congress,’” 2, AJHS, I-282, box 1. 34. Max Drob, “Report of Committee on Religious Observance,” USAAR (1920): 86. 35. “President Solomon’s Message,” USR (June-July 1924): 15. 36. Max Drob, “Report of the Religious Observance Committee,” Herald of the USR, May 1, 1925, 6.

4. on the brink of irrelevance  •  187

37. Bernard Drachman, “Upholding the Sabbath in America: Alliance Renders Manifold Service to Observant Jews,” AJHS, I-282, box 1. 38. “A Review of the Work of the Jewish Sabbath Alliance,” AJHS, I-282, box 1. 39. USAAR (1920): 97–101; Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 30, 81, 153, 157, 165, 215, 243. 40. Mathilde Schechter, USAAR (1920): 52. 41. Elfrida Cohen, USAAR (1920): 121. 42. Fanny Hoffman, “Address,” USAAR (1920): 65. 43. USR (October 1924): 7. 44. Deborah Melamed, The Three Pillars: Thought, Worship and Practice for the Jewish Woman (New York: Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, 1927), page opposite to preface. 45. “Women’s Field,” USR (October 1924): 26. 46. Joselit, New York’s Jewish Jews, 107. 47. Ibid., 107–8. 48. Ibid., 100–1. 49. USAAR (1920): 111. 50. USAAR (1926): 40. 51. USAAR (1920): 101, 117. 52. One area that may have been a dividing line between the OU and the United Synagogue was the ritual bath (mikvah). Much like the Goldman case, the mikvah issue may have created an ideal behavior for Orthodoxy. For more on the mikvah and Orthodoxy in the interwar years, see Joselit, New York’s Jewish Jews, 116–119. I thank Jeffrey Gurock for this point. 53. USAAR (1920): 120, 126–27. 54. Eugene Kohn, “Our Young People and the Synagogue,” USR (April 1921): 16. 55. Israel Goldstein, “A Message to the Jewish Youth of America,” USR (January 1922): 18. 56. Ibid. 57. Strengthening the younger element meant empowering a group that often clashed with synagogue leadership. Rabbi Leon Lang observed that “at the present time, relations between Young People’s Groups and their congregations, particularly the Boards of Trustees, are not always congenial and happy.” USR (July 1928): 31. 58. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 331. 59. Eugene Kohn, “Our Young People and the Synagogue,” USR (April 1921): 16. 60. Israel Goldstein, “A Message to the Jewish Youth of America,” USR (January 1922): 18. 61. Louis M. Levitsky, “Conduct of Religious Services,” PRA (1927): 80. 62. “Young People’s Friday Evening Services,” USR (January 1925): 38. 63. Sabbath Services for Children: Issued As a Young People’s League Publication and with the Approval of the Religious Observance Committee of United Synagogue of America. (New York: Bloch, 1927), preface. 64. “Guide for Friday Evening Services,” USR (October 1925): 34.

188  •  4. on the brink of irrelevance

65. “Holy Day Service Guide Published,” USR (October 1924): 29. 66. “The Holy Day Synagogue Melodies,” USR (October 1926): 37. 67. They Dared to Dream: A History of National Women’s League (New York: National Women’s League of the United Synagogue of America, 1967), 36. 68. Ibid, 40. 69. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 330–31. 70. “The Women’s League Convention,” USR (July 1927): 12. 71. Max Drob, “The Achievements of the United Synagogue Convention,” USR (April 1921): 3. 72. Samuel M. Cohen, “The Challenge Is Returned: the Convention Reviewed,” USR (July 1925): 11. 73. USAAR (1913): 3–4. 74. “The Work of the Convention: Summary of the Proceedings,” USR (July 1927): 11. 75. “Our New President,” USR (July 1927): 1. Moreover, following its creation in 1929, the National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs also played a significant role in nurturing a cadre of lay leaders, numbering ten thousand members and one hundred societies by 1934. For more on the Men’s Clubs, see Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 331–32. 76. Samuel Cohen to Rubenovitz, January 20, 1928, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 23. 77. Max Drob, “President’s Message,” PRA (1927): 19. 78. Samuel M. Cohen, “The Call of the West: Jewish Conditions Depicted After Recent Journey to the Coast,” USR (January 1923): 10. 79. Ellis J. Hough, “Terrors of the Protestant Ministry,” Presbyterian Advance 40 (January 30, 1930): 18. 80. “Do Laymen Dominate?” Presbyterian Advance, 40 (January 30, 1930): 18. 81. Cyrus Adler to Sophie Israeli, January 28, 1926, Ratner RG 15A, quoted in Michael R. Cohen, “Jerusalem of the North: Religious Modernization in Portland, Maine’s Jewish Community, 1860–1950” (undergraduate honors thesis, Brown University, 2000), 65. 82. Ratner Kaplan journals, December 10, 1924, quoted in Cohen, “Jerusalem of the North,” 66. 83. Ratner Kaplan journals, quoted in Cohen, “Jerusalem of the North,” 69. 84. Ratner Kaplan journals, December 1, 1927, quoted in Cohen, “Jerusalem of the North,” 67. 85. Max Drob, “President’s Message,” PRA (1927): 20–21. 86. Rudolph Coffee served five congregations between 1906–1921; Drob served four congregations from 1911–1921; Raphael Melamed served five congregations from 1911–1923; Elias Solomon also served five congregations by 1923. See Ratner RG 15A. 87. Adler to Max Drob, May 28, 1922, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 10. 88. C. David Matt, August 7, 1925, Ratner RG 15A, box 20, folder 11. 89. Epstein to Mr. Cohen, May 11, 1925, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. 90. Epstein to Adler, May 11, 1925, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1.

5. the platform of discipleship  •  189

91. Epstein to Mr. Cohen, May 11, 1925, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. 92. Ibid. 93. Ibid. 94. Winthrop S. Hudson, The Great Tradition of the American Churches (New York: Harper, 1953), 196, quoted in Robert T. Handy, “The American Religious Depression, 1925–1935,” Church History 29, no. 1 (March, 1960): 6. 95. Charles Fiske, The Confessions of a Puzzled Parson (New York: Scribner’s, 1928), 191, quoted in Handy, “The American Religious Depression,” 6. 96. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 226. 97. CCARYB 33 (1923): 104, quoted in Sarna, American Judaism, 226. 98. AJYB 32 (1930–31): 72; AJYB 35 (1933–34): 162–63, quoted in Sarna, American Judaism, 226. 99. Sefer Ha-Yovel Shel Agudath ha-Rabbanim Ha-Orthodoksim B’Amerika, 114, quoted in Sarna, American Judaism, 226. Translation by Jonathan Sarna. 100. “The Work of the Convention,” USR (July 1927): 7.

5. The Pl atfor m of Discipleship 1. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 249–50. 2. Israel Goldstein, “The Rabbinical Assembly: An Appraisal,” PRA (1927): 34. Goldstein is paraphrasing “the president of the Reform seminary . . . as I recall it,” and “the dean of the Reform rabbinate.” 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid, 34–35. 5. Ibid, 35. 6. Solomon Goldman, A Rabbi Takes Stock (New York: Harper, 1931), 4. 7. Goldstein, “The Rabbinical Assembly,” 35. 8. Ibid. 9. Max Drob, “Assembly,” USR, 26. 10. Hoffman, “Another View of the Rabbinical Assembly,” USR (October 1923): 3. 11. Ibid. 12. Goldstein, “The Rabbinical Assembly,” 34. 13. JE, June 21, 1901, 10, quoted in Robert E. Fierstein, “A Noble Beginning: The Seminary Alumni Association, 1901–1918,” in Robert E. Fierstein, ed., A Century of Commitment: One Hundred Years of the Rabbinical Assembly (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000), 5. 14. Max Klein, “President’s Address at Alumni Association Meeting,” July 2, 1917, Ratner RG 15A, box 16, folder 4. 15. Pamela S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 161.

190  •  5. the platform of discipleship

16. JE, June 28, 1918, 2, cited in Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 301. 17. Max Klein, “President’s Address at Alumni Association Meeting,” July 2, 1917, Ratner RG 15A, box 16, folder 4. 18. Ibid. 19. “The Rabbinical Assembly in Pittsburgh,” USR (April 1923): 9. 20. “Minutes of the Convention,” PRA (1928): 10–11. 21. Norman Salit, “Our Rabbis in Assembly,” USR (October 1924): 11. 22. Hoffman, “Impressions of the Rabbinical Assembly,” USR (October 1924): 12. 23. “The Rabbinical Assembly Convenes,” USR (October 1927): 8. 24. PRA (1928): 18, 187–90; USR (April 1923): 9, cited in Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 301. Max Drob, “President’s Message,” PRA (1928): 18. 25. “Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly,” USR (July 1925): 14. 26. “The Rabbinical Assembly Commands Attention,” USR (June-July 1924): 1. 27. PRA (1928): 18, 187–90; USR (April 1923): 9, cited in Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 301. 28. C. David Matt, “Seminary Rabbis Convene in Tannersville,” JE, July 11, 1930, 2. The call “to know just where we stand,” claimed the Exponent, “was an echo of the demand supposed to be made by many of the laymen upon their rabbis to know wherein the Seminary rabbis differ from the other two camps of American Israel.” 29. Ibid. 30. “Rabbinical Assembly Meets at Long Branch,” JE, July 2, 1926, 2. 31. Ibid. 32. “Conservative Rabbis Hold Sessions at Long Branch,” JE, June 29, 1928, 10. 33. Max Drob, “A Reaffirmation of Traditional Judaism,” PRA (1929): 43–44. 34. Ibid., 45. 35. Ibid., 44. 36. “Rabbinical Assembly Meets at Long Branch,” JE, July 2, 1926, 2. 37. Ibid. 38. Ibid. 39. “Odium Theologicum,” USR (March 1926): 2. This is an unsigned editorial, but it seems likely that Hoffman wrote it, as he was the editor of the paper. 40. “Union and Division,” USR (April 1922): 1. This is an unsigned editorial likely written by Charles Hoffman. After reading this piece, there was no doubt in Kohn or Rubenovitz’s minds that the author was speaking directly to them. Kohn wrote Rubenovitz and told him that “you are right in thinking the editorial in the [USR] is evidence of inner unrest and disturbance.” However, he did not believe that this schism was serious enough to breach the United Synagogue coalition. “Thus far, however,” he continued, “the disturbance is largely in the mind of Hoffman.” Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 17, 1922, HR, binder A. 41. “Odium Theologicum,” USR (March 1926): 2. 42. “Our Tenth Year,” USR (January 1922): 1. While Drob used the term Traditional Judaism to characterize his platform, Hoffman co-opted the liberals’ term conservative Judaism.

5. the platform of discipleship  •  191

43. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 242. Nadell believes that Solomon arrived in the United States either at the age of two or six, but Solomon’s daughter maintained that he came at the age of ten. Vivian Rous, daughter of Elias Solomon, interview by author, Durham, NH, November 14, 2007. 44. Elias Solomon, “This Was My Portion”: A Message to My People (New York: Waldorf-Astoria, 1952), 6. 45. Ibid., 12. 46. Vivian Rous, interview by author, Durham, NH, November 14, 2007. 47. Elias Solomon, “Address of the President,” USAAR (1920): 11. 48. Elias L. Solomon, The Master’s Bequest: Thirty Years of the United Synagogue of America (New York: United Synagogue of America, 1944), 4. 49. Elias Solomon, “Address of the President,” USAAR (1920): 12. 50. “Work Together—The President’s Keynote,” USR (July 1920): 1. 51. Elias Solomon, “Presentation of Schechter Portrait at United Synagogue Convention,” n.d., AJTSA, ARC 106, box 1, folder 10. 52. Elias Solomon, “Address of the President,” USAAR (1920): 11–12. 53. “Editorial,” USR (April 1923): 1. 54. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid. 57. “The United Synagogue Movement,” USR (April 1924): 1. “Editorial,” USR (April 1923): 1. 58. “Our Tenth Year,” USR (January 1922): 1. 59. Elias Solomon, “Address of the President,” USAAR (1920): 11. 60. Jacob Kohn to Rubenovitz, April 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 61. Ibid. Rubenovitz to Kaplan, April 15, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. Rubenovitz previously mentioned to Jacob Kohn that “the revision of Jewish law and practice . . . must be undertaken by the United Synagogue. There is no other organization in the field which is qualified and willing to grapple with this problem.” See Rubenovitz to Jacob Kohn, April 11, 1927, HR. 62. Kaplan to Kadushin, April 20, 1927, quoted in Herman Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart (Cambridge: Nathaniel Dame, 1967), 75. 63. “Proceedings of the Conference,” PRA (1927): 11. 64. Ibid. Jacob Kohn led a session at the RA convention “devoted to a discussion on the function and scope of the proposed committee on Jewish law.” Though the proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly published most of the talks at the convention, and the USR published excerpts, neither publication mentioned the contents of Kohn’s presentation. 65. Max Drob, “President’s Message,” PRA (1928): 21. 66. Ibid. 67. Robert E. Fierstein, ed., A Century of Commitment: One Hundred Years of the Rabbinical Assembly (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000), 273. 68. Max Drob, “President’s Message,” PRA (1928): 21.

192  •  5. the platform of discipleship

69. Fierstein, A Century of Commitment, 273. Other RA presidents included Max Klein, Israel Levinthal, and Eugene Kohn. 70. Kaplan to Solomon Goldman, May 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 71. Kaplan to Rubenovitz, April 20, 1927, HR, binder A. 72. Kaplan to Solomon Goldman, May 13, 1927, HR, binder A. 73. Louis Finkelstein, “The Things that Unite Us,” PRA (1927): 42. 74. Ibid., 44. 75. Eugene Kohn, “Discussion”:—“The Things That Unite Us,” PRA (1927): 54–56. 76. Ibid., 55. 77. Kadushin, “Discussion”:—“The Things that Unite Us,” PRA (1927): 61. 78. Ibid. 79. Ibid. 80. Finkelstein, quoted in Kadushin, “Discussion,” 62. 81. “Historical Judaism,” USR (April 1922): 2. 82. “Rabbinical Assembly at Far Rockaway,” USR (June-July 1924): 28. 83. “A Definition of Historic Judaism,” USR (October 1924): 11. 84. “Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly,” USR (July 1925): 13. 85. Chaim Tchernowitz, quoted in “A Definition of Historic Judaism,” USR (October 1924): 12. 86. “Historical Judaism,” USR (April 1922): 2. 87. Louis Ginzberg, “Our Standpoint: An Address to the United Synagogue of America,” in Mordecai Waxman, ed., Tradition and Change: The Development of Conservative Judaism (New York: Burning Bush, 1958), 135–36. 88. Ibid. 89. AJYB (1899–1900): 99. 90. Finkelstein, “The Things That Unite Us,” 48. 91. Ibid., 48–49. 92. Ibid., 47–48. 93. Eugene Kohn, “Discussion,” 58–59. 94. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 101. 95. Ibid., 100. Louis Ginzberg, “Address of the Acting President,” USAAR (1918): 20. 96. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 100. 97. Finkelstein, “The Things That Unite Us,” 51. Eugene Kohn agreed that “we have in common a devotion to Palestine.” Eugene Kohn, “Discussion,” 54. 98. AJYB (1899–1900): 100. 99. Finkelstein, “The Things That Unite Us,” 50–52. 100. Eugene Kohn, “Discussion,” 54. 101. Ibid. 102. Ibid., 54. 103. Finkelstein, “The Things That Unite Us,” 53. 104. Kadushin, “Discussion,” 66. 105. Eugene Kohn, “Discussion,” 59. 106. Ibid., 59–60.

6. a task left unfinished  •  193

6. A Ta sk Lef t Unfinished 1. Israel Levinthal, “Presidential Message,” PRA (1932): 247. 2. Robert Gordis to Rubenovitz, May 17, 1939, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 46. 3. Max Routtenberg, 1960, quoted in Regina Stein, “The Boundaries of Gender: The Role of Gender Issues in Forming American Jewish Denominational Identity, 1913– 1963” (PhD dissertation, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1998), 251. 4. Norman Salit, “Our Rabbis in Assembly,” USR (October 1924): 11. 5. Herman Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart (Cambridge: Nathaniel Dame, 1967), 61–62. 6. Ibid., 62–63. 7. Ibid., 64–65. 8. “The Mid-West Convention Of The Women’s League of the United Synagogue,” USR (March 1926): 28–29. 9. L. Hands, “Women’s Field,” USR (January 1929): 22. 10. “Resolutions Adopted at the 17th Annual Convention,” Women’s League Outlook 5 (September 1934), 4, quoted in Stein, “The Boundaries of Gender,” 273. 11. Israel Goldstein to editor, Jewish Center, January 1923, quoted in Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 65–66. 12. Louis Epstein, “Marriage Adjustment,” PRA (1928): 76. 13. Louis Epstein, Hatsa’ah le-ma’an takanot agunot (New York, n.p., 1930), 39, quoted in Jeffrey S. Gurock, Orthodox Jews in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 171. 14. Louis Epstein, “A Solution to the Agunah Problem,” PRA (1930): 83. 15. Ibid., 84–86. 16. Ibid., 87. 17. Ibid., 89. 18. Louis Epstein, “Adjustment of Jewish Marriage Laws to Present-Day Conditions,” PRA (1935): 232. 19. Ibid., 234. 20. Boaz Cohen, “Report of the Special Committee on the Problem of the Agunah,” PRA (1936): 333. 21. Rabbinical Assembly, Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1988), 704. 22. Joseph Konvitz, quoted in Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 240. 23. Ibid. 24. Rabbinical Assembly, Proceedings of the Committee, 704. 25. Max Drob, “The ‘Epstein Plan’ for Aiding the Agunah,” n.d., Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 10. 26. “Abstract of the Minutes of the Thirty-Eighth Annual Convention,” PRA (1938): 406. 27. Laura Shaw Frank, ‘‘‘Dependent on the Gentiles’: New York State, the Orthodox Rabbinate, and the Agunah Problem, 1953–1993” (seminar paper, University of Maryland–College Park, 2009).

194  •  6. a task left unfinished

28. Cohen, “Report of the Special Committee,” 334. 29. Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, 696–97. 30. “Abstract of the Minutes of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Convention,” PRA (1937): 344. 31. Eugene Kohn, “President’s Message,” PRA (1937): 364–65. 32. Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, 110. 33. Ibid., 138. 34. Ibid., 137–38. 35. Epstein to Mr. Cohen, n.d., Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. 36. Epstein, Li-She’elath ha-’agunah, esp. 28–31, cited in Sarna, “The Parting of the Ways: How Conservative and Orthodox Judaism in the United States Became Two Separate Movements,” forthcoming. Sarna argues that “the agunah controversy crystallized the differences between Orthodox and Conservative approaches to Jewish law, and persuaded [Epstein] to identify wholeheartedly with the latter.” 37. Epstein, “Rabbinic Attitude to the Agunah Problem,” Bulletin of the Rabbinical Assembly (1939): 7. 38. Rubenovitz to group, March 4, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. 39. Ibid. 40. Ibid. 41. Israel M. Goldman to Rubenovitz, June 19, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. Morris Silverman of Hartford was to create material for Passover, Israel M. Goldman of Providence was to work on supplements for Friday night services, Morton Goldberg of Fall River, MA was to include additions for Rosh Hashanah, and Rubenovitz himself was to prepare selections for Yom Kippur. 42. Rubenovitz to Group, March 4, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. 43. Rubenovitz to New England Rabbis, November 13, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. 44. Rubenovitz to group of rabbis, November 27, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. 45. Rubenovitz to Israel M. Goldman, April 9, 1929, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 52. 46. Morris Silverman, “Report of Survey on Ritual,” PRA (1932): 322. The committee was comprised of Jacob Bosniak, C. David Matt, Morris Silverman, Israel Goldman, and Israel Goldfarb. 47. Ibid. 48. Ibid., 327. 49. Isador Signer, “Discussion on the Report of the Survey on Ritual,” PRA (1932): 345–46. 50. Morris Silverman, “Report of Survey on Ritual,” PRA (1932): 327–28. 51. “Report of the Prayer Book Commission,” PRA (1942): 146. 52. Ibid., 147. 53. Ibid. 54. “Report of the Survey on Prayer Book,” PRA (1942): 157.

6. a task left unfinished  •  195

55. “Report of the Prayer Book Commission,” PRA (1942): 148. 56. “Abstract of the Minutes of the Forty-Third Annual Convention,” PRA (1943): 163. 57. The Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book (1946), v. 58. Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, Sabbath Prayer Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1945). 59. The Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, v. 60. While the Rabbinical Assembly had clearly taken the lead in creating this new book, the United Synagogue, now representing primarily congregations and lay people, wanted a voice in the process. In 1944 the RA and United Synagogue reached an agreement that would give the United Synagogue representation on the prayer book commission, though it would have a limited voice. The new commission was to consist of eight members, all of whom were to be members in good standing of the RA. Four would be appointed by the president of the RA, and four by the United Synagogue president—in consultation with the president of the RA. If things were not proceeding as hoped, the RA reserved the right to cancel this agreement by a three-fourths vote of its executive council. “Abstract of the Minutes of the Forty-Fourth Annual Convention,” PRA (1944): 278. 61. Max Arzt, “Reports of Commissions: Prayer Book Commission,” PRA (1948): 47. 62. Pamela S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 317. 63. Max Arzt, “Report of the Prayer Book Commission,” PRA (1950): 57. 64. Robert Gordis, quoted in Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 317. 65. Rubenovitz to Finkelstein, April 15, 1942, HR, binder A. 66. Epstein, n.d., Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. This undated talk was delivered by Epstein and is grouped together with material from 1945. Epstein’s statement that this talk was delivered thirty years after the death of Schechter corroborates the idea that it is from 1945. 67. “In Memoriam Menahem Max Eichler,” USR (July 1927): 3. 68. Max Drob, “Rabbi Alexander Basel, a Tribute,” PRA (1942): 116. 69. Morris S. Goodblatt, “In Memoriam: Rabbi Samuel Friedman,” PRA (1941): 28. 70. Mortimer J. Cohen to David Hoffman, June 10, 1945, AJTSA, ARC 53, box 2, folder “death of Ch. I. Hoffman.” 71. Elias Solomon, “A Tribute by a Colleague,” June 10, 1945, AJTSA, ARC 53, box 2, folder “death of Ch. I. Hoffman.” Elias Solomon, “Charles Isaiah Hoffman,” PRA (1945): 224. 72. Solomon, “A Tribute by a Colleague.” 73. Solomon, “Charles Isaiah Hoffman,” 225. 74. Abraham A. Neuman, “In Memory of Dr. Louis M. Epstein,” Conservative Judaism 5, no. 3 (April 1949): 3–5.

196  •  6. a task left unfinished

75. C. David Matt, “Memorial Resolutions, In Memoriam: Herman Abramowitz, Arthur Ginzler, Phineas Israeli, Raphael Hai Melamed: A Tribute,” May 18, 1948, PRA (1948): 314. 76. C. David Matt, “A Rabbi Died,” PRA (1949): 439.

Con clusion 1. “Report of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards,” PRA (1949): 46–57, quoted in Nadell, “New and Expanding Horizons,” in Robert E. Fierstein, ed., A Century of Commitment: One Hundred Years of the Rabbinical Assembly (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000), 88. 2. David Aronson, “President’s Message: The Demands of the New Diaspora,” PRA (1949): 136–38, quoted in Nadell, “New and Expanding Horizons,” 87. 3. Ibid., 88. 4. Morris Adler, Jacob Agus, and Theodore Friedman, “Two Views of Sabbath Observance: A Responsum on the Sabbath,” in Mordecai Waxman, ed., Tradition and Change: The Development of the Conservative Movement (New York: Burning Bush, 1958), 360. 5. Ibid., 361. 6. Ibid., 368. 7. Max Drob to Finkelstein, November 21, 1935, Ratner RG 15A, box 6, folder 10. 8. Sanford Drob, “Max Drob and Traditional Judaism: A Personal Retrospective,”, accessed May 19, 2010. 9. Ibid. 10. Abramowitz to Mendes, March 18, 1913, AJA, MS 39, box 1, folder 3. 11. Wilfred Shuchat, interview by author, March 14, 2007. 12. Ibid. 13. Bernard Figler, Canadian Jewish Profiles: Rabbi Dr. Herman Abramowitz, Lazarus Cohen, Lyon Cohen (Gardenvale, Quebec: Harpell’s Press Co-Operative, 1968), 90. 14. Kauvar to Louis Newman, January 26, 1954, AJA, MS 445, box 1, folder correspondence-1. 15. Jacob Kohn, 1964, AJTSA, ARC 70, box 1, folder “Sermons, Lectures.” 16. Ibid. Kohn also distinguished himself from Kaplan. In an undated letter about Kohn’s differences with Kaplan, n.d., ARC 70, folder “letter sent to Henry Brandler re Dr. Kohn’s differences with Dr. Kaplan,” Kohn wrote that where he differs “with Dr. Kaplan is this—I cannot say that Judaism is a developing religious civilization because I cannot equate Judaism or any other ‘ism’ with the civilization in which it is found. Judaism is that which sets the goal for Jewish civilization both as regards individual conduct and social aspiration and the triumph of Judaism lies in the extent to which the Jewish people and Jewish individuals conform to that ideal. Then only does a sentence like Micah’s makes sense: ‘he hath told thee

conclusion  •  197

O man what is good and what the Lord doth require of thee, only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.’ (Micah 6:8) Micah is not describing Jewish civilization. He does not portray anything that a people or individual actually is. He portrays what a man or a people ought to be and that, to me, is religion-what they feel they ought to be and ought to do. To my mind, Judaism is that element in civilization which keeps before us these demands, in the developing perspective, of course, and presents them to the conscience of the individual and the aspirations of our people.” 17. Jacob Kohn, n.d., AJTSA, ARC 70, box 2, folder “On Rabbi Kohn on the Occasion of His 80th Anniversary, National Jewish Post.” 18. Elias L. Solomon, The Master’s Bequest: Thirty Years of The United Synagogue of America (New York: United Synagogue of America, 1944), 3, 18. 19. Ibid., 18–19. 20. Ibid., 21. 21. Elias Solomon, “This Was My Portion”: A Message to My People (New York: Waldorf-Astoria, 1952), 13–14. 22. Israel H. Levinthal, Point of View: An Analysis of American Judaism (London: Abelard-Schuman: 1958), 74. 23. Jacob B. Agus, Guideposts in Modern Judaism (New York, 1954), 97, quoted in Levinthal, Point of View, 71–72. 24. Ibid., 74. 25. Ibid., 77. 26. Ibid., 72. 27. Ibid., 71. Levinthal notes that “people are flocking to it because they feel that Conservative Judaism is closely knit to historic Judaism, that it avows the true philosophy of our tradition. It is for the leaders not to disappoint them; else the strength it now possesses will dissipate, and the great promise which it has held forth will become an empty dream.” Ibid., 77. 28. Ibid., 76. 29. Rubenovitz to Kaplan, June 14, 1927, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 2, folder 8. 30. After Adler died in 1940 and Louis Finkelstein took his place, Rubenovitz saw the opportunity for what he considered Schechter’s true vision to emerge from out of Adler’s shadow. Shortly after Finkelstein took over at the head of the Seminary, Rubenovitz told him that as much as Schechter had accomplished, and as highly as Rubenovitz thought of him, Schechter “fell short” of the “religious renaissance” he hoped to create in America. Blaming this on Adler’s influence, Rubenovitz told Finkelstein that it was “therefore imperative that you take up where he left off.” He told him that “it seems truly providential that at a time like this, you should be sitting in the seat of a Schechter, because I am convinced you have the qualities of mind and heart to become his successor in spirit, as well as in achievement.” Rubenovitz to Finkelstein, April 1, 1941, AJTSA, ARC 99, box 1, folder 37. 31. Rubenovitz, The Waking Heart, 18–19.

198  •  conclusion

32. Epstein to Mr. Cohen, attached to a letter dated May 11, 1925, Ratner RG 15A, box 7, folder 1. 33. Mordecai M. Kaplan, The Greater Judaism in the Making: A Study of the Modern Evolution of Judaism (New York: Reconstructionist, 1960), 350–51. 34. Eugene Kohn, The Future of Judaism in America (New Rochelle, NY: Liberal, 1934), 96–97, 100. 35. The Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, Sabbath Prayer Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1945), xvii–xxx. 36. “Reconstructionism Not Conservatism,” Reconstructionist, April 21, 1939, 3–4. 37. Waxman, Tradition and Change, 31. 38. Benedetto Croce, History Is the Story of Liberty (London: Allen and Unwin, 1941), 84, quoted in Kaplan, The Greater Judaism, 377. 39. Undated notebook, Kaplan Archives, quoted in Richard Libowitz, Mordecai M. Kaplan and the Development of Reconstructionism (New York: Mellen, 1983), 200. 40. Herbert Rosenblum, “The Emergence of the Reconstructionist Movement,” Reconstructionist (May 1975): 19. 41. Waxman, Tradition and Change, 30–31. 42. Yael Zerubavel, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), xiv. Zerubavel argues that “the cultural gap between Israeli and American Jews is not an accidental by-product of the Israeli experience, but the result of a deliberate effort by the Jews who immigrated to Palestine to form a new nation with a distinct culture,” which grew out of “a certain interpretation of the Jewish past.” I suggest this same concept is at play with the next generation of Conservative rabbis as they sought to create and legitimize their movement, though it is not clear just how conscious a process this was. 43. Waxman, Tradition and Change, 7. 44. Moshe Davis, The Emergence of Conservative Judaism: The Historical School in Nineteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1963), 10. 45. Abraham Karp, “The Origins of Conservative Judaism,” Conservative Judaism 19, no. 4 (Summer 1965): 35.

Epilo gue 1. Jonathan D. Sarna, American Judaism: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 282–84. 2. Ibid., 284. 3. Ibid., 284–86. 4. Ibid., 284; Jack Wertheimer, A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 1993), 5. 5. Pamela S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (New York: Greenwood, 1988), 338.

epilogue  •  199

6. Sarna, American Judaism, 284. 7. Jeffrey S. Gurock, From Fluidity to Rigidity: The Religious Worlds of Conservative and Orthodox Jews in Twentieth-Century America (Ann Arbor: Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, 1998), 34. 8. Michael Rubinoff, “Rabbi Charles Eliezer Hillel Kauvar of Denver: The Life of a Rabbi in the American West” (Ph.D. diss., University of Denver, 1978), 203. 9. Kauvar Scrapbooks, BMH Congregation, Denver, Colorado, quoted ibid., 204. 10. Ibid., 204, 206, 208, 210–11. 11. Ibid., 216. 12. Blumenthal to Rubinoff, July 13, 1976, quoted ibid., 217. 13. Kauvar to Blumenthal, March 21, 1958, Kauvar Scrapbooks, BMH Congregation, Denver, Colorado, quoted ibid., 216–17. 14. Gurock, From Fluidity to Rigidity, 34. 15. Rubinoff, “Rabbi Charles Eliezer Hillel Kauvar,” 215, 219. 16. Sarna, American Judaism, 339, 341–42. 17. Ibid., 341. 18. Michael Panitz, “Completing a Century: The Rabbinical Assembly Since 1970,” in Robert Fierstein, ed., A Century of Commitment: One Hundred Years of the Rabbinical Assembly (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000), 109–10, 112. 19. Ibid., 106. 20. Ibid., 113, 114. 21. Robert Gordis, “The Struggle for Self-Definition in Conservative Judaism,” Conservative Judaism 39, no. 3 (Spring 1987): 17, quoted in Panitz, “Completing a Century,” 115. 22. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America, 323; Panitz, “Completing a Century,” 115. 23. Robert Gordis, “Introduction: The Commission, the Statement, the Movement,” in Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogue of America, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, Emet Ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism (New York, 1988), 13. 24. Jacob Berkman, “JTS Drafts New Mission Statement,” (accessed May 25, 2010). 25. (accessed May 25, 2010). 26. (accessed May 25, 2010). 27. Bradley Shavit Artson, “Conservative Judaism: Covenant and Commitment” (New York: Rabbinical Assembly). 28. United Jewish Communities, “National Jewish Population Survey 2000–1: Conservative Jews,” February 2004, (accessed May 31, 2010). 29. Gurock, From Fluidity to Rigidity, 38–39.


Abels, Moses, 175n151; and CCAR, 40, 59, 175n150 Abramowitz, Herman, 10; death of, 136; on Schechter’s movement, 142–43; for traditional Judaism, 142–43 Ackerman, William, 59 Adler, Cyrus: Catholic Israel and, 51, 52; on executive council, 54–55, 68; Finkelstein and, 81; C. Hoffman, conflict with, 50– 51; OU and, 57; and placement network, 98; and prayer book, 63; Reform Judaism and, 59; Rubenovitz conflict with, 147, 197n30; and Schechter, S., 52, 60; for United Synagogue, 50; Zionism conflict with, 67–68 Adler, Morris, 139 Agudath ha-Rabbanim, 9, 56, 79; Conservative Judaism related to, 109; dietary recommendations and, 66–67; Epstein and, 126–28; Jewish law interpretation and, 64–65; modern Orthodoxy and, 65, 102; RA compared to, 109–10; RA conflict with, 128–29; on religious depression, 99; United Synagogue and, 11–12, 58, 64–67, 85

Agudath Jeshurun–A Union for Promoting Traditional Judaism in America, 52–53; see also United Synagogue Agunah (“anchored” wife): apathy about, 130; children of, 129; as critical issue, 123–24, 127; definition of, 123; Epstein and, 126–31, 148, 194n36; gridlock over, 123, 130–31; historical Judaism and, 124, 126, 129; E. Kohn and, 129–30; precedents related to, 126–27; RA for, 127–31; Rubenovitz and, 124–25; Women’s League for, 125–26 Agus, Jacob, 139 Amana Society, 61, 168n15 American Jewish spectrum, Mendes, H.P., on, 56–57 Anglican Church, 18 Arzt, Max, 133–34 Authority: for ceremonial changes, 118; in religious movements, 48; Schechter, S., and, 5, 19; see also Transition authority Bainbridge, William Sims, 6 Balfour Declaration, 67–68 Barth, Fredrik, 10–11

202  •  index Bat mitzvah, 73 Bennett, Ephriam, 158 Beth HaMidrash HaGadol (Denver), 53 Bosniak, Jacob, 132, 194n46 Boston, Massachusetts, 36, 38 British Jewry, 18–19 Canada, 142–43; Hamilton, Ontario, 38; Montréal, 53, 136, 142; Toronto, Ontario, 46; Winnipeg, 46 Catholic Israel: Adler, C., and, 51, 52; historical Judaism and, 3, 146, 148; M. Kaplan against, 149; k’lal Yisrael, 18, 162; from Schechter, S., 18–19, 44, 52–53, 62–63, 144; United Synagogue and, 3, 8, 13, 44, 51–52, 55, 58, 62–63, 101; Waxman against, 152–53 CCAR, see Central Conference of American Rabbis CCR, see Conference of Conservative Rabbis Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), 57; Abels and, 40, 59, 175n150; Coffee and, 40, 175nn150–51; disciples and, 40, 175n150; United Synagogue and, 59 Ceremonial changes: authority for, 118; contradictions about, 118; Ginzberg on, 119; historical Judaism and, 117–18; Kadushin on, 119; E. Kohn on, 118–19 Charisma: bond from, 26–33; leadership and, 5; routinization of, 6–7; of Schechter, S., 5, 16, 23–33; validity of, 6; Weber on, 5, 23 Charismatic leaders, 23; Dawson’s definition of, 17; Weber’s definition of, 17–18, 23 Christian Gnostic movement, 48 CJLS, see Committee on Jewish Law and Standards Cleveland Jewish Center: mixed seating at, 87, 185n11; Orthodox Judaism and, 86; United Synagogue and, 88 Coffee, Rudolph, 172n78; CCAR and, 40, 175nn150–51; positions for, 98, 188n86 Cohen, Gerson, 161; on women rabbis, 160 Cohen, Samuel, 74, 96, 99

Colorado Springs, 48 Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS): changes from, 139–41; driving on Sabbath and, 139–40; electricity on Sabbath and, 140; Epstein on, 139; Frankel and, 152, 198n42; Orthodox Judaism and, 139–41; traditionalists and, 139–40; on women in minyan, 160 Concourse Center of Israel (Bronx, New York), 142 Conference of Conservative Rabbis (CCR): activities of, 73–74; Kaplan and, 182n26; prayer book and, 74–75; SJR and, 73; United Synagogue and, 73 Conservative: in American Jewish spectrum, 57; Epstein as, 130–31, 148; Kaplan as, 70–73, 76–78; Kohn, J., as, 70–71, 73–76; Rubenovitz as, 70–71, 73–76; use of term, 52, 56, 143 Conservative disciples, 69, 84; Finkelstein conflict with, 114–21; for platform, 104–5, 111–14, 190n42, 191n64; for unity, 70, 103–4, 113–14; see also Kaplan, Mordecai Conservative Judaism: Agudath haRabbanim and, 109; without Catholic Israel, 14; deceptive retrospect and, 3–4, 14, 152–55, 167n3; definitions of, 71–73, 75, 101–2; S. Goldman for, 86–87; historical Judaism and, 146–55, 197n27; modern Orthodoxy and, 9, 71–72, 101–2, 108–12, 158–61; postwar appeal of, 157; postwar growth of, 157, 163; rabbis’ self-identification with, 157–59; Reconstructionism and, 13, 151; Reform Judaism related to, 2, 9, 108–9; religious movements compared to, 4–5; in suburbs, 156–57; synagogue centers in, 157; use of name, 103, 112–13; see also Platform Conservative Union, see United Synagogue of America Dallas, Texas, 38, 46 Davidson, Israel, 21–22 Davis, Moshe: on historical school, 153–54; on Orthodox Judaism, 153; on Reform Judaism, 153

index•  203 Dawson, Lorne, 5, 23, 26 Decorum, 157; appeal of, 157; Drob and, 109; Egelson and, 37; J. Kohn and, 34; Rubenovitz for, 35–36; S. Schechter for, 21, 24, 45, 53 Denver, Colorado, 47 Dietary Laws Committee, United Synagogue, 66 Disciples: attraction to Orthodox Judaism, 103; awareness of difficulties for, 33–34; CCAR and, 40, 175n150; common denominators and, 12–13; competition among, 42, 98; deaths of, 135–37; diversity among, 7, 26, 28, 172n78; group consciousness of, 8; to Hebrew Union College, 175n150; isolation of, 39; of M. Kaplan, 75–77; lack of positions for, 34–35, 38–39; laity and, 36–38, 54, 85–86, 88, 93–99, 96; living arrangements for, 42–43; within Orthodox Judaism, 35–38; placement network for, 45–48; postgraduation, 31, 47; Reform Judaism and, 34–35, 40, 175n150; relationships between, 41–43; salaries for, 39; after S. Schechter death, 60–62; on Schechter’s movement, 141–48; scholarships for, 41–42; self-identification of, 7–8; socializing between, 42–43; struggle for, 33, 36–38, 174n127; young rabbis’ relationship to, 138–39, 152; with YPL, 94; see also Conservative disciples; Orthodox disciples; Rabbinical Assembly; specific disciples Drachman, Bernard, 22, 57; kosher restaurants and, 89–90; Sabbath observance and, 91, 186n31 Drob, Max, 75–76; background of, 80, 191n43; conflict with Epstein, 128–29; conflict with M. Kaplan, 80; Finkelstein on, 142; P. Israeli and, 98; for kosher restaurants, 89–90; on laity, 96; for platform, 103–4, 108–9, 190n42; platform for RA, 108–9; S. Schechter and, 80, 109, 141; on Schechter’s movement, 141–42; for traditional practices, 82, 89–91

Education, 24, 53, 157; Egelson and, 37; fervent Orthodox and, 9; Mendes on, 56; of S. Schechter, 16–17 Egelson, Louis, 40, 175nn150–51; for English, 37; generations and, 37–38 Eisenstein, Ira, 151 Elfenbein, Israel, 172n78 English: Egelson for, 37; sermons in, 24, 37, 56, 94, 103; for traditional Judaism, 24, 58, 103; for United Synagogue, 58; for YPL, 94 Epstein, Louis M.: Agudath ha-Rabbanim and, 126–28; for agunah, 126–31, 148, 194n36; background of, 27; on CJLS, 139; compromises and, 98–99, 126–27; as Conservative, 130–31, 148; death of, 136–37; Drob conflict with, 128–29; feedback for, 127; interview for, 32; on Jewish law interpretation, 64; as Orthodox, 98; for placement network, 46–47; position for, 38; on S. Schechter death, 61; on Schechter’s movement, 148; for traditional practices, 82; transition authority of, 46–47; young rabbis and, 134 Ezrat Nashim, 160 Fall River, Massachusetts, 46 Fervent Orthodoxy: within Orthodox Judaism, 9, 58; Rubenovitz on, 35–36; S. Schechter and, 9; United Synagogue and, 58; see also Agudath ha-Rabbanim Ferziger, Adam, 169n25 Finkelstein, Louis, 75–76; after C. Adler, 81; baseball and, 32; Conservative disciples against, 114–21; on Drob, 142; on historical Judaism, 116–17; M. Kaplan and, 81–82; Rubenovitz support for, 197n30; on unity, 12–13, 114–15; see also “The Things That Unite Us” Fischel, Harry, 79 Fort Worth, Texas, 46 Frankel, Zacharias, 2, 14, 149; CJLS and, 152, 198n42; historical school and, 152–54; over S. Schechter, 138, 152; Waxman for, 152–53 Friedlaender, Israel, 21; on Jewish law

204  •  index interpretation, 64; JTS and, 21; Zionism and, 68 Friedman, Theodore, 139 Gay rabbis, 163 Gender, 157; see also Women Genizah (Hebrew archive), 17–18 Germany, 2, 149 Ginzberg, Louis: background of, 20–21; on ceremonial changes, 119; on historical Judaism, 117; on Jewish law interpretation, 64, 65, 149; JTS and, 20–21; M. Kaplan conflict with, 81–83; on prayer book, 63–64, 83; for traditional practices, 82–83; as United Synagogue acting president, 68; on United Synagogue executive council, 54–55 Goldberg, Morton, 132, 194n41 Golden, Herbert, 96 Goldfarb, Israel, 95; prayer book and, 132, 194n46 Goldfarb, Samuel, 95 Goldman, Israel M., 132, 194n41 Goldman, Solomon, 75, 103; for Conservative Judaism, 86–87; for mixed seating, 87; non-Orthodox behaviors of, 86–87, 185n10; Orthodox rituals and, 87, 185n6; Orthodox worship and, 87; OU conflict with, 86–87; personal beliefs of, 87; with United Synagogue, 76 Goldstein, Herbert S., 69; background of, 78; conflict with United Synagogue, 83; JTS and, 79; M. Kaplan, conflict with, 79–80, 184n79; as maverick, 78–84, 181n1; on mixed seating, 185n11; for OU, 79, 83; RA with, 78–79, 183n64; traditionalists and, 78; for traditional practices, 82 Goldstein, Israel, 175n150, 189n2 Gordis, Robert: on platform, 161; on prayer book, 133–34; on women rabbis, 160 Gurock, Jeffrey, 178n64; on rabbis’ selfidentification, 157–58, 163 Hamilton, Ontario, 38 Handlin, Oscar, 167n3

Hare Krishna movement, 48 Hebrew language, 17–18, 120 Hebrew Union College (HUC): disciples to, 175n150; JTS and, 19–20 Hevesh, Joseph, 40, 59, 175nn150–51 “His Majesty’s Opposition” (S. Schechter), 18 Historical Judaism, 71; agunah and, 124, 126, 129; arrested development in, 126; Catholic Israel and, 3, 146, 148; ceremonial changes and, 117–18; Conservative Judaism and, 146–55, 197n27; definition of, 116–17; Finkelstein on, 116–17; Ginzberg on, 117; C. Hoffman on, 117; invented traditions and, 167n3; Jewish law interpretation from, 64; at JTS, 2–3; Kadushin on, 117; M. Kaplan against, 151; I. Levinthal on, 146–47, 197n27; Reconstructionism and, 148–49; S. Schechter and, 144, 147–48; Tchernowitz on, 117 Historical school, 2–4, 167n3; Davis on, 153–54; Frankel and, 152–54; Karp on, 154–55; organization of, 154; S. Schechter and, 148, 154; Waxman for, 152–53 Hoffman, Charles Isaiah: C. Adler, conflict with, 50–51; background of, 28, 49; compromise from, 65; death of, 135–36; on historical Judaism, 117; J. Kohn and, 41; platform and, 104, 109–10, 190nn39–40, 190n42; RA and, 109–10; on RA annual meeting, 107; Rubenovitz with, 49–51; S. Schechter and, 15, 136; Solomon on, 136; on union, 59, 65; for United Synagogue, 49–51 Hoffman, Max, 59 HUC, see Hebrew Union College Hyamson, Moses, 22 Identity, see Self-identification Israeli, Phineas: Drob on, 98; M. Kaplan on, 97; laity and, 97–98 Israeli, Sophie, 97 Jewish Exponent, 15, 49, 105–6, 190n28 Jewish Forum, 87–89

index•  205 Jewish law interpretation: Agudath haRabbanim and, 64–65; Epstein on, 64; Friedlaender on, 64; Ginzberg on, 64, 65, 149; from historical Judaism, 64; United Synagogue on, 64–65, 180nn113–14; Waxman on, 153 The Jewish Marriage Contract: A Study in the Status of the Women in Jewish Law (Epstein), 126 Jewish Sabbath Alliance, 90–91, 186n31 Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), 1; academic standards of, 23; departures from, 34; faculty of, 20–22, 80–81, 162; founding of, 2; Friedlaender and, 21; Ginzberg and, 20–21; H. Goldstein and, 79; historical Judaism at, 2–3; HUC and, 19–20; Kadushin on, 121; E. Kohn on, 121–22; Marx and, 21; OU and, 2–3; RA and, 43, 50–52, 160–61, 175n170; relocations of, 23; S. Schechter for, 2–3, 15, 19–20; self-definition of, 162; United Synagogue with, 51–52, 59; Wissenschaft and, 20–21; see also Disciples Jewish Theological Seminary Students Annual, 43 JTS, see Jewish Theological Seminary of America Judaism: affiliation in, 156–57; as civilization, 77, 80, 81; definition of, 196n16; religious depression and, 85–86, 99; revelation in, 79–80; see also specific types of Judaism Kadushin, Max, 75; on ceremonial changes, 119; on conception of God, 115–16; on historical Judaism, 117; on JTS, 121; United Synagogue and, 76–77 Kansas City, 48 Kaplan, Judith, 73 Kaplan, Mordecai, 22, 84; ambivalence of, 71; against Catholic Israel, 149; with CCR, 182n26; for Conservative Judaism definition, 71–73; development of, 149; disciples of, 75–77; Drob conflict with, 80; Finkelstein and, 81–82; Ginzberg conflict with, 81–83; H. Goldstein,

conflict with, 79–80, 184n79; as heretic, 69–78, 181n1; against historical Judaism, 151; on P. Israeli, 97; JTS faculty conflict with, 80–81; on Judaism as a civilization, 77, 80, 81; E. Kohn and, 148–51, 196n16; J. Kohn and, 73, 77; I. Levinthal compared with, 149; platform and, 114; for Reconstructionism, 77, 148–51; for Reconstructionist Prayer Book, 133, 150–51; for SAJ, 73, 75–77; S. Schechter compared to, 70–71; for SJR, 72–73 Karp, Abraham, 154–55 Kashrut: guarantees of, 89–90; Marx on, 66; restaurants, 65–67, 89–90 Kauvar, Charles, 10; against Bennett, 158; conflict with RA, 158–59; conflict with Winer, 158; for placement network, 47–48; on Schechter’s movement, 143; transition authority of, 47–48; for United Synagogue, 58 K’lal Yisrael (unified Jewish people), 18, 162; see also Catholic Israel Klein, Max, 106 Kohn, Eugene, 62; on agunah, 129–30; on ceremonial changes, 118–19; on common attitudes, 120; on conception of God, 115; on JTS, 121–22; M. Kaplan and, 148–51, 198n16; for Palestine, 192n97; for Reconstructionism, 148–51; for Reconstructionist Prayer Book, 133, 150–51; on S. Schechter, 149–50; with United Synagogue, 77; on YPL, 94 Kohn, Jacob: background of, 28; for Conservative Judaism definition, 71; finances for, 41–42; and C. Hoffman, 41; M. Kaplan and, 73, 77; for platform, 112–13; position for, 34, 54; for prayer book, 63, 74–75; and RA, 191n64; relationships of, 41; Rubenovitz with, 73–78, 112–13, 191n61; for Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, 133; against SAJ, 75–76; on M. Schechter, 29–30; on S. Schechter, 32; on S. Schechter, meeting, 32–33; on Schechter’s movement, 144; on socializing, 42–43; for unity, 75–77; for Zionism, 67

206  •  index Kohut, Alexander, 20, 152 Kronfeld, Chana, 12 Laity, 4; in congregations, 96; disciples and, 36–38, 54, 85–86, 88, 93–99; Drob on, 96; P. Israeli, and, 97–98; Protestants and, 96–97; rabbis’ job security and, 98–99; rabbis with, 54, 96, 98–99; United Synagogue and, 54, 85–86, 96, 105; in United Synagogue conventions, 95; YPL, 93–95, 187n57; see also Women’s League Lang, Leon, 187n57 Language: English, 24, 37, 58, 94; Hebrew, 17–18, 120; Yiddish, 56, 174n127 Leeser, Isaac, 153–54 Lesbian rabbis, 163 Levinthal, Israel, 123; background of, 27; on disciples’ struggles, 33; on historical Judaism, 146–47, 197n27; M. Kaplan compared with, 149; living arrangements of, 42; relationships of, 41; for Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, 133; on salaries, 39, 40; S. Schechter, advice for, 31; on Schechter’s movement, 145–47 Levinthal, May, 27, 29 Lieberman, Saul, 160 Literary modernists, 12 Magnes, Judah, 50 Manhattan, 34 Margolies, M. Z., 79 Margolis, Elias, 59 “Marriage and the Home: A Jewish Guide for Marital Happiness,” 92–93 Marx, Alexander, 68; JTS and, 21; on kashrut, 66; on prayer book, 63–64 Matt, C. David: on disciples’ deaths, 136–37; poem of, 136–37; for prayer book, 132, 194n46 Melamed, Raphael, 172n78; positions for, 98, 188n86 Melton, J. Gordon, 4 Mendes, Henry Pereira, 22, 93; on American Jewish spectrum, 56–57; on Conservative Judaism definition, 71; on United Synagogue, 52

Mendes, Mrs., 93 Menkes, Jacob, 59 Metz, Christian, 168n15; S. Schechter compared to, 61 Micah, 196n16 Migration, 45 Mikvah, 187n52 Mixed seating: at Cleveland Jewish Center, 87, 185n11; as essential, 88; S. Goldman for, 87; H. Goldstein on, 185n11; OU on, 10, 88 Modern Orthodoxy: Agudath ha-Rabbanim and, 65, 102; in American Jewish spectrum, 56–57; with Conservative Judaism, 9, 71–72, 101–2, 108–12, 158–61; OU and, 102; S. Schechter and, 9; United Synagogue and, 12, 56–57, 72, 85, 105; see also Orthodox disciples Montefiore, Claude, 17 Montréal, 53, 136, 142 Morais, Sabato, 20, 152 Music, 36; see also Organ National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, 188n75 Organ: J. Kohn and, 34, 54; Mendes on, 56–57, 71; Rubenovitz and, 36, 54 Orthodox disciples, 69, 84; against innovations, 72; see also Goldstein, Herbert S.; Drob; Epstein; Finkelstein; Kauvar; Abramowitz Orthodox Judaism, 144; ambivalence within, 38; CJLS and, 139–41; Cleveland Jewish Center without, 86; conflict with Reform Judaism, 47; Davis on, 153; disciples to, 103; disciples within, 35–38; fervent Orthodoxy within, 9, 58; generations and, 36–38, 174n127; music in, 36; as one union, 58; RA and, 103, 109–13, 127–30, 158–59; S. Schechter, vision for implementation within, 35– 36; traditional Judaism compared to, 109–10 Orthodox Union (OU): Adler, C., and, 57; conflict with Goldman, S., 86–87; founders of, 57; H. Goldstein for, 79, 83;

index•  207 Jewish Sabbath Alliance from, 186n31; JTS and, 2–3; on kosher restaurants, 89–90; mikvah and, 187n52; on mixed seating, 10, 88; Sabbath observance and, 90–91, 186n31; United Synagogue and, 2–3, 9–11, 86–87, 89–93; Women’s Branch of, 92–93; YPL and, 94–95 Palestine, 120; Balfour Declaration, 67–68; cultural gap with, 198n42; E. Kohn for, 192n97; United Synagogue on, 67–68 Philadelphia, 48 Placement network: C. Adler and, 48; Epstein and, 46–47; Kauvar and, 47–48; Rubenovitz and, 46; from S. Schechter, 45–48 Platform, 190n28; Conservative disciples for, 104–5, 111–14, 190n42, 191n64; Drob for, 103–4, 108–9, 190n42; Gordis for, 161; C. Hoffman for, 104, 109–10, 190nn39–40, 190n42; M. Kaplan and, 114; J. Kohn for, 112–13; RA for, 107–8; Rubenovitz for, 112–13; Solomon for, 110–11; Statement of Conservative Principles as, 161; traditionalists for, 109–13, 190n42; unity from, 113–14; women rabbis and, 161; young rabbis for, 138–41 Prayer book: C. Adler for, 63; Arzt for, 133–34; Bosniak for, 132, 194n46; CCR for, 74–75; Ginzberg on, 63–64, 83; I. Goldfarb for, 132, 194n46; I. Goldman for, 132, 194n46; Gordis for, 133–34; J. Kohn for, 63, 74–75; Marx on, 63–64; Matt for, 132, 194n46; need for, 131–32; questionnaire for, 132; RA for, 132–34, 194n46, 195n60; Reconstructionist Prayer Book, 133, 150–51; Rubenovitz for, 63, 131–33, 196n41; Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, 133–34; Silverman for, 132, 134, 194n46; supplementary materials before, 131–33; United Synagogue for, 63–64, 74–75, 133–34, 195n60 Prayers and Hymns for the Synagogue, School and Home (Rubenovitz), 132 Protestants: Amana Society, 61, 168n15;

Anglican Church, 18; laity and, 96–97; religious depression and, 99 Providence, Rhode Island, 46 Rabbis: challenges for, 40; chasm between, 134; competition among, 38–39, 98; compromises of, 98–99; eulogies for, 135–36; gay, 163; job security of, 98–99; laity with, 54, 96, 98–99; lesbian, 163; power of, 37–38; salaries for, 39, 40; without S. Schechter, 133–34; selfidentification of, 10–11, 157–59, 163; treatment of, 40; women as, 160–61; young, 134, 138–41; see also Disciples; specific organizations; specific rabbis Rabbinical Assembly (RA): Agudath ha-Rabbanim compared to, 109–10; Agudath ha-Rabbanim conflict with, 128–29; on agunah, 127–31; annual meeting of, 107; as antithetical to Orthodoxy, 129; G. Cohen and, 160–61; conviction of, 129; diversity and, 162; expanded membership for, 106–7, 121; H. Goldstein and, 78–79, 183n64; C. Hoffman and, 109–10; JTS and, 43, 50–52, 160–61, 175n170; Kauvar conflict with, 158–59; Klein and, 106; Orthodox Judaism and, 103, 109–13, 127–30, 158–59; for platform, 107–8; for prayer book, 132–34, 194n46, 195n60; Reconstructionism and, 151; religious policy and, 105–6; self-definition of, 162; Solomon and, 110–11; United Synagogue and, 1–7, 11–12, 50–52, 107, 159; on unity, 107–8; on women and Torah, 160; on women in minyan, 160; on women rabbis, 160–61; Women’s League resolutions to, 125–26; see also Platform Reconstructionism: with Conservative Judaism, 13, 151; historical Judaism and, 148–49; M. Kaplan for, 77, 148–51; E. Kohn for, 148–51; RA and, 151 Reconstructionist Prayer Book, 133, 150–51 Reform Judaism, 24; C. Adler and, 59; in American Jewish spectrum, 57; boundary with Conservative, 34–35,

208  •  index 40, 59, 175n150; Conservative Judaism related to, 2, 9, 108–9; Davis on, 153; disciples with, 34–35, 40, 175n150; Orthodox Judaism against, 47; Radical Reform, 57; S. Schechter on, 58; S. Schechter, vision implementation with, 34–35; traditional Judaism with, 34–35, 102–3, 144, 189n2; United Synagogue and, 58–59, 102–3; against Zionism, 67 Religious depression, 85–86, 99 Religious movements: Amana Society, 61, 168n15; Anglican Church, 18; authority in, 48; Christian Gnostic, 48; Conservative Judaism compared to, 4–5; Hare Krishna, 48; migration for, 45; Spiritual Frontiers Movement, 48; subculture-evolution model of, 6; transition authority for, 60; see also Schechter’s movement Revel, Bernard, 128 Rochester, New York, 38 Routinization (Veralltäglichung), 6–7 Rubenovitz, Herman: Adler conflict with, 147, 197n30; agunah and, 124–25; background of, 27; compromises and, 36–37, 174n127; for Conservative Judaism definition, 71; for decorum, 36; devotion of, 34; diversity for United Synagogue, 54; on fervent Orthodoxy, 35–36; finances, 41; Finkelstein and, 197n30; C. Hoffman with, 49–51; on isolation, 39; J. Kohn with, 73–78, 112– 13, 191n61; on laity, 54; for placement network, 46; for platform, 112–13; for prayer book, 63, 131–33, 196n41; on principles, 65, 180n118; on relationships, 41; for SAJ, 76; S. Schechter, support for, 31, 33, 34; on S. Schechter, fatherliness, 30; on Schechters’ home, 29; transition authority of, 46; for United Synagogue, 49–50, 76; Yom Kippur selections from, 132, 194n41; on young rabbis, 134 Sabbath: driving on, 139–40, 157; electricity on, 140, 157; observance of, 90–91, 139–40, 157, 186n31 Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book, 133–34

SAJ, see Society for the Advancement of Judaism Sarna, Jonathan, 156, 167n3, 194n36 Schechter, Mathilde: home of, 29–30; leadership of, 54, 93; for union, 93 Schechter, Solomon: C. Adler and, 52, 60; aloofness of, 25–26; Anglican Church and, 18; appearance of, 25–26; authority and, 5, 19; baseball and, 32; on British Jewry, 19; on British politics, 18; Catholic Israel and, 18–19, 144; Catholic Israel from, 18–19, 44, 52–53, 62–63; charisma of, 5, 16, 23–33; charismatic bond with, 26–33; childhood of, 16–17; death of, 60–62; for decorum, 24; disciples following after, 60–62; Drob and, 80, 109, 141; education of, 16–17; fatherliness of, 30; fervent Orthodoxy and, 9; Frankel over, 138, 152; generosity of, 30; genizah and, 17–18; historical Judaism and, 144, 147–48; historical school and, 148, 154; C. Hoffman and, 15, 136; home of, 28–29; implementation of vision of, 33–40; on Jewish law, 19; JTS and, 2–3, 15, 19–20; M. Kaplan compared to, 70–71; E. Kohn on, 149–50; J. Kohn, meeting with, 32–33; J., Kohn on, 32; I. Levinthal and, 31; marginalization of, 14, 45, 138, 152–54; Metz compared to, 61; modern Orthodoxy and, 9; Montefiore and, 17; personal relationships and, 6–7, 16; placement network from, 45–48; rabbis without, 133–34; on Reform Judaism, 58; Solomon and, 110–11; subcultureevolution model related to, 6; as teacher, 31–33; for United Synagogue, 8, 51–53, 168n15; for unity, 3, 18–19, 24–25, 69; vacations for, 43; vision of, 5–6, 8, 16, 33–40, 44, 49, 62, 99–100, 102; wife of, 25–26, 29–30; Wissenschaft and, 17, 146; for Zionism, 67; see also Schechter, Mathilde Schechter’s movement: Abramowitz on, 142–43; disciples on, 141–48; Drob on, 141–42; Epstein on, 148; Kauvar on, 143; J. Kohn on, 144; I. Levinthal on, 145–47; Solomon on, 145

index•  209 Schechter’s Seminary, see Jewish Theological Seminary of America Self-definition: of JTS, 162; of RA, 162; of United Synagogue, 162–63; see also Platform Self-identification: with Conservative Judaism, 157–59; of disciples, 7–8; Gurock on, 157–58, 163; of rabbis, 10–11, 157–59, 163; with United Synagogue, 10–11 Seminary Alumni Association, see Rabbinical Assembly Sermons, English, 103; Egelson and, 37; Mendes and, 56; S. Schechter and, 24; YPL and, 94 Shaar Hashomayim (Montréal), 53 Shapiro, Alexander, 161 Shuchat, Wilfred, 142 Silverman, Morris, 194n41; for prayer book, 132, 134, 194n46 Sioux City, Iowa, 47–48 SJR, see Society of the Jewish Renascence Sklare, Marshall, theory of, 4, 168n4 Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ): M. Kaplan disciples with, 75–77; M. Kaplan for, 73, 75–77; J. Kohn conflict with, 75–76; Rabbinical Council of, 77; Rubenovitz for, 76; without United Synagogue, 73 Society of the Jewish Renascence (SJR), 72–73 Solomon, Elias, 10, 178n60, 186n18; background of, 110; on C. Hoffman, 136; for Jewish Sabbath Alliance, 90–91; for platform, 110–11; positions for, 98, 188n86; RA and, 110–11; Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book and, 133; for S. Schechter, 110–11; on Schechter’s movement, 145; for unity, 88, 110–11, 145 Spektor, Isaac Elchanan, 118 Spiritual Frontiers Movement, 48 Stark, Rodney, 6 Statement of Conservative Principles (Emet Ve-Emunah), 161 Studies in Judaism (S. Schechter), 17–18 Symbols and Ceremonies of the Jewish Home, 92–93 Synagogue centers, 157

Szold, Henrietta, 25–26, 172n67 Tchernowitz, Chaim, 117 Temple Beth El (Buffalo), 53 “The Things That Unite Us” (Finkelstein), 12–13; ceremonial changes as, 117–19; differentiation or, 115, 117, 119–20; God as, 115–16; Hebrew language as, 120; historical Judaism as, 116–17; intention as, 122; JTS as, 121–22; Palestine as, 120; Schechter as, 121–22; as summary, 114–15 The Three Pillars: Thought, Worship and Practice for the Jewish Woman, 92 Toledo, Ohio, 38 Torah, women reading, 73, 158, 160 Toronto, Ontario, 46 Traditionalists, 161; CJLS and, 139–40; Goldstein, H., and, 78; for platform, 109–13, 190n42; United Synagogue and, 72, 75–76, 78 Traditional Judaism, 82–83, 89–91; Abramowitz for, 142–43; definition of, 109; English and, 24, 58, 103; modern education and, 24; Orthodox Judaism compared to, 109–10; with Reform Judaism, 34–35, 102–3, 144, 189n2; see also specific organizations; specific rabbis Transition authority: diversity institutionalization for, 60–61; Epstein and, 46–47; group consciousness in, 61; Kauvar and, 47–48; need for, 44–45; for religious movements, 60; of Rubenovitz, 46; after S. Schechter death, 60–61; structure for, 60–61 Union for Traditional Conservative Judaism (Union for Traditional Judaism), 161 Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 62 Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, see Orthodox Union Union of Orthodox Rabbis, see Agudath ha-Rabbanim United Synagogue of America (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism) (United Synagogue): activities of, 53; C. Adler for, 50; affiliation with, 53,

210  •  index 55, 57–58, 62, 178n60; Agudath haRabbanim and, 11–12, 58, 64–67, 85; aims of, 55; Amana Society compared to, 61; as antithetical to Orthodoxy, 23, 78, 82, 86–88; for Catholic Israel, 3, 8, 13, 44, 51–52, 55, 58, 62–63, 101; CCAR with, 59; CCR and, 73; charter congregations of, 53, 178n64; Cleveland Jewish Center with, 88; compromises for, 65, 66–68, 83; as Conservative, 52; control of, 54–55; conventions of, 95; diversity within, 53–54, 59–60; English and, 58; fervent Orthodox and, 58; founding of, 49–50; S. Goldman with, 76; H. Goldstein conflict with, 83; group consciousness for, 8, 44–45, 62–68; Hoffman for, 49–51; incorporation of, 179n96; as institutionalized diversity, 8, 62–63; Jewish law interpretation and, 64–65, 180nn113–14; with JTS, 51–52, 59; Kadushin and, 76–77; Kauvar for, 58; E. Kohn with, 77; on kosher restaurants, 65–67, 89–90; laity and, 54, 85–86, 96, 105; marginalization of, 85, 99–100; H. P. Mendes on, 52; mikvah and, 187n52; modern Orthodoxy and, 12, 56–57, 72, 85, 105; name of, 52–53; OU and, 2–3, 9–11, 86–87, 89–93; prayer book for, 63–64, 74–75, 133–34, 195n60; RA and, 1–7, 11–12, 50–52, 107, 159; rabbis’ self-identification with, 10–11; Reform Judaism and, 58–59, 102–3; rejection of, 11; Rubenovitz for, 49–50, 76; Russian Orthodoxy compared to, 56; for Sabbath observance, 90–91; SAJ without, 73; S. Schechter for, 8, 51–53, 168n15; S. Schechter vision in, 8, 44, 49, 99–100, 102; self-definition of, 162–63; self-identification with, 10–11; as third movement, 50–51, 84; traditionalists and, 72, 75–76, 78; for traditional practices, 82–83; unity of, 72, 76, 84–85, 101, 103–4; unorthodox practices and, 72; YPL from, 93–95, 187n57; on Zionism, 67–68 United Synagogue Recorder, 92, 107, 112, 116, 135

Universal Synagogue, 19 Veralltäglichung (routinization), 6–7 Washington, DC, 37–38 Washington Heights, 53 Waxman, Mordecai: against Catholic Israel, 152–53; for Frankel, 152–53; for historical school, 152–53; on Jewish law interpretation, 153 Weber, Max: on charisma, 5, 23; on validation, 6 Winer, Gershon, 158 Winnipeg, Manitoba, 46 Wise, Isaac Mayer, 20 Wissenschaft des Judentums (scientific study of Judaism) (Wissenschaft), 2; for JTS, 20–21; for S. Schechter, 17, 146 Women, 97, 126; Ezrat Nashim, 160; mikvah for, 187n52; in minyan, 160; as rabbis, 160–61; Russian Orthodoxy and, 56; M. Schechter, 29–30, 54, 93; Torah and, 73, 158, 160; see also Agunah, Women’s Branch, Women’s League Women’s Branch, 92–93 Women’s League: agunah and, 125–26; aims of, 91–92; early members of, 91; membership in, 95; publications of, 92; to RA, 125–26; M. Schechter, for, 92–93; for synagogue attendance, 92; for unity, 93 Yiddish, 56, 174n127 Yom Kippur, 80–81, 132, 194n41 Young Israel, 95 Young People’s League (YPL), 93, 187n57; disciples with, 94; E. Kohn, on, 94; OU and, 94–95; publications of, 95; for unity, 94–95 Zerubavel, Yael, 198n42 Zionism, 120; C. Adler and, 67–68; Balfour Declaration and, 67–68; Friedlaender for, 68; Reform Judaism against, 67; S. Schechter for, 67; United Synagogue on, 55, 67–68