Facts You Might Not Know About Masorti
by Rabbi Alan Silverstein
- Masorti is the name of the Conservative movement in Israel. It stands for religious pluralism and democratic values in an egalitarian Judaism.
- Masorti is dominated at its grassroots by sabras as well as
by olim – immigrants – from Latin America, the former Soviet
Union, and Muslim lands, unified via the Hebrew language.
- Masorti of 2012 is young and getting younger all the time.
Its kehillot abound with kindergartens and nurseries filled
to capacity, with 600 bnai mitzvah ceremonies annually,
with almost 2,000 members of Noam, the nationwide youth
movement, and with 500 summer campers at Ramah/Noam.
- Over the last few years, Masorti has grown from less
than 50 to 63 kehillot, springing to life in such towns as
Tzur Yitzhak, Holon, and Petach Tikvah.
- Israelis are becoming increasingly aware of Masorti. An
Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey released in January shows
that 30 percent of Israelis have attended services at a Conservative
or Reform congregation. Yizhar Hess, the movement’s
chief executive, frequently is invited to write op-eds in the
Israeli press and is interviewed on radio and television. The
movement and its leaders are gaining influence within the
Knesset, as well.
- The rabbis in Masorti communities are dynamos. Veterans
such as Mauricio Balter and Roberto Arbib have been
joined by a new generation of young and passionate colleagues
including Elisha Wolfin, Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, Chaya Rowen
Baker, Gustavo Surazki, Yoav Ende, Dubi Hayun, and Jeff
- Once you leave Jerusalem, openness to Masorti increases
dramatically. For example, in Kfar Vradim, a new building
for our Masorti kehilla came into being because of strong
support from the secular mayor and his colleagues. In Beersheva,
the municipality has designated land for a second Masorti
kindergarten in a developing part of the city.
- Masorti’s kehillot include thousands of dues-paying members.
Under rabbinic guidance, the members of these kehillot
reach out to the community at large through nurseries and
kindergartens, Noam, life-cycle ceremonies, absorption of olim,
assistance to those below the poverty line, advocacy of ecological
concerns, outreach to Israeli Arab communities, and the provision
of special needs bar/bat mitzvah training and ceremonies.
Masorti touches more than 75,000 Israelis annually. Impressively,
the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute survey reveals that nearly
500,000 Israelis self-identify as Masorti or Reform.
- Vaani T’fillati, the Masorti Shabbat and weekday siddur,
which is published by Israel’s largest publishing house, has
been a best-seller. A Masorti machzor is being prepared. These
egalitarian liturgical reflections of Israeli life offer prayers for
Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Yom HaZikaron, entering the IDF, and other
- Masorti is central to the spectrum of Israeli Judaism, offering
the only regular egalitarian Shabbat morning minyanim.
Masorti also offers a halachic approach that is both flexible and
traditional, addressing issues such as the religious permissibility
of visiting the Temple Mount, of trading land for peace,
of women serving in the IDF, and so on.
- The Israeli public is ever more receptive to our message.
In the most recent poll, 63 percent support official recognition
for both Masorti and Reform. A growing number of secular
Israelis indicate that they are “open to” encountering aspects of
the Jewish tradition within their lives in a “noncoercive” manner.
These are code words for Masorti, Reform, and the liberal
elements of modern Orthodoxy.
As the evaluators of the Avi Chai/Guttman Institute poll
conclude: “The results of the survey are evidence that Israeli Jews
are committed to two significant values: preserving Jewish tradition
on the one hand, and upholding individual freedom of
choice on the other.” In sum, the fact is that Masorti Judaism.
Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD, is the chair of the board of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel and the spiritual leader of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, New Jersey.