Conservative Judaism is predominantly centered in the United States. Inspired by Zacharias Frankel in the 1800s, it was expanded in 1902 in New York by a Jewish Talmudic scholar, Solomon Schecter. In 1913, Schecter founded the United Synagogue of America, which eventually grew to over 800 Conservative congregations.
Conservative Judaism believes in observing traditional Jewish laws, sacred texts, and beliefs and being open to modern culture and critical secular scholarship, which allows for changes in practices.
The theology of the Conservative movement is midway between Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism, with Orthodox being the strict element and Reform the more liberal. For instance, in 1985 the Rabbinical Assembly, an organization of Conservative rabbis in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Israel, founded in 1900, voted to allow the admittance of women as rabbis for the first time, something Orthodox Judaism has yet to do.
Many Conservatives stress Jewish nationalism, encourage the study of Hebrew, and support the secular Zionist movement, which emphasizes the importance of the Jewish national homeland and supports the development of Israel. In spite of the differences among the affiliations, the Conservatives have maintained continuity with tradition, which often makes it difficult to differentiate one theology from another. The Conservatives like diversity, which is why their views and practices range from Orthodoxy to Reform.
A Forward Movement
In 1960, the leadership of Conservative Jews agreed to allow the use of electricity on the Sabbath and a car to travel to the synagogue. This decision was a major step forward in the direction of modern thought for Conservative Jews.
Conservative Jews maintain their links with the past by insisting on the sacredness of the Sabbath and respecting some dietary laws, like the prohibition against eating pork. However, they do not require a strict kosher kitchen. The rabbinical assembly, Conservative Judaism's official body, is located in New York City at the Jewish theological seminary, which educates future rabbis for the movement.