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December 7: The Father of Conservative Judaism

December 7, 2015
ratner_02Solomon Schechter, the Jewish scholar and educator who served as architect of the Conservative denomination of Judaism, was born to a Lubavitcher family in Romania on this date in 1847. Schechter became internationally known in 1896 for discovering and bringing to London more than 100,000 pages of rare manuscripts from the Cairo genizah. Invited from London to the U.S. to head the Jewish Theological Seminary, he recruited the most outstanding Jewish scholars of his day to join him there, including Louis Ginsberg, Alexander Marx, Israel Friedlander, and Mordecai Kaplan. During his tenure at JTS, 1902 to 1915, he also founded the United Synagogue of America, umbrella organization for Conservative shuls. Today’s network of several dozen Conservative Jewish day schools are named for him. Schechter was a staunch traditionalist but had a flexible view of Jewish law as evolving in service to human society. “The real authorities are those who draw their inspiration from the past, also understand how to reconcile with the present and prepare us for the future.” —Solomon Schechter