A major Conservative movement leader of our time, Elliot N. Dorff provides a personal, behind-the-scenes guide to the evolution of Conservative Jewish thought and practice over the last half century. His candid observations concerning the movement’s ongoing tension between constancy and change shed light on the sometimes unified, sometimes diverse, and occasionally contentious reasoning behind the modern movement’s most important laws, policies, and documents. Meanwhile, he has assembled, excerpted, and contextualized the most important historical and internal documents in modern Conservative movement history for the first time in one place, enabling readers to consider and compare them all in context.
In “Part 1: God” Dorff explores various ways that Conservative Jews think about God and prayer. In “Part 2: Torah” he considers different approaches to Jewish study, law, and practice; changing women’s roles; bioethical rulings on issues ranging from contraception to cloning; business ethics; ritual observances from online minyanim to sports on Shabbat; moral issues from capital punishment to protecting the poor; and nonmarital sex to same-sex marriage. In “Part 3: Israel” he examines Zionism, the People Israel, and rabbinic rulings in Israel.
About the Author
Elliot N. Dorff is rector and Sol and Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the American Jewish University and visiting professor at UCLA School of Law. He was an editor of the official Conservative statement of principles Emet Ve-Emunah and coeditor of the Conservative commentary Etz Hayim. He is author of twelve books, four published by JPS, including To Do the Right and the Good: A Jewish Approach to Modern Social Ethics (2002), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
"This volume forms part of a valuable service provided by The Jewish Publication Society in publishing separate volumes on each of the movements, collections of documents which reveal the history and thought of each movement from past to present."—Religious Studies Review
"Modern Conservative Judaism deserves to be described as [Elliot] Dorff's magnum opus."—Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal
"Modern Conservative Judaism offers the background needed to understand and negotiate this process. It serves as a valuable tool for sharing the relevancy and authenticity of Conservative Jewry with the next generation."—Jonathan Fass, Jewish Book Council
“Rabbi Elliot Dorff is a master teacher. The spiritual depth and intellectual richness of the Conservative movement are evident throughout his wonderfully clear guide to Conservative Judaism’s thought and practice. The volume will be welcomed by congregants, rabbis, and students alike.”—Arnold Eisen, chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary
“Anyone interested in what Conservative rabbis and scholars believe and how Conservative Judaism differs from Orthodoxy and Reform will find no better sourcebook than this passionate work by one of the movement’s foremost scholars and thinkers. An invaluable collection of documents concerning beliefs, rulings, and responsa.”—Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History
“As a magisterial scholar of Jewish law and philosophy who possesses an unparalleled ability to write in a balanced and clear manner, Rabbi Elliot Dorff has produced a comprehensive book on Conservative Judaism that he alone could write. The documents and explanations he offers permit the pluralism as well as the distinctive legal-historical-religious character of the Conservative Movement to shine forth. All who seek a comprehensive and detailed knowledge of the movement and its evolution and postures will find themselves richly rewarded by this work. Modern Conservative Judaism is required reading for scholars and laypersons alike, and all students of American Judaism and American religion will delight in its pages!”—Rabbi David Ellenson, director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University and chancellor emeritus and former president of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion
“I cannot think of another work that provides such a detailed survey of historical and internal documents relating to the history of Conservative Judaism, let alone with this level of firsthand insight into the interior thought processes of the movement’s most important authors and thinkers. The author’s appreciation of the importance of the documents cited and his talent at abridging them thoughtfully and well will make them accessible even to readers to whom they are entirely new. The worth of Modern Conservative Judaism will be obvious to any student of modern Jewish history.”—Rabbi Martin S. Cohen, senior editor of The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews
“Conservative Judaism continues to remain a mystery even to many of its adherents, in part because it is a complex movement, with sophisticated underlying principles. Modern Conservative Judaism is therefore a very significant contribution to helping make the Conservative Movement widely understood. With a multitude of original materials, encompassing earlier debates within the movement through current ‘hot topics,’ and Rabbi Dorff’s illuminating introductions, members of Conservative congregations will find the book enlightening—helping them to more fully appreciate the ideas, approach, and practices of their Jewish home.”—Rabbi Wayne Franklin, senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Providence, Rhode Island