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Solomon Shechter kicks off the United Synagogue of America, 1913

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

On This Day in Jewish History: February 23, 1913

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On this day, 1913, Soloman Schechter established the United Synagogue of America. Schechter was a pivotal figure in developing the Jewish Conservative movement across North America. He was a Talmudic scholar and had extensive travel experience through his education that focused on researching the history of Judaism and Jewish cultures. Creating a form of governing unity from community was a leading factor to the establishment of this organization. The United Synagogue of America organization, that Schechter created, eventually grew from 23 into over 800 congregations that drew families together practicing conservative Judaism. The view of Judaism as more than religion, but a way of life and daily culture, was what Schechter saw as the means for organizing a unifying body of the conservative movement. This organization has become a pillar for Jewish education, leading the way for the publication of textbooks, ideas, and curriculum regarding Judaism and Jewish life. With its greater than 100 year existence, the United Synagogue of America organization has also been a powerhouse of human rights advocacy and awareness to global issues beyond American Jewish conservatism. Although Dr. Schechter only lived for two more years after creating this organization and movement, it has continued to grow extensively. Dr. Schechter’s background in education has paved the way for a motive of the United Synagogue of America to focus Jewish learning at its core. Since inception in 1913, its Youth Department and programming has continued to evolve and thrive. Having total commitment to Jewish education with youth and adolescence has built American Jewish love for Israel and Jewish life in the USA that creates a sense of loyalty and unity. Pilgrimages to Israel, meal prepping for the poor, and athletics are all examples of the oversight the United Synagogue of America’s Youth Departments have had over the years. The Department of Education has also critically developed learning material for Jews across America and ties into what the youth divisions receive. Observing Shabbat has been important to this development since 1913. The Jewish conservative movement relies on Orthodox traditions and teachings to daily life and observing Shabbat continues to be viewed as an integral component. The United Synagogue of America has placed emphasis on Jewish life through temple attendance and participation; attending Shabbat services are an example. Zionism and the Zionist dedication to Israel as the Jewish homeland has also been crucial for Jewish life and what the organization promotes at synagogue and at home. United Synagogue of America has also recognized that Jewish issues are world issues. It is for this reason that it values diversity, inclusion and participation of Jews on a global scale.

Sources:

Jewish Virtual Library: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-united-synagogue-for-conservative-judaism Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Solomon-Schechter#ref141093 J. Weekly: https://www.jweekly.com/2013/06/21/sadly-conservative-judaisms-lead-ship-is-sinking-fast/#:~:text=In%20February%201913%2C%20Rabbi%20Solomon%20Schechter%20founded%20the,America%20and%20strengthen%20the%20conservative%20tendency%20in%20Israel.%E2%80%9D

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