Jewish Theological Seminary of America

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The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

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Motto V' Hasneh Ainenu Ukal ("And the Bush was not consumed") -Exodus 3:2
Established 1886
School type Private
Chancellor Rabbi Ismar Schorsch
Location New York City, New York, USA
Campus Urban
Homepage www.jtsa.edu


The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, known in the Jewish community simply as JTS, is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism, and is the movement's main rabbinical seminary. It takes it name and basic ideology from the no longer extant Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau.

The Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau

Rabbi Zecharias Frankel (1801-1875) at one time was in the traditional wing of the nascent Reform Judaism movement. After the second Reform rabbinic conference (1845, Frankfurt, Germany) he resigned after coming to believe that their positions were exceedingly radical. In 1854 he became the head of a new rabbinical school, the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau. In his magnum opus Darkhei HaMishnah (Ways of the Mishnah) Rabbi Frankel amassed scholarly support which showed that Jewish law was not static, but rather had always developed in response to changing conditions. He called his approach towards Judaism 'Positive-Historical', which meant that one should accept Jewish law and tradition as normative, yet one must be open to changing and developing the law in the same historical fashion that Judaism has always historically developed.

Positive-Historical Judaism in America

About this time in America, Rabbi Sabato Morais championed the conservative reaction to American Reform. At one time Rabbi Morais had been a voice for moderation within the coalition of Reformers. He had opposed the more radical changes, but was open to moderate changes that would not offend traditional sensibilities. After the Reform movement published the Pittsburgh Platform, Rabbi Morais recognized the futility of his efforts and began the creation of a new rabbinical school in New York City. He was soon joined by Rabbi Alexander Kohut and Rabbi Bernard Drachman, both of whom had received smicha (rabbinic ordination) at Rabbi Frankel's Breslau seminary. They shaped the curriculum and philosophy of the new school after Rabbi Frankel's seminary.

In 1902, Professor Solomon Schechter assumed presidency of JTS. In a series of papers he articulated an ideology for the movement. In 1913 he presided over the creation of the United Synagogue of America. (The name was changed in 1991 to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.)

Prominent at the seminary were such luminaries as Saul Lieberman, Alexander Marx, and others as well.

David Weiss HaLivni, now one of the heads of the Department of Judaic Studies at Columbia University was once at JTS. He left in the 1970s in response to the JTS decision to ordain women as rabbis.

See also: Conservative Judaism -- Rabbinical Assembly -- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

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