Rabbi Jacobs shares his thoughts, in this video (shot on two separate days), on the Masorti movement in England – its history, its ideology, and its goals.
He starts his account with the establishment of the New London and New North London Synagogues, founded in the aftermath of the Jacobs Affair as traditional, English Orthodox communities, independent from the United Synagogue. Their first members adopted a liberal stance regarding matters of belief, and felt free to examine important questions regarding religious observance, including such matters as biblical criticism. A breakaway in the Reform community in Edgeware soon led to the establishment of a new synagogue which opted for the label ‘Masorti’ – to stress its conservative approach to observance while clearly remaining distinct from Orthodoxy. In time, the same name was also adopted by the New London and New North London communities, and the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues was formed.
Louis Jacobs also offers some reflections on the similarities and differences between the Conservative movement in the United States, and the Masorti movement in Israel and in England. He does not consider himself the founder of Masorti in England – indicating that the credit should go to Jaclyn Chernett and that his own contribution to the growth of the movement was not necessarily voluntary.
He goes on to define Masorti ideology as a ‘middle-of-the-way road’, involving a strong commitment to religious belief and observance, combined with a pragmatic, non-fundamentalist approach to tradition. He describes the Masorti approach to a variety of themes, including Creation and Revelation, and the ways it differs from the consensus among Orthodox affiliates. He also identifies a number of characteristics unique to the communal life and religious observance of Masorti Jews, touching on the issues of homosexuality, institutional autonomy and conformity, cross-denominational dialogue, outreach, and more. Ultimately, Rabbi Jacobs develops on his understanding of Judaism as a quest – to subject Jewish beliefs to ruthless examination, and at the same time, preserve their relevance in modern times.