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The Rabbinical Assembly (RA) is the international association of Conservative rabbis. The RA was founded in 1901 to shape the ideology, programs, and practices of the Conservative movement. It publishes prayerbooks and books of Jewish interest, and oversees the work of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards for the Conservative movement. It organizes conferences and coordinates the Joint Placement Commission of the Conservative movement. Members of the RA serve as rabbis, educators, community workers and military and hospital chaplains around the world.

Rabbinical graduates from Jewish Theological Seminarymarker, the American Jewish Universitymarker (California) and The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies (Jerusalemmarker, Israelmarker) are automatically members of the RA; Rabbis whose ordination is from other seminaries and Yeshivas are also admitted.

The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) is the movement's central body on interpreting Jewish law and custom; it was founded by the Rabbinical Assembly in the 1920s. It is composed of 25 Rabbis, who are voting members, and five laypeople, who do not vote but participate fully in deliberations. When any six (or more) members vote in favor of a position, that position becomes an official position of the Rabbinical Assembly. When more than one position is validated, each congregational Rabbi functions as the mara de-atra (מרא דאתרא, lit. "master of the house" in Aramaic, the mara de-atra serves as the local authority in Jewish law), adopting for their congregation the position he or she considers most compelling.

The Rabbinical Assembly of Israel (Israeli arm of the RA) has its own decision making body, the Va'ad Halacha. Responsa by both the CJLS and the Va'ad Halacha are equally valid, although the Va'ad's emphasis is on issues pertaining to Israeli society. The CJLS and the Va'ad do not always come up with the same answer to a question. In such cases a rabbi is free to decide which responsa to adopt.

The RA publishes books, prayer books, and the quarterly journal "Conservative Judaism".

RA members converse online via Ravnet and in person at the RA conventions.

In October 2008, Julie Schonfeld was named Wednesday as the new executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, making her the first female rabbi to serve in the chief executive position of an American rabbinical association.


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  2. R.A.'s choice of female rabbi makes history, Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), October 30, 2008.

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