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Masortim (Hebrew: מסורתיים, lit. "Traditional [people]", also known as Shomrei Masoret, שומרי מסורת, "upholders of tradition") is an Israeli term of self-definition, describing the Israeli Jews who perceive and define themselves as neither strictly religious (Dati) nor secular (Hiloni).
Masortim observe a number of minhagim and several basic religious commandments that are the most recognizable symbols of the Jewish tradition. In doing so, they seek to express their affinity to the Jewish people and especially their will to continue their families' religious customs and traditions, as they maintain that there is a need to preserve the traditional values and customs, in order to guard the continuity of the existence of the Jewish people.
Masortim are distinct from Conservative Judaism, which is sometimes called Masorti Judaism.
The majority of Shomrei Masoret are Mizrahi Jews, i.e. those of oriental origin (i.e. Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa). The exact number of the Masortim is hard to determine, since it is based upon the self-definition of the participants in surveys. However, according to Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, as of 2006, 39% of the Jewish population within Israel define themselves as Masortim. Pew Research Center estimates the masorti at 29% of Jews in Israel (or 23% of all Israeli adults).
Shomrei Masoret perceive the preservation of the Jewish tradition, minhagim, and family customs, as an educational and a family value.
The tradition, minhagim, and family customs is also relevant in terms of the Jewish denomination of origin affiliation, and thus the percentage of Shomrei Masoret is especially high among the Mizrahi denomination of origin affiliation. Many of them (and their offspring) define themselves as Shomer Masoret (or Masorati), even if some or part of their lifestyle's customs are generally accounted as secular (Hiloni), still, they pay heed to preserving and keeping the Jewish Tradition heritage as it was observed in their or their parents' country of origin. In that conjunction, one should mention the political party of Shas (a religious-Orthodox Mizrahi-denomination political party), who raised the banner of "להחזיר עטרה ליושנה" (Restore Past Glory), a slogan that swept many non-religious-Orthodox Mizrahi-denomination voters, who, nevertheless, see the importance of preserving their Jewish Tradition denomination.
One may not find many Ashkenazi (European origin) Israelis defining themselves as Shomer Masoret (or Masorati). This is because, among other reasons, the dichotomy that was created after the Age of Enlightenment, between Secular, Reform and Orthodox European Jews, was a dichotomy that did not exist among the Middle Eastern Jews.
Masortim are not a denomination of Judaism but rather a sociological group that exists only in Israel, and their attitude towards the religious observance has much do with one's personal preferences and tendencies, and in the context of their desire to see themselves as part of the comprehensive Jewish religious system, without being obligated to full observance of the religious commandments (613 Mitzvot). Every Masorti has his/her own level of observance, which depends only on one's own free will and one's personal selection of what is perceived by him/her as a relevant religious commandment, tradition or custom of Orthodox Judaism.
Nevertheless, one may ascribe to the majority of them, a notable distinguishing quality – the preservation of the basic Jewish traditional minhagim, that are accounted as the most recognizable elements of Orthodox Judaism:
- Kashrut observance – Many Masortim give heed not to eat pork, shellfish, or any other non-Kosher food, and observe the separation of Milk and meat kitchen activities and dishes.
- Kiddush Shabbat – a weekly family dinner on the eve of every Shabbat, and sanctification (Kiddush) of the entering day of Shabat, over a Kiddush-cup of wine.
- Mezuzah – affixing a Mezuzah at the house's front door.
- Attending their synagogues on Shabbat and on the most recognizable Jewish festivals (such as: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur etc.), on regular basis. Some even wear the Tefillin every morning.
- Following Orthodox traditions and maintaining an Orthodox atmosphere on family events, such as weddings, Bar Mitzva, and Brit milah.
- Usually, the male does not wear a kippah/yarmulke (Only on Shabbat and Jewish festivals), and thus does not appear observant-religious. Some keep a yarmulke within their pocket or in their car, instead of wearing it, as to be ready for any event or time that the Shabbat or a Jewish festival has come and thus is time for them to pull out the yarmulke and start observing, or so they will be ready to go to the synagogue at any given time, as well as attend a wedding or any other event with a religious aspect in it.
- Guttman, Nathan (9 March 2016). "Pew Report: Meet the Masorti, Israel's 'Traditional' Tribe". The Forward. New York City: Rachel Fishman Feddersen.
- Yaacov Yadgar: Judaism, Israeli Forms of. In: Judith Reesa Baskin (editor): The Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2011, ISBN 978-0-521-82597-9, S. 342.
- "Israel's Religiously Divided Society". Pew Research Center. 8 March 2016.
- Prof. Yaacov Yadgar, Jewish Secularism and Ethno-National Identity in Israel: The Traditionist Critique, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 26, No. 3, October 2011, pp. 467–481.
- Charles S. Liebman, Yaacov Yadgar, Beyond the Religious-Secular Dichotomy: Masortim in Israel, in: Zvi Gitelman, Religion or Ethnicity? Jewish Identities in Evolution, Rutgers University Press, 2009, pp. 171-192.
- Nissim Leon, The Secular Origins of Mizrahi Traditionalism, Israel Studies, Volume 13, Number 3, Fall 2008, pp. 22-42.