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This unprecedented decision, which emerged from the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the Conservative movement, allowing Jews to drive to synagogue (shul) on the Sabbath if they lived too far to walk, made untenable any claim that both camps adhered to the same principles of defining halacha.
However, because the OU had no means of enforcing specific religious standards upon its member synagogues, some of them took down the mechitza (separating barrier) between the men's and women's sections during prayer services, while still calling themselves Orthodox and maintaining their membership in the OU.
While not holding strictly to traditional Orthodox interpretations of Jewish law, Conservative synagogues still maintained much of the "look and feel" of the Orthodox synagogue, but did away with the strict gender separation during prayer services which was observed in Orthodox synagogues as a religious obligation.
The USCJ actively competed with the OU for synagogue members and succeeded in recruiting many formerly Orthodox congregations, especially during the post-World War II years, when many of those congregations moved away from inner-city Jewish neighborhoods into the newly established suburban Jewish communities.
The Union of Orthodox Rabbis was the most powerful rabbinical body at that time and many of its members saw great value in establishing the early Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
Originally, the OU was formed by the same rabbis who created JTS, the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Cracks between the OU and JTS first formed in 1902, shortly after Solomon Schechter's recruitment from Great Britain to head JTS.
Schechter "liberalized" the institution and its approach to Torah study.
During the early decades of its existence, the Orthodox Union was closely associated with and was a supporter of the development of Yeshiva University into a major Jewish educational institution producing English-speaking, university-trained American rabbis for the pulpits of OU synagogues.
Its circled-U symbol, Ⓤ, a hechsher mark, is found on the labels of many kosher commercial and consumer food products.