I've been reading blogs about Judaism and peoples' general labels for themselves/labels others have given them re their observance level and what should be practiced versus what is. Therefore, I had some questions in regards to it so I can better determine where my MC falls on the spectrum and philosophy/reasons behind why some things are observed and some not versus what's actually practiced and how stringently. Anyone who can provide first-hand insight and clarification will have my appreciation (and maybe some Internet cookies!)
Background: New York, early 1990s-mid 2000s. MC comes from a family that becomes more on the observant end of things after his mother's second marriage. I've been debating between making him either strict Conservative or liberal MO until he leaves religion in college, but I have questions on how some things work after reading some blogs. Please bear in mind this is based on what I read, and if anything is wrong, please correct me (nicely).
Research: Lots of MO and 'Conservadox' blogs (I'm putting the latter in quotes because I know not everyone likes/agrees with that label), Google, Wikipedia, with the specific terms 'shomer negiah', 'how strictly do people keep shomer negiah,' 'Conservadox keeping kosher,' 'kosher entertainment', basics on kol isha and how it applies in practical terms, 'liberal Modern Orthodox versus Conservative/Conservadox Judasim'.
1. From what I can infer, the main difference between stricter Conservative (what some people call 'Conservadox' for better or worse) and liberal-MO seems to be level of kosher, partitions in the synagogue/shul, keeping shomer negiah, and so on. Like, with 'Conservadox,' people don't have mixed seating but there's no partition, women may not cover their heads all the time outside of prayer and wear (clearly made for women) pants, kosher is kept at home and Sabbath is observed but in a more lax way (they might watch TV, for example), and may eat vegetarian and dairy out. Wine in a Conservative household may not always be kosher to the same standard as an Orthodox household, but I'm fuzzy on those details.
2. Keeping shomer negiah--it seems to be a matter of debate somewhat. MO folks say it's a matter of Jewish law and therefore, for the most part, keep it ('fences around fences'), while Conservative people generally don't worry about it but still seem to be in favor of abstinence until marriage. I also wondered how sex ed is taught in MO day schools versus in Conservative backgrounds. Where does the more liberal end of MO stand on keeping shomer, generally speaking, and do people keep it publically as stringently as Centrist/right-leaning people do?
3. Spilling seed--I've read the Orthodox opinions on it (clean everything up, use the mikveh if possible, if not a shower/washing the clothes normally will do, do teshuva if it was on purpose). Do stricter Conservative people worry about it the same way?
4. Kosher entertainment--I've heard some about this too. How (if in any way) does left-Modern Orthodoxy handle that, kol isha on the radio/movies, versus more stringent MO communities? I take it even stricter Conservative people don't worry about it. I know a lot about particulars depend on the rabbi's opinion, but I'm looking for more of a general guideline.
5. Visiting Israel--what activities do people do when they visit (apart from going on tours), and do they differ between the two groups?
6. Becoming more observant/less observant--I've read some BT blogs where people become MO and find themselves having a hard time with secular families because they want to avoid trief food, temptation from a non-religious lifestyle, and so on. I know that if MC becomes less observant as MO, it would probably be upsetting to his parents, but would it be the same if they were more Conservative? The views on intermarriage also seem different too--'you're totally rejecting your heritage by doing this and we strongly disapprove' versus 'we strongly disapprove but will try to reach out to you and your spouse in hopes of them converting and you raising your kids in a Jewish way.'
7. Hand washing/funerals--I've had some feedback on people attending non-Jewish, secular funerals and was told they'd probably come for the burial after the casket was closed, but not for the service itself, will wash their hands after, etc. Is it the same for Conservative people? When do most MO people wash their hands ritually?
8. Shul/synagogue services--I've heard prayers differ, but how? How about the length of services, and how stringently does each group observe prayer?
9. Sitting shiva--Are there any larger differences between how the two groups do it?
10. Education--day school for MO people versus (from what I was told) secular school with Hebrew school for a lot of Conservatives. I also heard of Conservative day schools. Which would most Conservative parents send their kids to?
Sorry for any mistakes/misunderstandings and the number of questions. Any insight is appreciated, and if anyone wants to add anything, please feel free, whether it's here or through PM! Once I have what I need, as always, I'll edit to say so and get back to writing (or at this point, it might be more properly called 'revising heavily'). Thanks!
Edit: Thanks all, I'm leaning closer to Conservative (middle of the road in practice for his particular family). Off I go.