Plea for Reorganization of Jewish Life Made Before Menorah Conference
Menu JTA Search

Plea for Reorganization of Jewish Life Made Before Menorah Conference

Download PDF for this date

Perpetuation of Judaism and Cultural Adjustment in America Discussed

A plan for the reorganization of Jewish life and the revision of the Jewish religious laws with the view of assuring the perpetuation of Judaism in America and its spiritual values in the modern milieu, was presented in an address before the conference of the Menorah Intercollegiate Society at its opening session Saturday night at Steinway Hall, by Dr. Mordecai M. Kaplan. Henry Hurwitz, Chancellor of the Intercollegiate Menorah and editor of the "Menorah Journal", presided.

Dr. Kaplan’s address followed that of Lewis Mumford, well-known writer and literary critic and Professor Irwin Erdman of Columbia University, who discussed the problem of Jewish cultural adjustment in America.

Mr. Mumford criticized the views of those who seek to bring about the suppression of all other cultures in America in favor of a uniform 100% American culture. Such a uniform culture, he declared, would be injurious to the country. On the other hand, he objected to cultural activities of racial groups that had no regard to the culture of America. He urged the collatteral development of Jewish culture and American culture along lines of mutual interchange of spiirtual values.

Prof. Erdman, analzing both orthodox and reform Judaism in America, expressed the belief that neither could offer a solution to the problem of Jewish self-preservation. Tracing the complexities of Jewish self-consciousness he pointed out that some Jewish intellectuals become aware of their Jewishness through mystic forces, while others make the discovery when they are barred from Christian hotels or clubs. Neither of these, however, know how to satisfy their racial yearnings, since the reform temple does not differ essentially from some Christian churches while orthodoxy cannot be accepted along with the facts of modern science which denies divine revelation and miracles.

Prof. Erdman saw the solution of the problem which confronts many American Jews belonging to the intellectual or the so-called "intelligentzia" class, in a devotion to research and study of Jewish history and philosophy. Such pursuits of Jewish scholarship, he claimed, would serve as a bond between the intellectual Jew and his people.

The numerous philanthropic activities and drives in which American Jewry is engaged overshadow the real problem confronting the Jews in this country, declared Prof. Kaplan in his address. Many well-meaning Jews, he stated, are devoting themselves whole-heartedly to charitable efforts with the mistaken notion that in this way they are solving the Jewish question. "The real problem facing us," Dr. Kaplan said, "is the strengthening of the Jewish national consciousness and the intensifying of Jewish life through the synagogue and the home."

Viewing Reform as a failure because of its ignoring Jewish nationalism and Orthodoxy as inadequate in its present form because it is oblivious of the inflnences of modern life and lacking in creative energy. Prof. Kaplan urged the reorganization of the forms of Jewish life. The two outstanding features of his plan would include the placing of the synagogue on a new basis and the creation of Kehillahs, or what he termed "Kultur-gemeinden" as distingnished from the "Kultus-gemeinden" of the Jewish communities in Central Europe. The synagogue would serve in the new scheme as the center of all Jewish spiritnal, cultural. religious and social activities, while the "Kultur-gemeinde" which would embrace the entire Jewish community in each city would be the administrative and directing power in all Jewish endeavors relating to the spiritual life of the community, philanthropic enterprises and participation in the rebuilding of Palestine. Dr. Kaplan emphasized the need of revising the Jewish religious laws in such a way as to make them feasible as a pracrical code for Jews who have entered the scheme of modern civilization and whose conceptions are based on the facts of modrn science.

A bill similar to the Tennessee Anti-Evolution Law has been interduced into the Arkanasa Legislature by T. T. Atkius of Prairie County. The Atkins bill. as twice read and rcterred to the House Committee on Education of the Arkansas Legislature Jan. 13. provides:

"That it shall be unlawial for any teacher in any of the universities, normals and all other public schools of the State of Arkansas which are supported in whole or in part by the funds raised by general or special taxes levied upon the property of the people of the State for school purposes. to leach any theory that penies the story of the Divme Creation of man is taught in the Bible and to teach instead that man descended from a lower order of animals. or any other source other than Divine Creation."

The American people in the midst of prospenry are "getting more and more interested in the creation of cultural values and spiritual assets," O? ? H. Kahn. financier and Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera Company. de clared, speaking at a dinner of the district managers of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company at the Hotel Astor Saturday night.

"Municipal auditoriums are being built" he said. "museums and symphony orchestras established. traveling exhibitions of pictures arranged concerts and lectures. frequently of grecat excelience. are taking place and anespecially signiscant sign of the times – rommumty theatres are springing up in manrities small and large. The entire seld of art and esthetics is rereiving in steadily increasing mea? the benefit of the sympathetic attention and encouragement of schools, solicges and umversities." Mr. Kahn said.

Louis Lazarus, who was known as the first Jew to settle in Bayonne. N. J.. died on Friday. Fifty years ago be lived in a community composed largely of Irish. Considerable friction accompanied his pioneering. On Sunday. 2000 persons. including Irish friends. attended his funeral. There were services in three synagogues each of which he had helped ro eslablish. He was seventy-eight. and is survived by a wife and twelve children.

"The Wandering Jew". a drama by E. Temple Thurston. will open tonight at the Cosmopolitan Theatre Matheson Lang has the laeding roic.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund