Conservative Judaism Urged to Assert Itself in American Jewish Life

(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

The religious future of American Jewry rests with the United Synagogue, the branch of American Jewry which stands between the ultra-Orthodox and the ultra-Reform. This was the gist of the message of Rabbi Max Drob of New York City, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary, in his message delivered before the twelfth annual convention of this ecclesiastical body, which opened here at the Hotel Clarendon Brunswick today.

About 100 rabbis, graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and leaders of congregations throughout the United States and Canada were present at the first session of the Assembly.

Mayor C. E. F. Hetrick, welcomed the delegates in behalf of the city. Rabbi Max E. Davidson, of Asbury Park, delivered the prayer opening the convention. Among the outstanding leaders of Conservative Judaism who are participating in the convention are Professor Louis Ginsburg, Dr. Cyrus Adler, Professor Davidson, Rabbi Max Drob and others.

In his presidential message Rabbi Drob urged the leaders of Conservative Judaism to reassert its position in American Jewish life. He further expressed his opinion that close observers of Jewish life in America must agree that Reform Judaism is decaying, while Orthodox Judaism, which he termed East European Judaism, must prove ineffective if its leaders will not adopt modern methods in promulgating the ancient faith.

Rabbi Drob formulated a demand that leaders of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the institutions affiliated with it should launch a campaign for $5,000,000 to strengthen traditional Judaism in the United States. This recommendation was made a year ago by the Rabbinical Assembly but could not be put into effect due to prevailing conditions. It is now time that the effort be launched, Rabbi Drob declared.

In the president’s message were included a number of recommendations for raising the status of the rabbinate and improving conditions in the congregations. One of the recommendations called for the establishment of a rabbis’ pension fund, similar to those created by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and various Christian denominations. An initial sum toward this fund was made available by Mr. William Praeger. A sum of $500,000 would be necessary to establish this fund, the president stated. This item should be included in the $5,000,000 to be sought by the Assembly and the United Synagogue.

In his address Rabbi Drob declared: “It requres no prophetic vision to realize that the future belongs to the type of Judaism which we are promulgating. Reform Judaism died spiritually at the Pittsburgh conference in 1885 and only as a social force has it since maintained some semblance of life. With the growth in social power of the Jews from Eastern Europe even this social prestige is being wrested from it. The symptoms of decay are plainly visible in the large cities and will no doubt spread to the smaller communities. Likewise the East European Judaism, which refuses to utilize modern methods in promulgating the ancient faith will prove ineffectual. If Judaism will prevail, it will be a Judaism of our type, which, deeply rooted in the past, will use every modern method for preserving it in the present and thus transmit it unimpaired to the future,” he declared. “To attain these results we must strengthen the hands of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the United Synagogue, both of which are essential to us in promulgating traditional Judaism.

“It is this practical work which must occupy our time even to the exclusion of theological and doctrinal bickerings,” Rabbi Drob continued. “There are those who claim that the theological differences in our midst preclude action on the part of the Rabbinical Assembly. Those who argue that ignore Jewish history. Was there ever unanimity in Israel on the theological question? Surely not in the days of the prophets, for the Talmud already realizes the differences between Isaiah and Ezekiel in their vision and conception of God.

“Surely not in the days of the Rabbis, when Beth Shammi and Beth Hillel debated the most difficult conceptions of theology. Surely not in the days of Maimonides when his views were challenged in no uncertain terms by a Raved. However, they all agreed on the binding character of the Torah and the sanctity of the ceremonial law. They all labored together for Jewish observance in the synagogue, the school and the home.

“Following their example, let us as individuals retain our various theologic and philosophic differences but as an Assembly, let us strive to make traditional Judaism a reality in the land,” he declared.

“Let this be our motto: The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever that we may do all the words of our Torah.

“I am certain that American Jewry will rally to the cause even more liberally than in the last campaign when over one million dollars was pledged and over $400,000 in additional pledges were received as a result of the campaign, though not credited to the campaign committee.

“It is about time that we assert our selves in every phase of Jewish life. We are now one of the strongest bodies in Judaism and must be reckoned with in every movement. It is fully admitted, for example, that our men bear the brunt of the United Palestine Appeal throughout the land. We are therefore justified in demanding that the upbuilding of Palestine be spiritual as well as economic. We should make it clear that a godless Palestine is a contradiction in terms and that only adherence to the Torah can justify our existence as a separate people.

“Likewise, we must utilize every ounce of our strength for making traditional Judaism prevail. Ours will be the task of maintaining the pristine sanctity of the Sabbath and Kashruth and the preservation of Hebrew as the language of prayer in the synagogue and as the medium of instruction in the Hebrew schools. We look askance at the terrible decline in the use of Hebrew books in the home and unless something is done to create a market for Hebrew books in America, we will soon be the people without the Book.

“Above all, it should be our task to restore the sanctity of the Jewish home and to resist every effort to tamper with the divine institution of marriage,” the president declared in his message.

The sessions of the convention will continue until Thursday. Governor Moore will be one of the speakers at the dinner to be held tomorrow night.

Mme. Rosika Schwimmer denies the report that United States citizenship was refused her. In a communication to the Jewish Daily Bulletin, Mme. Schwimmer stated that she had not yet been called for her final examination, and that the date for the final hearing will be set for the week beginning July 8 before Judge Carpenter of the Federal Court, Chicago.

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