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American Jewish Life Faces Deflation Period, Rabbis Hear at Convention

(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

American Jewish communal and religious life is now entering a period of deflation, following the boom years of the war and post-war period, during which many new synagogues, community centers and temples were erected at high costs, declared Rabbi Max Drob of Philadelphia, in his presidential message at the opening session of the twenty-eighth annual conference of the Rabbinical Assembly.

About 100 rabbis, mostly graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, constituting what is termed the Conservative wing of American Judaism, were present at the opening session at the Scarboro Hotel here today. Rabbi Louis M. Levitsky of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., chairman of the Arrangements Committee, opened the session over which Rabbi Louis Finkelstein of New York, presided. The opening prayer was delivered by Rabbi Moses Eckstein of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Rabbi Paul Chertoff and Rabbi Jacob Bosniak of Brooklyn submitted the report of the Placement Committee which secures positions for rabbis and the proposal to establish a pension fund for aged rabbis.

The outstanding feature of the first day’s proceedings was the assertion that a marked tendency of a return to the synagogue is to be observed in American Jewry. This was brought out in a symposium on “The Synagogue Today,” led by Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Rabbi Alter F. Landesman of Brooklyn, in his paper on the trend of synagogue attendance related the details of a survey he made concerning this matter. From ten to twenty percent of the total Jewish population of the United Sates attend religious services at least once a week. Generally religious service attendance in the synagogue is on the increase, he stated. The indications are distinctly hopeful when one remembers that even in Europe not more than about forty percent of the Jewish population attend synagogue services. This conclusion was reached by Rabbi Landesman on the basis of counts of synagogue attendance made in a number of cities representative of Jewish communities in the country and on the basis of replies to a questionnaire sent out to 300 congregations in 88 communities in 38 states of the Union. Forty percent of these communities were Orthodox, thirty percent. Conservative and thirty percent. Reform.

Rabbi A. J. Levy contributed a paper on the status of the synagogue in Jewish life. Rabbi Gershon Hadas on the synagogue and the religious school, Rabbi Jacob Gittelman on the synagogue and the Y.M.H.A. and Rabbi Norman Salit on the synagogue and Palestine.

The discussion was led by Rabbi Samuel M. Cohen. Rabbi Israel Goldstein urged that the present state of affairs in synagogue life is inadequate in view of the fact that the Jewish youth is not given a place it needs in synagogue life. “Young men and young women have one very peculiar habit, especially when they get to the age of maturity. They dislike being the passive recipients of paternal dispensations. If taxation without representation is politically unfeasible, representation without taxation is psychologically unfeasible. Let young people be taxed to contribute to the planning and the administration of the synagogue affairs,” he stated.

In his presidential message, Rabbi Drob stated: “As we meet today, I am perturbed because of the reaction which is taking place in our communities. I am afraid that the thrill and enthusiasm of post-war days are slowly but surely evaporating. The Jew is returning to the uneventful quiet of pre-war days. The feverish days of synagogue building and of institutional expansion are drawing to a close. Deflation is setting in in spiritual and in material things. Communities are settling down to the humdrum existence of former days. All plans for a united world Jewry are being shelved and only the immediate needs of each locality are considered.”

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