Change of Arrangement in Goodwill Joint Conference Found Necessary

That a decision has been taken to seek other forms of cooperation and make other arrangements between the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, composing the present Joint Conference on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians, is disclosed in an editorial published in the Newark “Jewish Chronicle” over the signature of Rabbi Solomon Foster of Newark.

Writing under the headline, “We Need Wisdom in Good-Will,” Rabbi Foster, who is a member of the Joint Conference, reports that on June 6 at a meeting of the Conference, the following significant resolution was unanimously adopted:

“Recognizing that the Joint Conference on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians as at present constituted lacks the authority to formulate or to inaugurate any independent program of action, it is considered desirable to change the existing arrangement between the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in American.

“In changing the present Joint Conference on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians, the members of the committee unequivocally endorse the growing spirit of good-will and pledge themselves as individuals sincerely to further every worthy effort to crush misunderstanding and to promote the friendliest relationships among the different religious groups in our country.

“We recommend that the governing bodies of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America take under consideration some other form of conference and cooperation.”

The background of the developments which led to the adoption of this resolution and the weakness inherent in the situation are presented by Rabbi Foster in the following explanation:

This action was the result of several serious discussions by the committee in an endeavor to reach a clear understanding of the authority, scope and function of the Joint Conference. It was found that while much publicity was given to the existence of the Joint Conference on Good-Will, both in the proceedings of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America and of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and while much money is reported to have been collected for the work of the Good-Will Conference through agencies responsible to the Federal Council, there was almost nothing of a constructive nature either resolved or planned by the Joint Conference itself, as far as the representatives of the Central Conference of American Rabbis were concerned. If a competition were ever instituted to determine the conditions that make up a paper committee, the Joint Conference on Good-Will could easily draw a prize. A great program of activities was proclaimed by the Committee on Good-Will Between Jews and Christians, under the auspices of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, presumably in cooperation with the Central Conference of American Rabbis, but really the Jewish representatives were wholly without authority under the loose form of organization that bound the two groups together.

During the five years of the existence of the Joint Conference, the representatives of the Federal Council were appointed as individuals with no authority to make decisions, pass resolutions or plan action without the sanction of the Federal Council itself, while the representatives of the Central Conference were delegates from their organization. In other words, the Central Conference of American Rabbis as a body had endorsed the good-will movement in cooperation with the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, but the latter body had not as an organization committed itself to this cooperative good-will movement.

It was significant also that in three notable instances which called for a quick and decisive stand on the principles of good-will between Jews and Christians, the Joint Conference was absolutely silent, namely, in the Massena blood libel during the last Presidential campaign, in the Kings County Hospital incident of two years ago, and in the presentation of the “King of Kings” and the Passion Play.

During the past season the question (Continued on Page 4)

In this connection, a possible clue to the doubt of the further usefulness of the present form of cooperation may be found in several sentences from the report of 1928 to the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America (p. 74) by Drs. Anthony and Clinchy.

“As a committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, however, there are vast possibilities for us to practice the principles of love in our relations with the Jews. Contacts and cooperation with Jewish groups and organizations representing different wings of Hebrew life and thought and varied interests have been open to the committee in almost too great a profusion during the last four years of its activities. It is, however, of the utmost importance that Christianity in America should have some outpost of good-will, such as our committee, seeking understanding and cooperation with the contemporary representatives of the race and religion of which Jesus Himself and the prophets were a part. The very existence of this committee is a testimony of inestimable value to the spirit of Christ and His modern disciples.”

Here is an utterance of unusually compelling attention, all the more significant because signed by Dr. Alfred William Anthony and Dr. Everett R. C. Clinchy, the present leaders in the Joint Conference on Good-Will, and we Jews must reckon with it. Let us note that no direct reference is made to missionary activities to break down Jewish loyalty, but in view of the vote not to discourage missionary activities, the statement is not free from the implication that the discussion on good-will, in churches, colleges and clubs, the holding of forums and seminars, the organization of radio messages, etc., under the auspices of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America are done in the spirit of Jesus to serve Christian ends. Some of the leaders may personally refrain from active service in proselytizing the Jews, but they are not averse to having others follow in the procession to look after such details, Rabbi Foster concludes.

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