Rabbis Urged to Bring Jewish Marriage and Divorce Laws into Harmony with Modern Life; Levinthal Head
Menu JTA Search

Rabbis Urged to Bring Jewish Marriage and Divorce Laws into Harmony with Modern Life; Levinthal Head

Download PDF for this date

An appeal for the reform of the Jewish law regarding marriage and divorce to bring them into conformity with the demands of modern life was made here today at the 13th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly by Rabbi Louis Epstein of Boston in presenting the report of the committee on the interpretation of Jewish law.

Terming the Jewish divorce law basically unsound and unfair to the woman and pointing out that the Beth Din or Rabbinical court has practically lost all power in the matter of marriage and divorce, Rabbi Epstein said it was unthinkable that a progressive and courageous rabbinate would not some day regulate the Jewish marriage and divorce problem in greater conformity with present day demands.


As a remedy for the present situation in which deserted Jewish wives and divorcees get a civil but not a religious divorce because they cannot wait for the latter which cannot be issued without the consent of delinquent husbands who often cannot be found, Rabbi Epstein suggested that on the basis of the existing Halacha or traditional law an amendment be introduced in the Jewish marriage ritual.

The Rabbinical Assembly this morning elected its new officers with Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal of Brooklyn as president; Rabbi Jacob Kohn of New York, vice-president; Rabbi Benjamin Birnbaum of Chicago, treasurer; Rabbi Leon Laugh of Newark, recording secretary and Rabbi Simon Greenberg of Philadelphia corresponding secretary.


That Jewish life on the campuses of the American colleges is being furthered by the various Jewish agencies now active in the colleges was the thesis of a paper read by Rabbi Leon Spitz of Hoboken. He pointed out that Jewish parents need no longer fear that their sons and daughters are being alienated from Jewish life during their college years for the Jewish undergraduate of the present day does not find it necessary or possible to conceal his racial identity and finds adequate opportunity to express himself Jewishly at college.

A suggestion that the Rabbinical Assembly send a commission to Palestine to study how best to reestablish the spiritual bond between Palestine and America was made by Rabbi Morris Schushenn of Brooklyn, who recently returned from a tour of Palestine, during the symposium on “The Future of Palestine Work.” Rabbi Max Kadushin of Chicago declared that the future of Palestine work in America rests with the modern rabbis who should foster a Palestine atmosphere in this country.


Rabbi Samuel Cohen, executive director of the United Synagogue of America, advised joint committees with the Rabbinical Assembly, while Nathan Levy, president of the United Synagogue, urged intimate cooperation with the Assembly. Dr. Julius Greenstone of Philadelphia, chairman of the committee on cooperation, in his report, stressed the need of joint educational action but said that the interpretation of Jewish law should be retained by the Assembly.

The short term engagements of rabbis which make fruitful work in a community impossible were deplored by Rabbi Philip Laugh of Chelsea. He said that a three-year contract means a two years’ notice to begin looking for another job. The eulogy for Professor Israel Freedlander was delivered by Rabbi Solomon Goldman of Chicago.

At Tuesday night’s banquet Dr. Elias Margolies was the toastmaster and the speakers were Professor Jacob Hosehander and Rabbis Louis Finkelstein, Israel Goldstein, Israel H. Levinthal, Benjamin Birnbaum, A. A. Newman and Milton Steinberg.

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