Rabbis Philipson, Wolsey Back Schulman’s Attack on Zionism; Rabbi Heller Criticizes It

Three American Reform rabbis, two non-Zionists and one Zionist, have responded to the American Israelite’s invitation to comment on Dr. Samuel Schulman’s recent characterization, in Temple Emanu-El of New York City, of Zionism as a “spiritual escape.”

The non-Zionists are Dr. David Philipson, honorary president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and rabbi of Cincinnati’s Rockdale Avenue Temple; and Rabbi Louis Wolsey, rabbi of Temple Rodeph Shalom of Philadelphia and past president of the C. C. A. R. The Zionist is Rabbi James G. Heller, rabbi of Plum Street Temple of Cincinnati and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America, 1929-30. No reply has been received from the other outstanding Zionists invited by the Israelite to comment.

“May it not be possible that Dr. Schulman has too narrow a definition of spirituality?” says Rabbi Heller. “The prophets would not have sneered at the Chalutzim.

“I would personally go even further than this. There is some hope for an agnostic or an atheist who is a staunch and courageous man and who will give his life and endure untold hardships for an ideal. It may be heterodox, and I suppose I lay myself open to excommunication, if there were such a thing nowadays, but I have no hesitation in admitting that I greatly prefer such an atheist or agnostic to many of our weakling worshippers.

“Nationalism is either good or bad. I have always been unable to understand the combination, which is again that of Dr. Schulman, of opposition to Jewish nationalism on the score that it is backward and retrogressive, with the defensive assurance of our patriotism in the various lands in which we dwell.

“My own interest in Zionism is surely not because I am a rabid nationalist. Strange, is it not, that some of us have ventured to speak out against American nationalist aberrations and hypertrophies, while our exponents of the ‘Jewish mission’ and our ardent Jewish anti-nationalists are of the variety who consistently make the eagle scream?”

“Zionism is a policy of despair, a surrender of the universalistic mission of Judaism,” says Dr. David Philipson. “When I once declared that Reform Judaism and political Zionism are incompatible, that statement called forth clamorous disclaimers from rabbis who wanted to march under both flags— Zionism and Reform Judaism. Now as then, I hold that Jewish nationalism, the chief article in the Zionist creed, and universalism, the teaching of Reform Judaism, are incompatible.

“I am an American nationalist and a Jewish religionist. The Zionist is a Jewish nationalist and religiously he may run the gamut from extreme orthodoxy to sheer unbelief. In Zionism

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