Jews throughout the country celebrated the advent of the year 5691 by taking stock of their accomplishments during the past year and by studying the problems and opportunities facing them during the next twelve months. The situation confronting Zionism at the present time, the growth of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, Jewish education and the unemployment problem were among the topics on which many of the leading rabbis dwelt in sermons preached from temples, synagogues and meeting-places impressed into service to care for the thousands who were unable to gain admission to the regular houses of worship.
Speaking from the pulpit of the Free Synagogue, Dr. Stephen S. Wise, dealing mainly with problems besetting the Jews in Palestine and the Zionist movement in general, characterized the past year as a discouraging one and dispiriting for the Jews. Reviewing the series of adverse occurences in Palestine, commencing with the Arab uprisings he said, “This tragedy of it all was not that a weak Palestine administration was altogether accessory to sinister Arab leaders, but that in a very real sense the latter became confederates of Government House in its fell purpose, whether or not at the dictate of Lawrence or Lawrencism, to prove at home, in England, and abroad, that Britain could not redeem its sacred obligation to facilitate the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.
“And so disaster followed disaster,â€”not the least of the disasters being the report of the British Parliamentary Inquiry Commission, which will live as one of the saddest pages in the annals of British historyâ€”saved only from irremediable shame by the clear-visioned and manly dissent of Harry Snell.
“And the next disaster was the suspension of immigration permits about which much has been said by representatives of the British Government,â€”which suspension remains none the less an inexplicable breach of faith.”
Of the League of Nations Mandates Commission report, Dr. Wise declared, “The Mandates Commission uttered a brave word truly, spoke such a word as the English government should have spoken long before this to the Palestine administration, which,â€”and the alternatives are woeful to consider,â€” has been either a far off instrument of a British policy of repudiation or else the disloyalty undermining and nullifying agency of a great purpose. The supreme value of the Mandates Commission’s report lies for us in its setting forth of the truth, that the guilt has not been in us, but on the one hand in the failure of the Palestine administration to be even decently just to the Jewish rebuilders of Palestine.”
What the new year will bring to Palestine, Dr. Wise concluded, must be determined by the Jews themselves, following leaders, “not beggars pleading for some thousands of acres in an alien land, but representatives of a great people.”
Rabbi Jacob Katz, at the Montefiore Synagogue, discussed the unemployment situation and the need for a social consciousness and concerted action by society to care for all its members. Rabbi Joseph Schick, of Congregation Beth Israel, also spoke of the unemployment situation and called for the adoption of a five-day week to provide jobs for the unemployed as “the first intelligent step in controlling machinery before it swallows us.”
Rabbi Nathan Krass, at Temple Beth-El, declared, “The past year has been darkened by the shadow of persecution, suffering, and tragedy. The Jew in Russia is still seeking salvation from economic and spiritual misery. The Jew in Palestine is still looking for the milk and honey, fearful of his non-Jewish neighbor. The anti-Semitic wolf is heard again howling in Germany. Roumania still harbors hostile groups who outrage the Jew. In Eastern Europe complete readjustment is still in the future. Yet, despite these disheartening conditions, the Jew, classic sufferer, continues to hope. His enemies may batter and bar him. They may hurl obstacles in his upward path. With undaunted courage, he marches on.”
Declaring that “we were once successful men, but bankrupt souls,” Dr. Herbert S. Goldstein asserted that from the present financial and economic depression, Americans are emerging with richer and nobler souls. Rabbi Louis Finkelstein of Congregation Kehilath Israel, preached a sermon with the same viewpoint.
Rabbi Jonah B. Wise, at the Central Synagogue, called for more thorough organization of the Jews of the city for social service and the public good, and asked that the synagogue be open to new thought.
Rabbi Irving Frederick Reichert, who recently succeeded Rabbi Louis I. Newman at Temple Emanuel, San Francisco, speaking on how to express the soul of Israel, made a strong plea for Jewish education, religious loyalty and an enlightened attitude towards problems involving consideration of social justice.
Zionism is a doctrine unacceptable to the majority of American Jews, Dr. Reichert declared, although its humanitarian aspects arouse their sympathy. He deplored attempts to “whittle down” Judaism to a nationalist movement.
“Whether the Palestine experiment succeeds or fails, our course remains the sameâ€”to tend the ancient altars of our faith and make manifest in our lives the beauty of its teachings,” he declared.
OTHER FAITHS PARTICIPATE
Christians, Mohammedans, Hindus and Sikhs participated along with Jews at a unique Rosh Hashonah celebration held at the Grace Episcopal Church in New York under the auspices of the Fellowship of Faiths. More than a thousand were present.
Speakers included Rev. Russell Clinchy, Rev. Leon Rosser Land, Syud Hossain, Kedar Nash Das Gupta, Dr. Bhatgat Singh Thind and Dr. Israel Goldstein of Congregation B’nai Jeshuru.