Cincinnati (Oct. 6)
Admitting that Reform Judaism “has by no means completely solved the problem of Judaism” and conceding that Zionism, like Reform Judaism, is indispensable to Judaism, Dr. Julian Morgenstern, president of the Hebrew Union College, stated that world Jewry must desert the paths of unreasoning partisanship for those of true vision, in an address here yesterday. The occasion of the address, the subject of which was, “Is Reform Judaism a Failure?”, was the opening exercises of the Hebrew Union College.
The conflict within Jewish ranks is between Universalism or Reform Judaism on the one hand and Particularism, Nationalism or Zionism on the other, Dr. Morgenstern said. This struggle is but one example of the other universalistic-nationalistic struggles such as have had nationalistic expression in the creation of petty states such as Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, he pointed out.
NON-ZIONIST, NOT ANTI-ZIONIST
Emphasizing the fact that he is a non-Zionist and not an anti-Zionist, Dr. Morgenstern declared that he does not oppose, for the Jews in Palestine, a strong colonization movement, a strong cultural movement and even eventually a Jewish state if the latter expresses the actual will of Palestine’s entire population. He declared, however, that he does oppose three things in Zionist theory and program, which are as follows:
First, Zionism’s “gratuitous assumption that without a distinctive Jewish life and Jewish cultural center in Palestine Judaism the world over is doomed to spiritual destruction, if not to eventual complete disappearance.” Judaism has already existed for nearly twenty centuries without such a center in Palestine, Dr. Morgenstern said.
Second, Zionism’s dogma that Jews not in Palestine are in exile. “I loathe the very word ‘galuth’ and the word ‘diaspora’ is repugnant to my innermost being,” Dr. Morgenstern said. “I see no signs of a return to Palestine of the Jewish exiles in America.”
Third, Zionism’s “tendency to set the people of Israel in the place of God in Jewish thought and aspiration.”
Zionism’s claims are being modified, he said, “as witness recent declarations of Dr. Judah Leon Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, as well as the formation of the B’rith Shalom party.”
With regard to Conservative Judaism Dr. Morgenstern stated that it is “itself really reform at about the stage where we stood ourselves a generation or more ago and it is evolving more rapidly than did our Reform Judaism, partly because of our very example and influence.”
In answer to the charge that Reform Judaism advocates assimilation, Dr. Morgenstern said:
“Granted that the early Reformers of the nineteenth century overemphasized Universalism, in an age freed from trammels of political oppressions and fired by the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, still it cannot be said in fairness that a single responsible leader of Reform Judaism ever advocated assimilation.”