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The Part of Jews in the Campaign for Public Morality: As Representative of People Who Furnished Firs

Needless to say that I, a representative of the people that furnished the first moral crusaders in history, am only too happy to co-operate in this work, and to call upon my brethren to support to the utmost of their power the aims and ideals, the undertakings and endeavours of the Public Morality Council, the Chief Rabbi, Dr. J. H. Hertz, said speaking yesterday at the Guildhall at a meeting in support of the Public Morality Council, among the other speakers being the Bishop of London, the Duchess of Atholl, and Lord Dickinson.

The Council is common ground, the Chief Rabbi said, on which all Churches can meet and join hands in an organised effort to preserve the moral sanity of the present generation.

The need for an insistance that there are moral standards long antedates the Great War, the Chief Rabbi went on. The nineteenth century widely heralded the discovery that men came from the beast; and very soon after that discovery, many of the literary and artistic leaders took it upon themselves to convince us that it was only natural for us to return to the beast. A powerful paganism began its assault against the ancient organised morality. It dethroned God in the sphere of human conduct, derided all moral inhibitions, and declared instinct and inclination to be the true guides to human happiness. The twentieth century is continuing the instruction begun in the nineteenth. The so-called new psychology preaches repression of instincts to be a danger to personality; and it regards as natural the unbridled gratification of impulses which civilised mankind has always been taught should be controlled or disciplined. A new ethic has arisen, as subversive as it is godless, which bids each man, woman or child do that which seems right in his or her own eyes. It teaches that all moral laws are man made, and that all can therefore be unmade by man. There is in consequence, on every side a questioning of the sacredness of human life, a scoffing at the holiness of purity, an angry repudiation of the idea of property. In some lands this has led to social and political upheavals, resulting in immemorial human institutions being torn up by the roots. Even in English-speaking countries there is to-day an impatience with moral authority. Men deny, or at any rate doubt the reality of ethical distinctions. The pilot’s stars of moral guidance seem to multitudes of men to be no longer fixed stars. And in consequence things are tolerated, extenuated, nay encouraged – in fiction, on the stage in every-day life – that only a generation ago would have been the subject of unqualified condemnation.

Amid this spiritual confusion and moral chaos, Dr. Hertz said, it is the mission of religion to stand clear-eyed and unmoved. However, it must not only proclaim that there is an everlasting distinction between right and wrong, an absolute “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” in human life, high above the promptings of passion, the peradventure of inclination, or the fashion of the hour – but it must educate and organise public opinion to respect moral standards and defend those moral standards against wanton desecration and public defiance. “The day is short”, Dr. Hertz concluded, “the work is great and urgent, the labourers are listless though the reward is much. It is not the duty to complete the work, but neither art thou free altogether to desist from it”.

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