Geneva (Jun. 10)
We have the honour to stand here in the name of the Jewries of the world, to voice our anxiety and theirs over any reform of the Calendar that would injuriously affect our religious interests, Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz said in his statement to the League of Nations Committee on Calendar Reform on behalf of the Jewish Committee on Calendar Reform, when he appeared before it as a member of the Jewish delegation (reported in yesterday’s J.T.A. Bulletin).
Jewish concern in Calendar Reform is confined to one point, the Chief Rabbi declared, viz., the preservation of the seven-day Week and of its unbroken continuity. Jews are unalterably opposed to any change in the reckoning of time that would convert the last day of the ordinary year, and two days in leap years, into “blank days”. The true days of the week would thus be put back in every year, and the Jewish Sabbath would no longer fall (excepting at infrequent intervals) on Saturday, the day with which it has been associated from time immemorial. Thus, if the new calendar had been introduced at the end of 1930, then throughout this present year the Sabbath would have fallen on Friday. Next year will be a leap year, with two extra days to be considered “blank days” instead of one as in the ordinary year. Hence, in the first half of 1932 the Jewish Sabbath would be on Thursday; and in the second half, on Wednesday; going back to Tuesday in 1933, Monday in 1934, and so on.
The results of such a nomadic Sabbath, would be extremely serious: (a) The seventh-day Sabbath is a fundamental institution in Judaism; and, throughout the ages, it has proved a fountain of moral and spiritual strength to the Jew. The overwhelming majority of the Jewish people to-day cling to it as the sheet-anchor of their Faith and religious practice. And even to those Jews who are forced by the struggle for existence to engage in business on that day, the Sabbath remains a sacred, Divinely-appointed day. A wandering Sabbath would tend to destroy the whole Sabbath idea among large masses of the Jewish people, and thus undermine their moral and religious life.
PROPOSED CALENDAR WOULD PENALISE THAT SECTION OF JEWISH PEOPLE WHICH MOST LOYAL TO ITS RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS: MILLIONS OF JEWS THROUGHOUT WORLD WOULD BE RUINED FOR REFUSING TO BE DISLOYAL TO RELIGIOUS COMMAND PROCLAIMED IN DECALOGUE: WOULD GIVE RISE TO RELIGIOUS DISABILITY TANTAMOUNT TO RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION NOT ONLY FOR JEWS BUT ALL RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
(b) The proposed Calendar would penalise above all that section of the Jewish people which is most loyal to its religious convictions. With the Sabbath occurring on a different day of the Week each year, the economic difficulties of Sabbath observance would become overwhelming; and millions of Jews throughout the world would be ruined, for no other reason than that they refused to be disloyal to a religious command proclaimed in the Decalogue.
(c) If any Calendar with a “blank day” is adopted by the League of Nations, it would give rise to religious disabilities, tantamount to religious persecution, not only for Jews but for all religious minorities. One example will suffice. With a wandering Sabbath, the school-child would either be compelled to attend on what the conscientious Jewish parent would deem to be his true Day of Rest (and the same would apply also to the Christian or Moslem parent), or else lose one day’s schooling in each Week. Central European countries enforce school attendance under heavy penalties, including even imprisonment. The introduction of this proposed Calendar would thus inevitably bring with it serious dangers to the civic and economic rights of Religious Minorities.
The Report on Calendar Reform which this special Committee of Enquiry submitted to the Committee for Communications and Transit, and issued to the public, in 1926, contains two important statements: “It was unanimously agreed that no reform of the Calendar … was practicable without an agreement between the various high religious authorities concerned”; and that “the Commission instructed its Committee not to consider any changes in existing conditions, unless such changes were definitely demanded by public opinion”.
Nothing could be sounder or more statesmanlike than these two principles of policy in regard to Calendar Reform; and, if we could be assured that they would be followed, all anxiety would be at an end.
It is notorious that no agreement has been reached with the religious authorities on the matter of the “blank day”. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Greek Orthodox Church has given its assent to a wandering Sabbath – despite the statement broadcast by propagandists of the “blank day” Calendar, misleading the public into the belief that the new Calendar is a fait accompli. And certainly the Jewish community has from the first proclaimed its unfaltering opposition to this proposal. As to the second principle of Calendar Reform, a public demand, it is equally clear that there is no general demand for a blank day” Calendar. In answer to the first letter on this subject sent out to Governments in 1923, the following definitely objected to any interference with the continuity of the Week, or saw no necessity for any Calendar Reform – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, India, New Zealand, Portugal. Despite the negative attitude of so many countries, – representing from one-quarter to one-third of the human race – the question has been proceeded with, and National Committees of Enquiry have been duly set up. In only a few instances have the decisions of these Committees as yet been published. But it is now clear that there is no general world-wide desire for Calendar Reform. After exhaustive investigation, the National Committees of Italy and of the Netherlands have unanimously recommended the rejection of any “blank day” scheme. Such is also in effect the conclusion of the French Committee, which declares that any reform of the Calendar can only be realised by the adhesion of all civilised countries. In America, an active but very small group has for years been expending vast sums of money in propaganda for the “Blank day” Calendar. It cannot, however, be said truthfully that there is a public demand for it. As to Great Britain, the demand for Calendar Reform can be gauged by the fact that, though the Committee of Enquiry circulated 4,000 copies of the questionnaire, followed up by reminders, barely 200 replies were received, and nearly all these were against change of any sort, except the fixation of Easter which is a question quite apart and one entirely for the Christian Churches to decide. British public opinion was not impressed by the insolent propaganda conducted on behalf of the new Calendar, which simply declared that the whole issue had been finally decided upon by the League of Nations secretariat; that there was “big money at the back of the movement”; and that, therefore, it did not matter what the British people or the Jewish people or any people thought of the new Calendar, or of the disastrous results that would follow in its wake.
This is the second time that we have brought the legitimate apprehensions of the Jewish Community on this matter to the attention of a Committee acting on behalf of the League of Nations. We do so once more in the confident hope that in no circumstances will a Committee acting on behalf of a body for which religious convictions are sacred, sanction a measure which carries within it more than the seeds of religious persecution. In view of all the considerations adduced by us, we pray your Committee to proceed no longer with the calamitous proposal of a “blank day”.
JEWS OF AMERICA STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH THEIR CO-RELIGIONISTS IN EUROPE AND ALL OVER THE WORLD IN OPPOSITION TO BLANK DAY PLAN SAYS RABBI HYAMSON
The Jews in America stand on the question of Calendar Reform shoulder to shoulder with their co-religionists in Europe and indeed all over the world in their opposition to the “blank day” plan, Rabbi Dr. Moses Hyamson of New York said speaking on behalf of the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath. It has been stated by proponents of the “blank day” device, he went on, that the opposition to it comes from and voices the sentiments of only a small portion, a minute fraction, of the four million Jews in the United States of America – the so-called Orthodox section. It has been urged that the large and preponderant majority of Jews across the Atlantic are not at all interested in the preservation of the fixed traditional Sabbath, and would not be opposed to the introduction of the “blank day” which would make of the weekly day of rest a wandering Sabbath. Speaking for the four million Jews residing in the United States I repudiate this view and declare that it is absolutely unwarranted and without foundation. The grounds for this repudiation are that “the League for safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath” does not represent any one section, but all sections of Jewry in America – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.
Organisations, like the American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress, are national organisations which include in their membership Jews without distinction as to whether they are Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. And all these organisations are constituents of the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath, and are unanimously opposed to the “blank day”. The same is true of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, all of whom are the heads of Reform and Liberal Jewish places of worship. Dr. Stephen S. Wise, the leading Liberal Jewish rabbi of America, is a Vice-President of the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath. I have dwelt on this point in order to disprove and refute the printed statement of that powerful organisation, the National Committee for Calendar Simplification of which Mr. G. Eastman is President, that only a minute section of American Jews – the Orthodox section – is opposed to the “blank day” device and that the rest are indifferent because they are not Sabbath observers.
The National Committee for Calendar Simplification, in their report of 1929 which was transmitted to the League of Nations, insist that the only way in which the Calendar can be simplified is by the device of the “blank day”. They point to many firms in the United States and England that have adopted and use the 13 month-28 day Calendar. They however are seemingly unaware of the fact that many firms have employed for many years simplified Calendars without the “blank day” device. Some of these count 364 days in the year, add a week every five or six years when the last day of each year together with the extra day in the leap year amount to 7 days. The great firm of Sears, Roebuck and Company (of which Mr. Julius Rosenwald, the Jewish multi-millionaire philanthropist, is the head) count the first monthly period in the 13 month year as consisting of 29 days. Their mode of procedure is as follows. The First of January, New Year’s Day, they keep as a holiday; they close books and business in all their branches on that day; they open them again on the next day, January the 2nd., and count 364 days to the 31st. of December the end of the year. But they have not adopted the “blank day” device. They do not drop the last day of the year. They have not altered the names of the days of the week, as is proposed in the Eastman-Cotsworth plan. They have not seen the need or necessity for the fiction of the “blank day”. A rumour that they would adopt this device caused so much excitement among their 40,000 employees, that the Vice-President felt impelled to publish an official statement that the rumour was unfounded. I would like to point out that the first Resolution moved by the late Congressman Porter in the House of Representatives at the end of 1928 contained a Preamble advocating a “blank day” Calendar; but this preamble was later dropped in similar Resolutions calling for a World Conference for Calendar Reform. Nothing further was however heard of in regard to these Resolutions. They died in Committee. And here I would repeat that the Eastman National Committee for Calendar Simplification does not voice the official opinion of the U.S. Government, although its publications are forwarded to the League of Nations through the State Department at Washington.
SEVENTH DAY OF WEEK BEEN OBSERVED BY JEWISH PEOPLE AS SABBATH FOR OVER 3,000 YEARS EVER SINCE REVELATION ON SINAI: ON BEHALF OF AMERICAN JEWRY I APPEAL TO YOU NOT AS JEW TO GENTILES BUT AS RELIGIOUS MAN TO RELIGIOUS MEN NOT TO PREJUDICE INTERESTS OF ALL WHO HAVE FEAR OF GOD IN THEIR HEARTS
The point has been raised, Dr. Hyamson continued, that the Jews all over the world do not begin and end their Sabbath at the same hour on account of the differences in the time of dawn and sunset in different parts of the world. The reply is that the Scriptures tell us to count our Sabbaths and festivals from even to even. Wherever the Jew is, he begins his weekly Sabbath on Friday afternoon before sunset and ends it on Saturday after dark. There is no doubt, no misunderstanding anywhere, in any part of the world, as to when the Sabbath should commence and when it should terminate. No almanac need be consulted to determine which day of the week is the Jewish Sabbath.
The seventh day of the week has been observed by the Jewish people as their Sabbath for over 3,000 years, ever since the Revelation on Sinai when Israel was constituted a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The 7th. Day Adventists and the 7th. Day Baptists also keep this day as the divinely appointed Day of Rest. Christians who keep Sunday as their Lord’s Day and Moslems who observe Friday as their weekly day of rest will, I venture to suggest, be disturbed and prejudiced morally and spiritually by the acceptance of the “blank day” device. Your own Report published in 1925 declares that the hundreds of millions in India would resent a break in the continuity of the seven-day Week, the one point in common between their various calendars and ours.
In conclusion, I would again point out that all reports sent by the American Committee of Enquiry, called the National Committee for Calendar Simplification, neither represents the official view of the American Congress – Senate or House of Representatives – Executive Government, or People. This so-called National Committee is an unofficial body. It represents the views mainly of large corporations. Religious authorities and bodies have not given an opinion. The large masses of the American people are indifferent to the subject, and even educated and professional men do not realise the implications and consequences of the “blank day”. Leaders of opinion, like the Editor of the New York Times and a former President of the Federal Council of the Christian Churches of America, have expressed to me that they were shocked at the idea of making Sunday, the Lord’s Day, a wandering Sabbath. Many senators and representatives in Congress have written to me on similar lines.
On behalf of the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath which represents American Jewry, I earnestly appeal to you, not as a Jew to Gentiles, but as a religious man to religious men, not to sanction the “blank day” plan, and thus prejudice the interests – material, moral and spiritual – of Jew, Christian and Mohammedan; of all who have the fear of God in their hearts, who love God and revere His holy Name.