Letters Show Reform Rabbi Came to Melbourne Because Jews There Invited Him

That Rabbi Jerome Mark, formerly of Selma, Alabama, is now in Melbourne, Australia, leading a Reform congregation, because the Jews there wanted and invited him, and not because Reform Judaism is attempting to win converts from Orthodoxy, is proved by correspondence among Jewish leaders, according to Dr. Julian Morgenstern, president of the Hebrew Union College and a member of the governing board of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, who has been a leading figure in the controversy. The correspondence has just been revealed by Dr. Morgenstern with the consent of Lily H. Montagu of London, honorary secretary of the World Union.

Rabbi Mark went to Melbourne last year and during the fall of that year Melbourne had its first Reform Jewish congregational services. In a letter praising Rabbi Mark, Mrs. Ada Phillips, one of the leading figures in the Melbourne Congregation, wrote to Miss Montagu on September 24, 1930, in part as follows:

“So filled with gratitude am I to you and the World Union and Dr. Morgenstern that I find it difficult to give complete expression to my feelings. Rabbi Mark has been with us for ten days and in that incredibly short time has carved a niche for himself and become an integral part of our lives.”

The attendance of 225 on the eve of Rosh Hashonah and 200 the next day she hailed as a happy omen for the congregation’s success. On October 10, 1930, Mrs. Phillips wrote to Dr. Morgenstern, thanking him for his selection of Rabbi Mark for the post and observing that the latter “has endeared himself to all with whom he has come into contact-regardless of age or sex.”

In answer to the charges that the Melbourne Reform Congregation was founded in an attempt to win converts from Orthodoxy, World Union leaders reply that,

1. The congregation was established because Melbourne Jews so desired and the World Union merely aided in the realization of that desire.

2. The new congregants come from the unaffiliated, from those who had outgrown and already forsaken Orthodoxy and from Reform-minded Jews who needed only a leader.

3. Reform Judaism should seek aggressively to augment its ranks-where-ever and whenever such action causes no intentional injury to other groups in Judaism. That is to say, the unaffiliated and the Reform-minded should be welcomed and guided to Reform Judai-ism, as a benefit to Reform Judaism and even far more to those persons thus ministered to spiritually.

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