LONG BRANCH, N. J (Jul. 8)
“Is it more important to teach Jewish ethics and religious observances to American-Jewish children than it is to teach them the Hebrew language? Will a minimum of Jewish education do for the average Jewish child in America?”
These crucial questions which confront Jewish education in America were warmly debated yesterday at the convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, consisting of Conservative rabbis. The convention closs today.
The majority of the rabbis expressed the opinion that a minimum of Jewish education must satisfy the average Jewish child in America and that the emphasis must be on ethics and religion rather than on Hebrew language. Rabbi Leon Lang of Newark, who led the discussion, emphasized the importance of congregational schools, rather than Talmud Torahs.
“The congregational school is gradually displacing the community school,” said Rabbi Lang. “The rabbi must therefore function more importantly as the Jewish educator. He should utilize the resources of progressive education. The fostering of Jewish attitudes must be stressed even more than substance. Even more important than the linguistic element in the curriculum is it to infuse a healthy Jewish atmosphere in the school. Every congregation must have a high school department where Hebrew should be taught more effectively than in the elementary department.”
Rabbi Lang’s viewpoint was defended by Prof. Julius Greenstone of Gratz College and by Rabbi Leon Spitz of Hoboken. He was opposed by Prof. M. M. Kaplan and Dr. Alexander Basel of New York, Rabbi Matz of Washington, and Louis Greenberg of New Haven. Rabbi Landesman of Brooklyn demanded a maximum program of Jewish education. Israel Chipkin of New York spoke on Jewish education for adults.
Rabbi Eugene Kohn of Bayonne urged that Jewish liturgy be regarded as an art, and said that there are too many irrelevancies in the Jewish prayer book. Rabbi Milton Steinberg of Indianapolis, who also discussed the Jewish ritual, declared that the latter has failed because it no longer expresses Jewish ideals for social justice, peace and Zionist aspirations. Rabbi Simon Greenberg of Philadelphia denied these contentions, but admitted that these ideals are not perhaps formulated; this formulation, however, should be done through the sermon in English, but the traditional prayer book should remain unchanged, he said. Prof. M. M. Kaplan devoted a carefully-edited supplementary prayer book.
In the evening a banquet was given for the delegates at which Rabbi Israel Goldstein of New York City was toastmaster. Among the speakers were Prof. Israel Davidson and Rabbi Max Drob, Rabbi Elias Margolies of Mount Vernon, Rabbi Max Arzt of Scranton and Rabbi Sachs of Toronto, Canada.