Geneva (Oct. 13)
As an observer delegated by the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath, I have the honour for my colleague, Mr. P. S. Henry, and myself to speak for 51 national Jewish organisations in the United States of America, representing over four million Jews, Mr. Elkan N. Adler said in his address yesterday to the League of Nations Conference on Communications and Transit, which is now meeting here to adopt a decision on the Calendar Reform project.
These, he proceeded, conscientiously and vehemently object to the displacement and consequent abolition of the seventh-day Sabbath. I formally present to the Conference the resolutions passed at each of these 51 bodies.
Mr. Arthur le Vine also addressed the Conference on behalf of the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath, pointing out that it is “an organisation embracing over four million American Jews of every shade of theological opinion, Reform, Orthodox and Conservative”.
I am not a Rabbi, he went on, but a business man and employer of labour, and I speak solely from the business point of view, although, needless to state, I am equally opposed to the blank day feature in the Calendar, because it interferes with the moral religious rights of countless millions throughout the world.
We have the honour to submit herewith World Jewry’s Resolutions of Protest against any modification of the Calendar by the “blank day” feature, Chief Rabbi Israel Levi of France, and Chief Rabbi Dr. J. H. Hertz, the President and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Committee on Calendar Reform, wrote in submitting the resolutions of protest adopted by Jewish communities throughout the world and presented to the Conference here by Chief Rabbi Dr. Hertz.
These Resolutions, he pointed out, have been passed by the unanimous votes of the Jewish communities in nearly every country affiliated to the League of Nations, wherein Jews are settled. The millions of Jews in the United States of America have expressed their opposition through another channel; while those of Soviet Russia are unhappily, for the moment, inarticulate. Furthermore, Petitions against the proposed change have been signed by hundreds of thousands of individual Jews in the twenty-eight countries of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is thus seen that these Resolutions and Petitions-which are all open to inspection by your representatives-reflect the anxiety and conviction of the adherents of Judaism throughout the world.
We venture to hope, he concluded, that such considered expression of opinion of the whole House of Israel, as to the untold hardship and spiritual loss which must result from the introduction of a “blank day” Calendar, will duly weigh with you in your deliberations; and that, by abandoning these proposals, you will earn the lasting gratitude of all friends of Religious Liberty.
The Resolutions of Protest have been adopted by 609 Jewish communities in Germany; 314 in Poland, 207 in Roumania; 178 in France and Algeria; 174 in Great Britain; 126 in Czecho-Slovakia; 114 in Jugo-Slavia; 106 in Hungary; 101 in Lithuania; 40 in Italy; 28 in Switzerland; 25 in South Africa; 11 in Austria; 8 in Belgium; 7 in Australia; 6 in Esthonia; 4 in Canada; 4 in Palestine, 3 in the Irish Free State; 2 in New Zealand, and in addition by 224,911 Jews in Poland; 27,161 in Holland, and many others in other countries, including 4,256 in Tunis, 1,986 in Morocco, 716 in Iraq, 1,260 in Denmark, 485 in India, and 375 in Syria.
JEWISH PUBLIC OPINION HAS EXPRESSED ITSELF IN THIS MATTER WITH UNANIMITY RARELY ATTAINED: NOT OPPOSED IN PRINCIPLE TO CALENDAR REFORM BUT ONLY TO BLANK DAY PROJECT.
We, the undersigned, being laymen representing the principal centres of Jewish population throughout the world, desire to voice our deep concern at the scheme of Calendar Reform which is at present under consideration by the League of Nations, says the Petition submitted to the Conference signed by Dr. Cyrus Adler, Mr. O. E. d’Avigdor Goldsmid, Senator van den Bergh, Mr. Ch. N. Bialik, ex-Deputy Farbstein, Lieut.-Governor Herbert H. Lehman, Professor Silvain Levi, Dr. J. L. Magnes, Signor Ravenna, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Mr. Lionel de Rothschild, Mr. Nahum Sokolov, Herr Nathan Sondheimer, Mr. Felix M. Warburg, and Herr Oscar Wassermann.
Jewish public opinion, it proceeds, has expressed itself in this matter with a unanimity rarely attained. The Unions of Congregations in all lands where such exist have passed unanimous resolutions deprecating the proposed change. The same step has been taken by the individual communities in most countries.
Thus in England and France nearly every Jewish congregation hasformally added its voice to this expression of protest. In some places petitions against the projected change of the Calendar have been signed by virtually the whole adult Jewish population. For example, in Holland, with a total of some 120,000 souls, no less than 57,161 signatures were affixed.
The question of the date of Easter, the petition says, does not concern the Jews as such, it being essentially a matter for the Christian churches to decide. Nor are they by any means opposed in principle to Calendar reform. Their antagonism is confined to the so-called “blank day” project, which is an integral part of the schemes at present under consideration.
The Jewish opposition to this innovation is by no means based merely on ecclesiastical grounds, nor is it inspired solely by Rabbinical opinion. We must unequivocally repel the allegation made by some advocates of the “blank day”, that the Jewish attitude is due to the intransigeant stand taken up by some reactionary orthodox Rabbis. The opposition is shared by the whole body of Jewry. It is based upon the positive command of the Decalogue: “six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath”. The enactment of no civil power can modify for the conforming Jew the perpetual validity of this injunction, hallowed as it is not only by the circumstances of its origin, but also by countless generations of implicit observance.
SABBATH IS FUNDAMENTAL INSTITUTION IN JEWISH LIFE: NOT ONLY RELIGIOUS BUT ALSO SOCIOLOGICAL QUESTION: “BLANK DAY” SCHEME WOULD SPELL MATERIAL RAIN TO MILLIONS OF CONSCIENTIOUS JEWS THROUGHOUT WORLD.
The Sabbath is in every sense of the term a fundamental institution in Jewish life. Its regular incidence, at the close of the working week, has an immeasurable spiritual and symbolic influence. With a “floating” Sabbath, which in every year must change its position in the civil week, this would disappear. Even those persons who, by stress of circumstances, are not able to continue to observe the Sabbath in the traditional fashion would feel acutely the obliteration of what has been for countless generations the salient factor in their religious background. The advocates of Calendar Reform have urged that, where the general interest is in question, the views of the minority should be neglected. However, in a religious matter like the present, it is an inalienable right of humanity for minorities and majorities to enjoy similar rights: and all should equally have a claim to consideration by your august body.
But this religious question is at the same time a sociological one. The “blank day” scheme, if adopted, would inevitably spell material ruin to millions of conscientious Jews throughout the world. For them, Sabbath observance has necessarily, in modern times, been a difficult task. Hitherto, however, it has been possible for the customers of a Jewish shop-keeper or merchant to learn that his business is closed on Saturday, or for a Jewish employee to obtain leave to absent himself regularly from work on that day. With the adoption of the new scheme, this would no longer be the case. It would be difficult for the ordinary person to keep himself informed of the nominal day of the week on which the Jewish Sabbath would fall in any particular year. A conscientious Jewish merchant would have to circularise his clientele each December, informing them on what day in the forthcoming year his business would be closed for the Sabbath; while in leap years he would have to make a similar announcement again at Midsummer. The confusion in business circles in those places where Orthodox Jews form a large proportion of the mercantile population would be incalculable.
The ultimate consequence of the scheme of Calendar Reform at present under consideration, the petition says, would thus be economic disaster for countless numbers of Jews, for no reason other than their fidelity to the faith of their fathers. The position of conscientious Sabbath-observing Christians would be identical. If this scheme is carried into execution a majority of the Jewish race will be given the alternatives of abandoning their ideals on the one hand, or material ruin on the other. This is indistinguishable from persecution in the worst medieval sense. It is to the League of Nations in its capacity as a bulwark against persecution, as protector of the religious rights of minorities and as guarantor of the Treaties in which those rights are safeguarded, the petition concludes, that the Jewish people looks for protection from this crushing disaster. In their name, we humbly supplicate the abandonment or modification of the scheme at present under consideration.