Back to Synagogue Movement in America: Judge Horace Stern’s Plan Endorsed by Dr. Cyrus Adler at Annu

Dr. Cyrus Adler, President of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the American Jewish Committee, and Chairman of the Jewish Agency Council, endorsed and developed the “back to the synagogue” movement plans recently put forward by Judge Horace Stern, of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee and Vice-President of the Jewish Publication Society of America, when he addressed to-day the 20th. annual convention of the United Synagogue of America, which has been opened at Atlantic City.

Judge Stern put forward his plan at the end of January, at the semi-annual meeting of the Executive Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which adopted it in principle and referred it to the Central Conference of American Rabbis for consideration, with the request that it should make recommendations as to the advisability of carrying out the plan and enlisting for it the support of the Reform Congregations which are affiliated with the Union.

The United Synagogue of America, which was founded by Solomon Schechter, who was Dr. Cyrus Adler’s predecessor as President of the Jewish Thoelogical Seminary of America, stands for traditional Judaism, so that its support would rally both orthodox and reform Judaism in America on behalf of Judge Stern’s plan.

Judge Stern in putting forward his plan urged the synagogue to become the rallying force in Jewish life in America, and claimed that the plan can apply equally to reform and conservative synagogues.

Under the plan the membership of each congregation would be divided into two groups, one of men and the other of women.

Each men’s and women’s organisation would be divided into eight groups, parallel to eight different communal undertakings, which Judge Stern has grouped as follows: 1. local charitable work; 2. national charitable organisations; 2. national educational institutions; 4. national institutios engaged in religious training; 5. foreign relief work; 6. Palestine endeavour; 7. the protection of Jewish rights at home and abroad; 8. the problem of local education.

“The special groups”, Judge Stern said, “would be required to specialise in their respective subjects. They would have meetings and discussions, invite to address and inform them those most qualified in such subjects: they would also do such clinical work as the nature of the subject made possible. In turn they would instruct the public generally on behalf of the causes in which they would thus be interested; they would labour for such causes by arousing public interest therein”.

These proposals, he claimed, would effect the three major desirerata for communal organisational. to have a permanent form of organised Jewish life in each community, not so much for the purpose of being ready upon occasion to spring into action on behalf of Jewish causes, as rather of having it continuously working for them; 2. to have every member of the Jewish community interested in Jewish work by being actively engaged in some form most congenial to him, and incidentally thereby to have that work distributed as fairly in the community as possible; 3. to interest especially young people in the solving of Jewish problems and the performance of communal work.

The fact that many Jews are not members of synagogues does not invalidate the plan, Judge Stern declared. The fact that the proposed plan would not be all-embracing in the community would not militate against the benefits that would accrue to the synagogues themselves, and certainly the communal work would be improved at least to the extent to which the proposed synagogue groups or organisations were formed. As to the fear that the synagogue membership and more particularly that the young people would not remain long interested in such work, I believe that it is an unjustified apprehension.

These radical changes, he went on, are needed in order to restore the synagogue to its former position as the centre from which all communal work is carried on, Judge Stern said, and would give collective responsibility for the work at present carried on by only a few individuals in each community.

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