Serious discussion of ways and means of more effectively organizing the Jewish community for communal work, on the basis of the plan proposed by Judge Horace Stern of Philadelphia was given on Sunday afternoon at the twenty-sixth annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee at the Community House of Temple Emanu-el.
The meeting which re-elected Dr. Cyrus Adler, president, devoted the afternoon discussion of Judge Stern’s plan which would make the synagogue the unit of organization for communal undertakings.
Judge Stern, who is chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee, outlined his plan before the meeting. He proposes that various communal undertakings be paralleled in the synagogue.
As he sees it, his plan would be an effective means of preserving the important organizations and eliminating the duplications and would attract the youth. The youth, he asserted, wants its religion in action and is not interested in theology.
The Executive Committee of the American Jewish Committee, it is understood, will review the Stern plan and will seek some means of more effectual communal organization, using the Stern plan as the first step toward such an end.
Emphasizing that the Stern plan making the synagogue the unit of organization, is only an initial step, Mr. Waldman proposed that by way of experiment the Stern plan be introduced in three cities of varying sizes, such as Newark, New Jersey, Omaha, Nebraska and some smaller town with a population of three to four thousand.
Mr. Waldman stressed that the biological law of diversification applies to social organizations as well as to human beings. Uniformity, he asserted, is impossible, not only because of reasons of personalities and methodology but owing to more fundamental factors. Co-operation alone is possible.
Mr. Waldman stated that the plan of Judge Stern offers the possibility of developing a natural and logical constituency for various communal undertakings.
Others who participated in the discussion included Rabbi Samuel Schulman of Temple Emanu-el; Judge Irving Lehman, president of Temple Emanu-el; Ludwig Vogelstein, chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rabbi Moses Hyamson; Joseph C. Hyman, Secretary of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; Rabbi Edward N. Calish of Richmond,
Va; Congressman-elect Herman Koppelman of Hartford, Connecticut; William Liebermann, and W. B. Woolner of Peoria, Ill.
Rabbi Schulman criticized the obsession to make the synagogue stand for practical achievements. The function of the synagogue is spiritual, he insisted.
Rabbi Schulman scored what he called the secularization of Jewish life. In the background of man’s thought today is that something else than the synagogue determines whether or not a man is a Jew and that an individual can be a Jew and not belong to a synagogue.
“The plan of Judge Stern,” he said, “will not accomplish the re-enthronement of the synagogue. On principle I approve of it, but do not fool yourselves into believing that you are strengthening the synagogue.”
Rabbi Schulman warned that with the undermining of the synagogue goes the breakdown of Jewish allegiance and Jewish solidarity. “What is behind the need for Jewish solidarity? Is it racial or religious,” he asked. “If it is racial, then organize the community. If it is religious, organize the synagogue.”
Mr. Vogelstein suggested that the Stern Plan be introduced in the smaller communities as a preliminary to its introduction in the larger communities.
Mr. Hyman said it would be futile to ignore the already existent groups such as the Federations and the welfare funds. He suggested that the Stern plan be implemented with the co-operation of these organized bodies.
The morning session was devoted to business and included the presentation of the reports of the Executive Committee, the treasurer and the election of officers.
The report of the Executive Committee was presented by Dr. Adler, who presided. Samuel D. Leidesdorf read the treasurer’s report.
The report of the nomination’s committee was presented by David M. Bressler, Chairman.
The Executive Committee report dealt with Discrimination in the Colleges; Alien Registration in Michigan; Immigration to the United States; anti-Semitic manifestations in this country; Discrimination in Employment; Jewish Communities abroad, among them Germany, Guatemala.
Of Germany, the report declared: “Concerning the internal affairs of the German people or their political parties, your Committee does not deem it proper to express an opinion. It is not our affair to discuss political parties there or elsewhere or even in our own country, but when a political party makes it a credo that the Jews are to be oppressed and uses means to produce popular hatred against them, that becomes a matter of profound concern to the entire Jewish people. It would seem from the recent elections in Germany that there will be a recession of this feeling, but the tragedy of the situation is that even though the anti-Jewish propaganda lessens or may even cease as part of the program of any political party, hatreds and prejudices have been unleashed which it may take years to assuage. We can only rely upon the sense of justice and sober thinking of the German nation to undo what a period of passion has wrought.”
The report refers to the Jewish conference held in Geneva and reviews the reasons for the opposition to it of the American Jewish Committee. “The proceedings of the Conference at Geneva demonstrate that these objections were well founded,” says the report.
After the report had been approved by the meeting, Leo Wolfson, president of the Federation of Roumanian Jews, proposed that the committee call a meeting of its outstanding membership to discuss the world Jewish congress in the summer of 1934 upon which the Geneva Jewish conference decided.
Mr. Wolfson offered his resolution on the ground that the report of the Executive Committee dealt with the preliminary conference in Geneva only.
This resolution was tabled after brief discussion. I. D. Morrison stated that the Committee cannot deal with the world Jewish Congress inasmuch as the Committee has not been invited to participate.
Dr. Adler said that there would have to be an alteration in the structure of the Committee before it could call a meeting of its contributors.
Ludwig Vogelstein proposed that the Executive deal with the matter.
The resolution was finally tabled upon the motion of Theodor Steiber of Bridgeport.
Tribute was paid in the report to the late Cyrus L. Sulzberger, Julius Rosenwald. S. Marcus Fechheimer and Jacob B. Klein.
The following officers were elected in addition to Dr. Adler: Judge Lehman and Abram I. Elkus. vice-presidents; Samuel D. Leidesdorf, treasurer; Morris D. Waldman, secretary; Harry Schneiderman, assistant secretary. Ralph Schwarz of New Orleans. Governor Julius L. Meier of Oregon, James N. Rosenberg, Lessing T. Rosenwald and B. C. Vladeck were chosen to fill vacancies on the executive committee. Fourteen Greater New York representatives were also re-elected to the committee. They were: Ben Altheimer, Edward L. Bernays, Joseph J. Klein. Max J. Kohler. Arthur M. Lamport, Harry E. Lewis, William Liebermann, Jerome Lewine. James Marshall, Harold Riegelman, Samuel I. Rosenman, Bernard Semel, Ludwig Vogelstein and Ralph Wolf.