Editor, Jewish Daily Bulletin:
Some weeks ago, when your columns carried a story from Jerusalem stating that a “movement has been started here in certain Jewish-Moslem quarters against the Y. M. C. A., which has just completed its new building in Jerusalem, accusing it as a conversionist organization, seeking to proselytize Jewish and Moslem young people by offering them educational and athletic advantages,” I wrote immediately to Mr. Waldo Heinrichs, Secretary of the Jerusalem Y. M. C. A. The reply cam today.
I quote in part: “We pursue the standard recognized program of the Y. M. C. A. all around the world. It has never been a proselytizing agency, and we do not intend to make it such here. As long as the Y. M. C. A. was located in small and insignificant quarters the non-Christians and certain sects of the Christians could treat it condescendingly. As soon, however, as the new building neared completion the reactionary elements of the Moslems (particularly the Grand Mufti’s party), the Roman Catholicsâ€”as represented by the Latin Patriarch, and those Jewish elements who are out for an exclusively Jewish Palestine, were united in their opposition to the Y. M. C. A. by the fear that its many attractions would win their youth away from their religious tenets and that they would become too liberalized by the Y. M. C. A. The one word which they all seized upon as their most potent weapon was ‘proselytizing’. They scanned our old Constitution, which has been in force for 55 years, and picked out the phraseâ€””… and the extension of His Kingdom among young men” as proof of our proselytizing objectives. Some of our members felt that this did give offense to the non-Christian group, and we adopted an entirely new basis of active membership.
“Some weeks after Roman Catholic and Arab opposition, Jewish friends of ours in the city, the most progressive and intelligent group in town, told us that the Jewish Vaad Leumiâ€”an organization centralizing the Jewish interests of Jerusalem, was about to make a statement in opposition to the Y. M. C. A., recommending that young Jews should not participate in the Association activities. These progressive friends, for example Miss Henrietta Szold, Mr. E. Mohl, and Dr. Arlosoroff, head of the Palestine Jewish Agency, fought against such a declaration by the Vaad Leumi, but I understand were defeated, and the Chief Rabbi (of the Ashkenazi Jews) won through in their program of opposition.
“One great difficulty which faced us was the arrival of the new Anglican Bishop, a very staunch Evangelical and representing a very important element of the population. He comes from Wycliffe Hall at Oxford, and with the English University prejudice against the Y. M. C. A. . . . In the heat of the battle we were tremendously amused that a Y. C. A. program should unite in opposition against us the Grand Mufti, the Latin Patriarch, the Chief Rabbi, and the Anglican Bishop. Dr. Magnes said, ‘You have achieved something even in this, for it is the first time in history that that group has ever been united on any subject.’ . . . Dr. Magnes in a quiet way is helping by saying ‘Let the Y. M. C. A. operate for two or three months and let us judge’: this is all we ask, and so far we have nothing to regret in the way things have gone.”
The fact as stated that the Jerusalem Y. M. C. A. has no interest in, or effect in, proselytizing Jews or Moslems merits publication in your Bulletin.
Everett R. Clinchy.