“Bootleg Rabbis” Assailed at Rabbinical Assembly As Dross of Religious Life
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“Bootleg Rabbis” Assailed at Rabbinical Assembly As Dross of Religious Life

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Rabbi Elias Margolis of Mt. Vernon was elected president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary at Wednesday afternoon’s session of the thirty-third annual convention of the organization which ended yesterday. He succeeds Dr. Mordecai M. Kaplan, who declined to run for a second term, stating that he planned to take a Sabbatical year from the Seminary where he is a professor of Homiletics.

Other officers chosen to head the Assembly for the ensuing year were Rabbi Eugene Kohn of Bayonne, N. J., vice-president; Rabbi Joel Geffen of Troy, recording secretary; Rabbi Nachman S. Arnoff of Camden, N. J., corresponding secretary, and Herman N. Cohen of St. Paul, treasurer.

Elected to the executive committee for a three-year term were Rabbis Louis Finkelstein of New York, Solomon Goldman of Chicago, Mordecai M. Kaplan and Samuel Rosenblatt of Baltimore, Robert Gordis of Rockaway Park, L. I., and Israel Goldstein of New York.


Wednesday night’s session was featured by a symposium on "What are the facts of the present economic situation and what are the logical conclusions to be drawn from those facts?" Participants in the symposium were George Soule, editor of the New Republic, Dr. Rufus S. Tucker, noted economist and Rabbi Goldstein, chairman of the Assembly’s committee on social justice.

Dr. Cyrus Adler, president of the Seminary and honorary member of the Assembly, addressed Friday morning’s executive session. A paper which aroused considerable lively discussion was read by Rabbi Jacob Freedman of Chelsea, Mass., on "Bootlegging the American Rabbinate." Declaring that the invasion of "free lances" or unordained men in the rabbinate constituted a "disgraceful and pernicious bootlegging of the American Rabbinate," Dr. Freedman called upon the Assembly to formulate plans to deal with this condition. He recommended an amalgamated board consisting of representatives of the various seminaries, rabbinical and synagogue associations to purge "the dross from the religious life of American Israel."


"Such a broadly representative organization," he said, "aided by the press and by other national organizations, such as the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Associated Y.M.H.A.’s, the Zionist Organization, the B’nai B’rith and other fraternal groups, has it within its power to bring order out of chaos in our religious life. Let the worthy unordained men of long standing be recognized and welcomed into the rabbinical associations. Let the younger ones prove their sincerity and real devotion to their calling by entering the seminaries as candidates for ordination. Let the others be publicly read out of the ranks of the rabbinate."

A special committee of the Assembly will be appointed to look into the question of "free lance" rabbis and to take steps, in conjunction with other Jewish seminaries, to rid the rabbinate of these unqualified, unordained men.


A feature of the conference has been the decided stand taken by the members, headed by Rabbi Israel Goldstein of the Temple B’nai Jeshuron, on the question of rabbinical comment on political and economic affairs. Vigorously contending that the synagogue should concern itself with the full life of its members, and take part in all questions of vital public interest, Rabbi Goldstein, as head of the committee on social justice, made a number of recommendations to the resolutions committee. These dealt with world peace, disarmament, Christian celebrations in public schools, elimination of "The Merchant of Venice" from public school reading, acknowledgment of American Christendom’s protest against Nazi anti-Semitism, protests in the Scottsboro case, the Mooney case, utterances on the 30-hour week, federal relief and public works, minimum wages and unemployment insurance. The relation of the synagogue to social justice was discussed by Rabbi Goldstein, who recommended a course in social justice problems in the Seminary curriculum.

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