Milwaukee (Jun. 26)
The Committee on World Jewish Congress of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, in session here, in its report today advised the delegates to refrain from calling a world meeting until American Jewry is unified. Otherwise, the report stated, the congress would open under a handicap so great that it would be doubtful if anything worthwhile could be accomplished.
The executive board authorized a special committee to study the advisability of organizing a world congress. The committee, members of which will be named later, will report at the October 17 meeting of the executive board in Cincinnati.
The executive board voted today to contribute $1,000 through the Joint Distribution Committee for relief of needy Jewish rabbis and scholars in Germany.
The final session of the convention proceeded smoothly, following previous animation over many serious questions.
Yesterday a controversy over whether to revise the reform prayer book to include a humanistic conception of God, man and the universe broke out before the convention.
The humanists, led by Rabbi Joseph L. Baron, of Milwaukee, demanded drastic changes and the inclusion of a prayer service that would eliminate the old, traditional concepts of God and all references to the Jews as a chosen people, an idea that Rabbi Baron branded as “immoral.”
“The old theology and ritual is not being accepted by thousands and must be modernized to draw into the fold those who now shun it,” Rabbi Baron declared.
Other rabbis heatedly opposed the humanist proposal, some declaring that such a thing would do violence to the historical evolution of Judaism. They argued that such a revision would open the way to special services for persons in congregations who are Ethical Culturists, Christian Scientists, agnostics or atheists.
A decision on the question was delayed to a later session. The clash arose on the presentation of a report of the Liturgical Literature Committee by Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, of Chicago. This committee proposed to provide several alternative services, all based on traditional religious conceptions. It also suggested the publication of an anthology of prayers in prose and verse written by rabbis.
In presenting the report of the Committee on Contemporaneous History and Literature, Rabbi Jacob R. Marcus, of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, surveyed the situation of Jews in the world and pointed out that the problem of the Jew in Germany, while overshadowing everything else in Jewish life, tends to make us forget that conditions are by no means satisfactory in other lands.
“Anti-Semitism is rife in Poland, Roumania, Austria and Hungary,” he declared.
After engaging in its most heated argument the conference went on record in favor of recognition of Soviet Russia at its final general session last night. For an hour the rabbis debated fiercely on whether such a stand would further injure Jews here and in Germany and whether it would give anti-Semitic agitators a chance to call all Jews Bolshevists.
In the end, the conference adopted a resolution by a 3 to 2 majority asserting that “in consonance with the expressed opinion of representative Americans, we believe continued non-recognition of the Soviet Union by the United States constitutes a great barrier to the improvement of international relations. We join in the sentiment to end this uncertain relationship.”
Opposition to the resolution was led by Rabbi George Fox, of Chicago, who pointed out that “with the present resurgence of anti-Semitism it is dangerous to give additional weapons to those who accuse us of being Communists.”
Rabbi Samuel H. Goldenson, newly-elected president of the conference, warned “that such a resolution may make the lot of German Jews harder.”
The conference also adopted a series of other resolutions, as follows:
1â€”That the conference deplores the disabilities to which the religious agencies of the Catholic Church have been subjected in various lands.
2â€”That President Roosevelt be supported in any far-visioned social program to aid the masses, but that legislation be included for effective governmental management of production and distribution, that definite labor representation in management of industry be provided for, and that a proper social control of the present profit system be put into effect.
3â€”That President Roosevelt be thanked for his sympathetic attitude toward the suffering of the Jews in Germany, and that he be urged, as well as his delegates to the economic and disarmament conferences, to maintain that a return of freedom and equality for all German citizens would be the surest basis for confidence in the peace ideals of the German government.
4â€”That endorsement and cooperation be given to the efforts made toward unity in American Israel to meet the present emergency arising out of the German situation.
5â€”That support be given to the Joint Distribution Committee in its efforts to gather funds for the preservation of German Jewry and to the Jewish Agency in its appeal for funds to promote the settlement of German Jews in Palestine.
6â€”That the conference favor United States adherence to the World Court.
7â€”That private manufacture of war materials be opposed and that legislation be passed to abolish such practises.
8â€”That members ask their communities to aid a movement to strengthen the Hebrew Union College so that it may make room for expelled German-Jewish students and scholars.
9â€”That the conference cooperate with the anti-defamation committee of B’nai B’rith against anti-Semitic propaganda.
10â€”That a joint convention be negotiated for next year with the National Council of Jewish Education.
A new slate of officers was elected by the delegates. These include honorary president, Rabbis David Phillipson, of Cincinnati; Samuel Schulman, of New York, and Joseph Stolz, of Chicago; president, Samuel H. Goldenson, of Pittsburgh; vice-president, Felix A. Levy, of Chicago; treasurer, Harry S. Margolis, of St. Paul, and recording secretary, Isaac H. Marcuson, of Macon, Ga.