Rabbi Demands Social Reforms at Conference in Wernersville
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Rabbi Demands Social Reforms at Conference in Wernersville

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gram of social reforms that would include the total elimination of child labor, old age pensions and retirement pensions taking effect at the age of sixty-five, together with a system of unemployment insurance.”

The committee further recommended “a comprehensive program of public construction, by municipal, state and federal authorities, of buildings, roads, bridges, hospitals and schools and especially of housing projects on a national scale, to wipe out slums and slum areas.”

Dr. Sidney E. Goldstein, chairman of the Social Justice Commission of the conference, in his report of the commission’s work discussed unemployment, distribution of the national income, socialization of basic enterprises, the NRA and the trends of political organization in this country.

The commission, Dr. Goldstein reported, found that “unemployment continues at the end of five years of social effort to be the most acute problem in our economic life.” There are at least ten million men and women in America jobless, with probably five million families utterly destitute and dependent upon public aid, he said.


To. distribute the national income wisely and justly, the commission advised a “radically revised system of taxation that will include a rapid increase of surtaxes upon current incomes; a marked increase in inheritance taxes and gifts; a heavy tax upon corporation surpluses and reserves; the taxation of tax exempt securities; and the removal of competitive taxes upon commodities in current use.”

A further suggested remedy, the report stated, was a program of control over the prices of commodities so that the increase in wages may not be constantly outrun by the increase in the cost of living.

In the matter of socializing basic enterprises, the group found that “it is not safe for society to leave the basic social enterprises in the control of private groups that operate these enterprises for private profit instead of for the service to the community.”


A three-point program for socializing basic enterprises was suggested for adoption by the government. These were: 1) Reorganization of the banking system, of which it declared that “no amount of credit poured into private banking organizations will filter down to those who need it most.”

2). Taking over of the transportation and communications system by government, as recommended after careful study by the Federal Coordinator of Railroads.

3) Control by the Federal government of the power plants, by exercise of governmental right of eminent domain.

The commission went on record as criticizing the NRA for its “many weaknesses and defects which if uncorrected will invalidate the program as a whole and make true recovery impossible.” These defects were pointed out as follows: Working hours in the various codes are too long and should be limited to not more than thirty hours per week. Minimum wages in almost every code are too low. Workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively must be protected and enforced.


Warning was sounded by the commission against the danger of the American people falling into “the trap of thinking that the choice is either Communism or Fascism” when faced with a choice of three present trends of political organization, Communism on the extreme left, Fascism on the extreme right and a socialized Democracy in the center. The body expressed the opinion that it “is not necessary to limit ourselves to two choices, Communism or Fascism. In the judgment of the members of the Conference there is only one way in which the American people can escape the dictatorship of Fascism or the other, and that is, by establishing a thoroughly socialized Democracy. This change can be achieved, the members are convinced, without force and violence and catastrophe and through the orderly methods of democratic procedure.”


Armament manufacturers were scored and compulsory military training in colleges and universities was condemned in the report to the conference by the Committee on International Peace, which was presented by Rabbi Max C. Currick, chairman, of Erie, Pa. The report upheld, also, the right of the conscientious objector to war and to such training as an expression of the war spirit, to be excused from such training.”

The committee recommended that the conference give, if requested, all possible assistance to the Congressional committee investigating Nazi intrigue in this country.

“Nazi organization and propaganda for the subversion of the present form of Government of the United States impedes the present friendly relations between our Government and that of the German Reich, and is, therefore, an impediment to the world peace movement,” the report stated.

In his presidential message to the conference, Dr. Samuel H. Goldenson, of Temple Emanu-El, New York City, urged upon rabbis and other Jewish leaders the necessity of analyzing and understanding the play of forces that make possible such a phenomenon as Hitlerism in the present-day world.

“We should not spend all our time in denouncing Hitlerism,” he declared, “but reserve some of our strength and energy for the greater and more useful task of understanding the causes of its power, and seek to eradicate them.”

Chauvinism, or perverted nationalism; the doctrine of narrow, racial culture in opposition to culture as broad and universal; and the demand for self-contained solidarity as against a genuine unity based on loyalty to a commonly-held, all-inclusive ideal were listed by Dr. Goldenson as some of the contributing causes to Hitlerism.

To combat its menace, the New York rabbi declared it was the duty of all of us to remove as far as we can the forces that threaten the stability of the social order.”

In discussing the spread of intolerance all over the world, Dr. Goldenson cautioned that since “we Jews are always the first victims, it behooves us to be especially watchful of our own conduct and not commit the folly of believing that similar illiberalisms may not develop among ourselves. If we should take proper counsel from the nature of the attacks upon us in Germany and if we study their origin and the way they are justified by our enemies, we would be especially on guard against the development in Jewish circles of narrow and trivial conceptions of culture, of chauvinistic nationalism and the advocacy of rigid and regimented solidarity.”

Dr. Goldenson, ridiculing the type of solidarity that Hitler claims to have behind him, urged upon Jews a solidarity of a diametrically opposed kind. He suggested a unity derived from “love for our heritage and the respect that each shall have for the other’s way of making our heritage count in life.”

The conference leader warned against the tendency to emphasize Jewish nationalism separately and apart from its unique religious and spiritual quality, and declared that this tendency in modern Jewish life, due chiefly to ignorance of the distinctive quality of Jewish history, will ultimately lead to the disintegration of the Jewish people. The only justification, he said, for the separate existence of the Jew as a minority people lies in his conscious fulfillment of his self-imposed task of playing a special role in human life.

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