Developments in the campaign to obliterate the “mushroom” synagogue evil are piling up at a rate all of them forewarning of a fight that will be fought to a finish.
Throughout the city orthodox Jewish organizations have served warning that they intend to cooperate with city officials in their fight to wipe out the “menace.”
The Jewish Council of Greater New York, through its president, Bernard G. Richards, announced that a meeting of its administrative committee had been called for Monday. At this meeting, it was said, will be discussed the “whole problem of ‘mushroom’ synagogues, from ‘loopholes’ in the recently passed Senator Joseph Frauds on Religious Institutions bill to ways and means of assisting city authorities in enforcing the Lazarus law.”
NO ARRESTS YET
Max J. Schneider, president of the Bronx Federation of Jewish Congregations, asserted that assistant district attorney Martin Kraus of The Bronx, specially appointed to prosecute promoters of these synagogues, was investigating several complaints made by the Federation. Kraus confirmed this statement, but he declared that no arrests had been made as yet.
Then, national significance was added to the local aspect of the movement when the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America announced that the July issue of the Orthodox Union, a monthly published by the Union, would contain an editorial tirade against “mushroom” synagogues. The publication is distributed throughout the country.
The editorial appeals for greater synagogue membership on the part of the Jewish public as being the ultimate solution and destruction of the ‘mushroom’ problem. All congregations are urged to make a concerted drive for new members during the coming High Holy Days.
Calling attention to the development in the Jewish community, in recent years, of an “abominable type of racketeering” in the form of “mushroom” synagogues, the editorial asserts that “individuals far from responsibility and infinitely further from religion, perenially prey upon the prayerful sentiments of Jewish masses whose sum total of religious expression is concentrated in three days out of the year.
“The movie house, the dance hall, the public market, and other such sorely unsuited places are in destructive competition with synagogues that are truly dedicated to religion all through the year. These fly-by-night ventures work havoc with real spiritual efforts, not only because they damage the sadly needed income of legitimate religious institutions, but because by their very banal commercial character, and unfit, irresponsible personnel, they debase the very purposes of synagogue worship and activity.”
With the High Holy Days only six weeks off, this is the period when the “mushroom” synagogues according to an organization official, “spout in Jewish communities of this city like weeds in an uncultivated field.” Movie theaters, dance halls and vacant stores appear suddenly as “orthodox” synagogues. Racketeers who represent themselves as rabbis before the holidays announce that they will conduct services. Exorbitant prices are charged and the public is fleeced.
Protests against attendance in these temporary synagogues are not only recent. For years responsible Jewish leaders in the community have deprecated their use. Previous campaigns, however, have been futile, if not in vain. Promoters could not be legally prosecuted; only appeals and persuasive tactics could be brought into play. Usually, in the past, these tactics failed in their purpose only because responsible synagogues were not able to seat the extraordinary turn-out for the High Holy Days’ services.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, for one, has for many years tried to educate the Jewish public against attending illegitimate synagogues. During the summer of last year, according to William Weiss, its president, the Union held several borough meetings to which representatives of the synagogues were invited to confer on the subject and organize a concerted effort in their local communities to eliminate the “mushrooms.” These efforts were successful in a number of instances, Weiss said. However, it was also suggested at that time, that there must be secured State legislation which would help to outlaw irresponsible places of worship.
Acting on this suggestion Senator Lazarus Joseph, a grandson of the famed Rabbi Jacob Joseph, introduced his bill as an amendment to the Penal Law. The bill makes it a misdemeanor to sell tickets to services in “non-legitimate places of worship.”
Last week a “loophole” was discovered in the Joseph law by the Jewish Daily Bulletin. It was shown that promoters of “non-legitimate” synagogues could evade the law by incorporating under State supervision.
A survey of Jewish communities, however, showed yesterday that as yet many usual haunts of “mushroom” synagogues have not been hired.