This is the second of a striking and important new series by the author of “Jewry Must About Face!” which the Jewish Daily Bulletin printed last month. So unprecedented was the response of readers to the earlier articles that it has been decided to regroup the two series and publish them in pamphlet form. The author’s trumpet-like command to action represents a new force in Jewry, a new Jewish philosophy which will seize the hearts and minds of those in whom the spark of pride and manhood still burns bright. He presents no vague theories, but a concrete program, machinery for which already has been placed in motion.
It seems necessary to agree that any attempt to form an organization with charter, dues and membership, will be faced with almost insuperable difficulties. Even if successful it would only serve to complement existing Jewish organizations and in this sense would be largely useless.
Our unity must be attained in quite a different direction. It must be involved in the very stream of our Jewish life, and be inseparable from the conditions of our group existence.
It happens that our great reservoir of potential strength is exactly the thing which Germany’s Hitler has been trying so feverishly to attain. We are both a blood brotherhood and a brotherhood of idea. It is from this point that we should start to build.
Obviously in all other respects Jews all over the globe have very little else in common. Certainly in both language and interests they are as assorted a group as could be gathered together anywhere.
The essence of Judaism happens to be superbly simple and not subject to much varied interpretation. If it were not for these factors the course I propose would be well nigh hopeless.
JUDAISM NOT AN ‘ISM’
We can accept the interpretation of our own Professor Albert Einstein: “Judaism is not a creed. The Jewish God is simply a negation of superstition an imaginary result of its eliminationâ€”Judaism is thus no transcendental religion. It is concerned with life as we live it, and as we can, to a certain extent, grasp it, and nothing else. It seems to me therefore doubtful whether it can be called a religion in the accepted sense of the word, particularly as no ‘faith’ but the sanctification of life in a supra-personal sense is demanded of the Jew.”
Here then if shorn from the Reform-Jewish slavish imitation of Protestant forms, and Orthodox adherence to frozen ritualism, is a beautiful tenet of belief which may be well made a part of day to day existence. In its pure form, free of alien influences, it is a simple reaffrmation of the pleasures and duties of life.
There is no asceticism, Hell or witch-burning in this doctrine. There is no necessity to “adjust” it to the teachings of modern-day science and ideas. The Jewish tradition itself exalts knowledge and justice for their own sake, and is a perfect ethical concept for modern-day life. Far from being at odds with the mechanics of civilized progress it dovetails with it perfectly.
Moreover, it is enclustered with a festive tradition grown soft and lovely with time. It is in short the perfect medium for the spiritual expression of a dignified and intelligent people.
Much alien encrustation, however, has adhered to it from the enforced freezing of Jewish life by medieval persecution. It has developed from the simple free creed of a noble desert people into mummified aberrations. It has acquired the Kabbala and the plaintive sing-song chant of the Ortho-###. It has retained all its old ###worn garments. It has acquired the ministerial interceders with omnipotence of the Reform element.
SCRAPE BARNACLES OFF
The hull of Judaism must be first cleansed of its barnacles. To do this it will be necessary to reconvene a Sanhedrin of our best minds and scholars. They should clear it of the superannuated formalism that has gradually adhered to it, as well as of all alien ideas. It should be brought back to its original simplicity, clarity and charm. With that will return its fine vitality as a satisfying way of life to which we can honestly dedicate the consciences of intelligent and free men.
As a vibrant normalizing way of life it will justify Einstein’s statement: “Those who are raging today against the ideals of reason and individual liberty and are trying to establish a spiritless state-slavery by brute force, righty see in us their irreconcilable foes.”
The German pagan Hitler has handed us the accolade by acknowledging that the great foe of his type of coarse regimentation is “Jewish liberalism and Jewish intellectualism.”
At other times in our varied history Judaism has been cleared from its obsolete formalism and rebrought into complete harmony with everyday life. Every Jewish scholar knows the golden age of the Spanish Jews. The great Maimonides, the immortal Halevy were products of this glorious period. Once again it developed a great poetry, great commentators and great scholars. These things all became a part of a vital constructive life far removed from the Kabbalistic mysticism of the Yeshiva to which it later tottered.
In thus reclarifying our creed, we have no intention whatever of touching any of its basic conceptions. We merely mean to shear away from it the alien outmoded encrustations which have finally floundered it into stagnation. We mean to revivify this creed by reaching back into its original sources of power to recreate it again into a living belief that all Jewry can implicitly subscribe to.
All pagan foreign traditions and symbols must be ruthlessly cut away in favor of the wholly Jewish conception.
Our scholars, tolerant by tradition, in this study and reclarification will keep our Jewish ideals free from the virus of dogmatism.
The Talmud, the Mishna and the whole of Jewish law must be rigorously culled of all its obsolescent, petrified and pedantic growths. Only what is beautiful, truly Jewish, firm and strong, must be retained.
A cardinal essence of the Jewish philosophy is that all men are equal under heaven. Any ten men could gather to form a minyan, and in these congregations any member could be called forward to read the law. In this lay much of its great moral strength. It required no interceptors between its adherents and their God.
“God is one, all pervasive and indivisible,” ran the basic Jewish credo, and in the participation of the individual was his interpretation of the divine existence.
There was certainly never any emphasis placed upon the presence of the God-head, nor any attempt to transmute this simple creed into a fanatic churchdom. It simply represented a theory of life, and an attempt to bring life itself into adjustment with the immutable.
EXIT THE MODERN RABBI
In the original Jewish viewpoint a rabbi was not a man of divine significance. He was not a sanctimonious individual blocking the way of all progress with empty, sonorous phrases. He was simply a teacher and that is what the word rabbi means. Certainly we Jews need no priests or ministers to intercede for us with Heaven, or to deliver thunderous moral orations. All this is contrary to the entire Jewish conception as it was developed by the free minds of our early forebears. We can easily dispense with our modern rabbiâ€”imitation of an alien priesthood only. If our rabbis leave lip-smacking behind and become teachers, forceful and Jewish-minded, can they have value to our Jewish organism.
This idea of the participation of every individual in the spiritual life and interpretation is one of the most attractive things of Christian Science, directly borrowed from the Jewish philosophy.
These Jewish ideals of reason, justice and equality, even in things of the spirit, will give us the physical basis for unity.
If instead of forming churches in imitation of the Christians, a theory never wholly satisfactory to the sound Jewish instinct, we simply return to the Jewish idea of minyans, with the original dignified and simple conception of the spirit, every individual becomes at once a leader, an interpreter and a participant. He is not merely a man who listens to a boring sermon or who has almost outdone the Chinese in his blind worship of mere out-worn form. He is a man who is exhiliarated by a clear and deathless philosophy from which he may extract both comfort and understanding.
These minyans should elect their own leader, as under the old Jewish law there were the leaders of the tens, the hundreds and the thousands. Thus, the leaders of the tens will name the leaders of the hundreds, who will in turn name the leaders of the thousands, etc., and thus our unity will be effected from the very core of Jewish life itself by the simple formula of pyramiding, instead of by some futile outside process.
Except for its liquidity and lack of formal restrictive symbolism, this would in large degree be comparable to the structure of the Catholic church, which finds its strength in the local parishes, which are governed, however, by the authoritarian, self-perpetuating principle of appointment.
While our basic theory must be one of a freely elected leadership to conform with the liberal beliefs of our people, at the top we must have a leadersihp which while elected is none the less authoritarian. This type of authoritarianism is in the essence of Jewish history and conscience, and will allow for direct action in any of the difficulties besetting the Jewish people without the interference of many bickering minds.
As I pointed out earlier, it would allow for positive unified action and would if necessary in times of stress allow alliances with the various Protestant and Catholic groups against the mutual enemy of pagan fascism. From the viewpoint of effectiveness the Catholic-Protestant groups would welcome