New Concept of Judaism is Laid to Zionism

Emphasizing that Judaism means religion rather than the recently advanced conception which would make of Judaism a civilization, Dr. Samuel H. Goldenson of New York, in his presidential address last night before the opening session of the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, declared that the new interpretation of Judaism is due more than anything else to Zionism.

“There is a special reason,” Dr. Goldenson said, “why Judaism as a religion tends to be less and less emphasized in connection with the Palestinian venture, while the so-called cultural aspects of the Jewish contributions are stressed more and more. That reason is that religion, particularly the high reaches of it, attained by the prophets of Israel, tends to be universal and transcendent.

“Such a conception of religion cannot but weaken every appeal that is based upon purely nationalistic and racial grounds.”

Pointing out that he is not speaking in derogation of Palestine as a homeland for those Jews who dwell therein, either from choice or compulsion, Dr. Goldenson said:

“Should the tendency to substitute secular and political for spiritual values grow stronger and become incorporated in the group life of Palestine, I cannot but express the fear that Palestine may become like any one of a half dozen lands in that part of the world, where there will be the same racial antagonisms, class strife, economic exploitation, political chicanery and cultural barreness.”

“It is thought,” Dr. Goldenson said, “that by regarding Judaism as a civilization instead of a religion it will be easier to cope with the disintegrating forces of modern life. But the incidental result of this thought is to demote the religion of Israel from its high and exalted place that it has always occupied in the life of the Jew.”

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