Ickes Calls on United Synagogue to Aid in Correcting Social Order

Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes tonight appealed to the United Synagogue of America, representing the Conservative Jews, to aid in making the United States “a land of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race or color or creed, a land where every man may aspire to at least a modest ownership of private property and a chance at that work for which he is best adapted in order to make a comfortable living for himself and his family.”

Addressing the convention dinner of the national biennial convention of the organization on “Social Problems in a Changing World,” Mr. Ickes asserted that “we Americans, instead of keeping our eyes fixed on the promised land, had actually turned our backs on it and were counter-marching in the direction of Egypt and its Pharaohs.” He declared that “a great army of American workmen find it impossible, under our economic system, to maintain their families according to our theoretical American standard of living.”

During the afternoon session, the delegates heard a report of the Rabbinical Assembly of America delivered by Dr. Louis M. Epstein of Brookline, Mass., urging them to “strengthen the hands” of the 250 rabbis who have committed themselves to the newly erected machinery for settling the problem of the deserted wife, or Agunah.

He explained that under the reform, the principle that a man can appoint a “shaliah,” or agent, to act for him is extended to the “ketubah,” or marriage contract. A special clause is written into the contract authorizing the wife to act as agent for him in obtaining a divorce so that if she is deserted she can seek a divorce in his name from the Central Court of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Dr. Epstein expressed regret at “the unfriendly attitude” which the Agudath Harabonim (association of orthodox rabbis) had taken to the reform, declaring that their attacks were not made on legal grounds. “We trust to the merit of the case,” he stated, “and we feel confident that in due time rabbinic opinion generally will take a more favorable attitude to our suggestion and that ultimately it will become the standard practice in Klal Yisroel.”

Other speakers at the afternoon and morning session were Dr. Charles I. Hoffman, of Newark, corresponding secretary of the United Synagogue; Louis J. Moss, of Brooklyn, president; Isaac Jacobson, of Washington; A. B. Cohen, of Scranton, Pa.; Rabbi Adolph Coblentz, of Baltimore; Rabbi Armond E. Cohen, of Cleveland: Dr. Herman Hailperin, of Pittsburgh; Dr. Louis M. Levitzky, of Wilkes Barro, Pa.; Rabbi Goodman A. Rose, of Pittsburgh; Rabbi Herman E. Rubenovitz, of Roxbury, Mass.; and Rabbi Solomon H. Metz of Washington.

At yesterday’s sessions, the delegates heard proposals for making the synagogue more democratic, a denunciation of “employer control” over rabbis and a plea “to sponsor true democracy with a religious fervor equal in intensity to that fervor which actuates millions in other countries to submit to a universal and ruthless dictatorship.” Speakers were Mr. Moss, Mrs. Samuel Spiegel, of New York, president of the Women’s League; Rabbi Eugene Kohn, of Newark, president of the Rabbinical Assembly; Dr. Max Arzt, of Scranton; Judge Hyman J. Reit, of New York and Representative Herman P. Koppleman of Connecticut.

On the speakers’ list for this evening’s banquet were Mr. Koppleman, Dr. Israel H. Levinthal, of Brooklyn; Mrs. Spiogel and Mr. Ickes.

The Secretary of the Interior began by comparing the Jews’ wandering in the desert to the Americans’ wandering in a “social desert.” Tracing the economic history of the United States, he declared that the American ideal of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness had been lost sight of, and instead “we find an America containing a small but very rich class and a disproportionately large but very poor class.”

NEXT STORY