New York (Jun. 19)
A protest against the “excommunication” of Prof. Mordecai Kaplan, leader of the Reconstructionist movement, by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of America and Canada was voiced today by the Rabbinical Assembly of America in a resolution adopted by its executive council. The resolution reads:
“The Rabbinical Assembly of America voices its strong condemnation of the recent action taken by a group of rabbis called together under the aegis of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis at a New York hotel convoked through an advertisement in the daily press. At this gathering, the Sabbath Prayer Book issued by the Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation, and edited by our revered colleague Professor Mordecai M. Kaplan and three associates, was burned and he himself ‘excommunicated’ by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, which is one of several organizations of orthodox rabbis in the United States.
“The Rabbinical Assembly of America, the national organization of the Conservative Rabbinate, denies the authority of any outside body to sit in judgment on one of our colleagues. We do not intend here to enter into a discussion of the merits of the Reconstructionist prayer book concerning which there is considerable difference of opinion within the ranks of the Rabbinical Assembly. In fact, authorized prayer books, prepared by a Joint Prayer Book Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue, have been prepared and will appear in the fall.
“Nonetheless, we are all unanimous in voicing our condemnation of the hysterical step taken by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis. The action of burning a book of prayer, drawn in largest measure from the pages of Scripture and the entire range of Jewish saored literature, and in which the Divine Name occurs times without number, is a clear violation of Jewish law. It constitutes a hillul hashem, a desecration of the Divine Name, which threatens to undermine respect for Judaism everywhere. Nor is it calculated to increase respect for the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, which has in a moment of irresponsible hysteria stooped to methods employed by the arch enemies of religious freedom and democracy. The attempt to regiment the religious thinking and behaviour of Jews by methods of suppression which all civilized humanity has outgrown, is contrary to the spirit of Judaism, even as it is repulsive to all right thinking people.
“Conscious of the collective responsibility of the rabbinate to uphold the good name of Israel and the dignity of our faith, we feel called upon to apologize for this evidence of irresponsibility, which is prompted more by partisan rivalry than by honest zeal. We assure the public at large that the action of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis is in violation of the feelings of the overwhelming majority of American Jewry, whose loyalty to Judaism seeks to express itself not only through ritual observance and ethical conduct but also through a genuine respect for the freedom of man’s conscience.”