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Jewish Federations Urged to Form Central Body to Speak with Authority for U.S. Jewry

A recommendation that the Central Conference of American Rabbis ask the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds to convene all American Jewish community councils, for the purpose of forming an organization “that shall speak and act with authority for American Jewry” was made here today at the opening session of the 61st annual convention of the organization of Reform rabbis.

The recommendation was put forth by Dr. Jacob R. Marcus, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. In his presidential address he also recommended that the convention disapprove “any merger of congregations” and that the C.C.A.R. name a committee “to obtain suggestions on how to make the synagogue service more successful.”

Dr. Marcus expressed opposition to utilization of the public schools of this country for the furtherance of denominational religion. “One would think that men of this generation have read sufficient history to know that the legal union of the church and the state for 1,400 years led to the violation of conscience and to the brutal senseless slaughter of millions of human beings,” he stated.

He thereupon recommended that the C.C.A.R. “authorize the holding of an Institute on church and state, and from that forum express to the world our convictions on this subject in no uncertain terms.” He added that “it is important to let the world know where we Jews stand in this attempt to make the public school system a battleground between conflicting Christian interests.”

He paid a warm tribute to the state of Israel and to “these heroic men who built a new state with their own lifeblood,” and added that “it is a privilege to be alive in this age, to help write one of the most glorious pages of all Jewish history and to witness this Messianic ingathering of the exiles.”

EQUAL RIGHTS FOR LIBERAL RABBIS IN ISRAEL DEMANDED; RESTRICTIONS REPORTED

Observing that “we love Israel and are zealous for its honor,” Dr. Marcus recommended that the C.C.A.R. “denounce the injustice that now prevails in the land of Israel where by some Reform rabbis are denied complete religious equality.” He asked that “Liberal rabbis be granted the same rights as all other rabbis, and the same rights as Christian and Moelem clergymen.

“Liberal rabbis, with one exception, are not permitted to preside at marriages, at divorces, or to perform other functions which are denied no other group, Jewish or Gentile, in the land of Israel,” Dr. Marcus said. “If such a condition existed in the United States, the rabbis of this Conference would shatter these very walls with their outcries against this discrimination.

“If there is a single Jew in Israel who is deprived of his civil liberties because of his religion, then there is injustice in the Holy Land. There can be no compromise with wrong. We, as liberals, as rabbis, as Jews, as humanitariams, must protest.”

Turning to the task of Jews in the world, Dr. Marcus said that, with Israel, the task if “of again making Israel a Holy Land, a land of books and ideals.” Taking issue with those who say that Zionism is dead, he continued: “I say that there is a higher Zionism and that has only begun, and that is the task of making Israel a Holy Land, a land to which all people will again stream that they may be reborn in that new faith that will glow on Judah’s hills.” Rabbis, he said, must give Israel “spiritual, religious and cultural aid.”

“But that is only half our task,” he pointed out. “The other half is to make of American Jewry the greatest Jewish community the world has ever known. That is our mandate. I am not thinking in terms of numbers when I speak of greaness. I am speaking of greatness in terms of the spirit, of an American whose Jews read and study, who have a knowledge of their ancestral history.”

Earlier in his presidential message, Dr. Marcus recommended that the C.C.A.R. appoint a committee “to draft an extensive and detailed blueprint of Liberal Jewish practice, in all its aspects” for consideration at the next C.C.A.R. convention. “Our time-honored religious service has not changed substantially in the last 2,000 years, but the world has changed,” he observed. “Are we not plowing our spiritual fields with a forked stick in this new world of supersonic travel and instantaneous communication.”

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