Only One-third of Conservative Synagogue Membership Attends Services, Survey Reveals

Results of a survey presented to the biennial convention of the United Synagogue of America here reveal a very discouraging picture on attendance at Conservative synagogue services throughout the country.

The survey, conducted by the United Synagogue in cooperation with the Columbia University Bureau of Social Research, indicated that only one-third of the membership of synagogues attends Friday night services. The only bright spot is to be found in the junior congregations, the report says. Dr. Emil Lehman, assistant executive director of the United Synagogue, who directed the survey, suggested to the 800 delegates at the convention that lay hearings be held to discuss the failings of synagogue services and ways to improve attendance.

Adoption of a resolution calling for Israel to end “the present involvement of religion in politics” which was described as “contrary to the best democratic traditions,” highlighted the closing session today of the convention. Other resolutions approved this week-end urged support of Israel and asked the American Government to instruct the Voice of America radio program to include readings from Scriptural and other religious sources.

The convention also adopted a resolution calling for repeal of the McCarran Act and asked Congress “to establish and maintain procedures governing all its various committees investigating subversive and un-American activities so as to protect the fundamental rights of all persons.” While they condemned Communism, the delegates resolved to petition Congress to repeal the McCarran Act, because “many of its provisions flagrantly depart from American democratic principles and long established practice.”

The convention’s action followed an address by Rabbi Ira Eisenstein, vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, who called for revival of a joint commission on social action to operate on a national level and for the activation of social action committees for each congregation within the synagogue organization. Rabbi Eisenstein said the synagogue has “failed in the whole field of social action and made to dent in contemporary America.”

Dr. Moshe Davis, dean of the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary, told the delegates that “there is no doubt that religious leadership, in trying to intensify religious activity in Israel, will seek knowledge of the unique method, organization, and experience of the American synagogue in dealing with the problems of a religious man in a modern world. Maxwell Abbell, of Chicago, was elected president of the United Synagogue and Samuel Rothstein, of New York, was elected honorary president.

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