NEW YORK (Nov. 8)
Opposition to the suggestion by Prof. Robert MacIver that the Union of American Hebrew Congregations be regarded as the sponsor and general director of programs concerning interfaith activities in the field of combatting anti-Jewish prejudice, was expressed in statements issued here today by Conservative and Orthodox rabbinical groups. Prof. MacIver’s suggestion is part of his report evaluating the work of Jewish groups engaged in combatting anti-Semitism in the United States.
The United Synagogue of America declared its “absolute and complete disapproval” of the suggestion. It also emphasized in its statement that it entertains “some doubt” regarding the advisability of the main thesis of the MacIver Report, namely that “various aspects of community relations be ‘framed out’ as a special concern of specific presently existing organizations.”
“The United Synagogue of America is, however, of the opinion that if the main proposals of the MacIver Report are to be implemented and interfaith relations are to be assigned to religious bodies, then an incontrovertibly logical and cogent case can be made out in behalf of assigning this area to the Synagogue Council of America,” the statement said.
The Rabbinical Assembly of America, which represents the Conservative rabbinate, made public a statement declaring that it considers “clearly valid” the contention of the MacIver Report that inter-religious work should be carried on by religious bodies, not by secular agencies. “However,” the statement adds, “we submit that the problem cannot be solved by entrusting interfaith activity to only one segment of the Jewish religious community which cannot represent the total religious community in American Jewry.
“Furthermore, much of the most important interfaith work is being done in communities throughout the country by the local synagogues and their rabbis. These represent all the three interpretations of the Jewish religion. We therefore maintain that the interfaith work now carried on by the defense agencies should be entrusted only to that body which represents all of the Jewish religious groups and which is now effectively engaged in the interfaith field. Obviously this body is the Synagogue Council of America, ” the statement emphasized.
ORTHODOX RABBIS AGREE WITH VIEWS OF CONSERVATIVES
The Rabbinical Council of America, which comprises about 450 American-trained Orthodox rabbis, called upon the evaluating committee of the National Community Relations Advisory Council to give particular attention to that part of the MacIver report which recommends the designation of a religious body as the sole agency for the directing of all interfaith activities. However, the Orthodox group took issue with the MacIver report which designated a single section of the American religious community as the custodian of interfaith activities. “In all fairness,” it said in its statement, “interfaith activities must be vested in the Synagogue Council which is representative of the three groups in American Jewish religious life. It must not be surrendered to one particular segment of the religious community.”
Quoting from a resolution which was passed by the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council, the statement declared: “The Synagogue Council of America which represents all sections of the American Jewish religious body is best suited to present Jewish life and practices to the non-Jewish world. As a co-operating agency of the Synagogue Council, it will then be possible for us to aid in the presentation of our traditions in the proper light. We are happy to see that an attempt is being made to bring order into the American Jewish-community. We feel that the time has come to remove the conflict of interest and the duplication of effort which has frequently characterized the national Jewish scene. It is, however, most important that the proper agency in each instance be designated to guide and direct these common efforts.”