NEW YORK (Dec. 9)
The “firm belief” that the Jews in the United States are “on the threshold of a new era of progress, ” was expressed here today by Earl James McGrath, U.S. Commissioner of Education, addressing the two-day National Conference on Adult Jewish Education which opened today at the Jewish Theological Seminary here. The conference is sponsored jointly by the Rabbinical assembly of America and the National Academy for Adult Jewish Studies, currently celebrating its 10th anniversary.
“Jews and Jewish culture,” he declared, “have come to stay and to become increasingly a part of the whole American pattern. If we are to have any fears for the future they cannot be merely for the future of American Jews alone. If anti-Semitism is again to become a threat it will menace the whole of the American people, the whole of American democracy. For a threat to one group spells danger to the whole. Our destinies are inextricably interwoven.”
Commissioner McGrath expressed the opinion that the Jews in the United States seem to be in a period of transition, with the process of adapting the essentially European Jewish culture to the American scene not yet complete. “There seems to me to be a real need for vigorous, well-planned and effective adult education programs, in order to catch up on the cultural lag which seems to have been weakening American Judaism,” he stated.
Emphasizing that he believes that “a revival of Jewish culture will enrich the lives not only of Jews but of the nation as a whole, ” the U.S. Commissioner of Education said; “I can understand that there are many old fears which still dominate the lives of American Jews and deaden their sensitivity toward Jewish cultural values. The truth must be faced that American Jews, too, have not escaped that rejection which has plagued Jews throughout history. Merely to have lived through the last decade and to have witnessed the destruction of so many millions of their brothers must have been a shattering experience from which it may take years to recover. Moreover, here too in our own country we have not been free of those manifestations which elsewhere have led to such dreadful disaster.”
Commissioner McGrath, who recently visited Israel in an official capacity to organize a group of American educators to study and make recommendations on certain problems in Israel’s educational system, announced at the conference that within a short time he will prepare a report dealing with those problems.