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Jewish Leaders Optimistic on Cultural Future of American Jewry

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Optimism regarding the future cultural growth of the American Jewish community was expressed here today at the final session of a national two-day conference on “Creative Jewish Living” sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America.

At the same time, speakers warned that the educational and spiritual forces must predominate if American Jewry is to become a healthy, intelligent and dynamic community. Expressing these views were Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Dr. Nelson Glueck, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Both leaders in Jewish religious life also agreed that the Jew in the United States must fight for the preservation of the American way of life, equality and freedom for all of its citizens regardless of race and religion. Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, chairman of the Z.O.A. Committee on Community Organization, presided at the final session.

Rabbi Bernstein said that “Christians are less interested in learning about anti-Semitism than they are in learning about Judaism” and maintained that “now that Israel is a state, there seems little reason for any Jew to remain in a group apart here in the United States unless that group has spiritual significance.” Dr. Glueck said that “a new unified American Jewry is in the process of being created, with the Jewish group of the entire country being fused gradually into a single, homogeneous, dynamic entity.”

Dr. Azriel Eisenberg, executive vice-president of the Jewish Education Committee, reported that 81,000 children or approximately 27 percent of all Jewish children in New York attend Jewish schools of all types in Greater New York. In a breakdown of this total, he reported that 36,000 attend Hebrew afternoon schools, 26,000 are in one-or two-day a week schools, 16,000 in all-day schools, 3,300 in Yiddish schools. Altogether, they are enrolled in 595 Jewish schools of various types.

Addressing the conference last night Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, leader of the Reconstructionist Movement, proposed the convening of a “Jewish world council” to formulate a new covenant on international Jewish unity. He also proposed that all the activities of local American Jewish organizations and institutions “be carried on as functions of the entire local community” and that they be in accord with “the will of the Jewish people.” These steps would be designed, respectively, to define the group status of world Jewry and to reconstruct local American Jewish bodies into “organic Jewish communities.”

Dr. Salo Baron, Professor of Jewish History at Columbia University, on the other hand, praised the development of unregulated American Jewish communal organization. He called the American voluntarist community system “a revolutionary transformation” from the “secular, national” structures of Jewish communities in central and Eastern Europe, and declared that while the present freedom sometimes seemed to threaten to “engulf the community in total anarchy,” it has made the Jewish community more cohesive than ever before.

Dr. Abraham I. Katsh, Professor of Hebrew Culture and Education at New York University, proposed an expenditure of $5,000,000 by Jewish federations and welfare funds to endow chairs of Hebrew learning in American universities. S. Charney-Niger, president of the Jewish Kultur Congress, predicted that the Yiddish language and culture would continue to flourish. Other speakers included Rev. Everett R. Clinchy, president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Abraham G. Duker, managing editor of “Jewish Social Studies,” and Louis Kraft, secretary of the World Federation of Y.M.H.A. and Jewish Community Centers.

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