Judaism in U.S. Seen Depending on Reconstruction of Jewish Life

A warning that Judaism in the United States cannot survive unless there is a total reconstruction of Jewish life was sounded by Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, leader of the Reconstructionist movement, addressing the B’nai B’rith Institute of Judaism which just concluded at Camp B’nai B’rith here.

Dr. Kaplan said that there can be no future for Judaism in America until American Jews defined their status in the modern world, for themselves as well as for others. He added that Jewish values have been critically affected by the modern world and that Jewish traditions must be revitalized. “Without a genuine reconstruction of Judaism, there is no hope for Judaism in this country or in Israel,” Dr. Kaplan asserted.

Taking issue with Dr. Kaplan was Maurice Samuel, author and lecturer, who was also a member of the Institute faculty. Mr. Samuel argued that Jewish life is currently undergoing a rebirth. He pointed to the impact of the establishment of Israel, the general expansion of interest in the teachings of the Jewish sages, and the selection of a man of Philip Klutznick’s caliber as president of B’nai B’rith, largest Jewish service organization in the world, as signs of creative development in American Jewry.

The scholars clashed when Mr. Samuel charged that Dr. Kaplan was undermining the Jewishness of American Jewish youth by his sociological approach. On Israel, both of them were more in agreement. They felt that, if the Judaism that emerged in that country was a true continuation of ancient traditions, the cultural impact upon Jews in this country would be tremendous. Dr. Kaplan insisted; however, that Israel could not be used as a crutch to strengthen American Judaism; that American Jews must utilize their own resources and think through their own problems. He praised the B’nai B’rith Institutes of Judaism as a deepening of the B’nai B’rith as a movement for survivalism.

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