Survey Establishes Growth of Jewish Activities Around Synagogues

The process of centering Jewish activities in the United States around congregations has made considerable headway, according to a report issued here by the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the World Jewish Congress.

The report also states that the teaching of Hebrew is now included in the language program of more than 70 secondary schools in 12 American cities. The Hebrew textbooks used in the public schools, and approved by the educational authorities, have run through several editions and have sold over 100,000 copies. The course of study, covering four years of instruction, was formalized in an official syllabus published by the New York State Department of Education.

“The concentration of the Jewish population around the congregations enables the leaders and responsible circles of American Jewry to influence the masses and imbue them with Jewish manifestations which lie on the rim of national development, which are both national and religious, are close to Jewish traditions but do not isolate the Jewish population from the American milieu,” the report of the Institute of Jewish Affairs states. “This tendency to shift the center of gravity of Jewish life to the synagogue, from the home, where it would be isolated from the surrounding population, already has its ideologists.

“Accordingly, the construction of new synagogues is proceeding apace,” the report points out. “This is particularly noticeable in the suburbs, where life is more open to view and where one comes into closer and often also more intimate contact with the non-Jewish population. One is struck by the fact that in the suburbs, where most of the new synagogues have been erected, this is accompanied by the building of community centers in which are concentrated all the other Jewish institutions, such as youth clubs, Zionist societies, B’nai B’rith meeting rooms–in a word, absolutely all manifestations of Jewish life are assembled under the wing of the congregation. Including also Jewish schools for children.”

Declaring that the synagogue in America is gradually losing its position as a religious center, but has not as yet become a “national” center, the study of the Institute of Jewish Affairs says: “We have no suitable name for this peculiar development in American Jewish life. The process is still in its initial stages and it is hard to tell how far it will go One thing is clear, however: the outward complexion of American Jewry will be religious, but in a much broader sense than in the case of non-Jews.”

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