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Conservative Rabbis Debate Function of Synagogue, Communal Groups

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The relationship of the synagogue to other Jewish organizations in the American community was debated here today by several prominent rabbis at the 57th annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, the rabbinical arm of Conservative Judaism.

Rabbi Israel Goldstein, president of the American Jewish Congress and active in many other communal organizations, argued that the synagogue “does not have its former all-inclusive scope” and that “a great part of its erstwhile problems have been taken over by specialized agencies–philanthropic, educational, Zionist and those which defend Jewish rights here and abroad.” Dr. Goldstein insisted that there is “no use trying to turn back the clock in an effort to restore the sovereignty of the synagogue in all these areas.”

He suggested the synagogue must “content itself with the role of inspiring, aiding and facilitating the response to the descrying claims of Jewish necessity.” The field of Jewish education, however, he said, is the “very essence of the synagogue’s aim and purpose.”

Rabbi Abraham Feldman, president of the Synagogue Council of America held, however, that “there are no secular institutions in Jewish community life”–only “specializations in the performance of various functions of Jewish religious life.” None of these functions, Rabbi Feldman want on, “is outside the periphery of the synagogue” and that “they are not competitors of the synagogue but welcome co-workers in Jewish community life.”

Meanwhile, the convention appealed directly to President Eisenhower to “abrogate immediately” the United States treaty leasing the Dhahran air base from Saudi Arabia. The plea was based on Saudi Arabia’s “flagrant discrimination against Christian religious services and American personnel of the Jewish faith.

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