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Convention of Reform Rabbis Opens with Plea for Rabbinical Cooperation

The 69th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing the Reform rabbinate in this country, opened here today with a plea for cooperation among all American rabbinic bodies to make Jewish learning more accessible to American Jewry.

The plea was voiced by Dr. Israel Bettan, president of the CCAR, in his presidential message. He called upon his colleagues to form a committee on cooperation with other rabbinical bodies to seek the creation of popular literature designed to satisfy "the greatest need of the American Jew: knowledge and love of Torah."

Rabbi Bettan proposed that the conference committee "should meet with representatives of the other associations for the purpose of forming a joint commission on cooperation." In offering his recommendation, Dr. Bettan, retiring professor of homiletics at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, asserted that there is nothing unusual or alarming about the existence of differing points of view within the American Jewish community, but that, despite such divergence, common aims might be pursued.

Dr. Bettan denied that "classical Reform Judaism" was opposed to ceremonialism. The pioneers of the Reform movement "only sought to purge religion of its dross," he said, but they neither minimized the importance of ritual nor discarded the use of helpful religious ceremonies. "In the prayerbook prepared by Isaac M. Wise, in his "Minhag America, which is surely of classical vintage, there is hardly any departure from the common practices in synagogue and home, " he pointed out. "Grace, before and after meals, is there; the Kiddush ceremony is there; the blessings over the Hanukah lights are there; the blessings before and after the reading of the Megillah on Purim are there; a special morning prayer and elaborate private meditations before retiring at night are there. Even the Havdalah ceremony is there. We have barely caught up with "Minhag America."

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