Future of Jewish Life in U.S. Discussed at N.c.r.a.c. Conference

The prediction that distinctive forms of Jewish life in the United States will disappear within the next 25 years was made here today by Professor Philip M. Hauser, chairman of the Sociology Department of the University of Chicago, in an address before the plenary session of the National Community Relations Advisory Council which represents six national Jewish organizations and 38 local Jewish Community Councils throughout the country.

“With the mobility of social, economic and geographic trends, it will be increasingly difficult for the Jewish group to maintain its identity in the coming generations, “Dr. Hauser said. The Chicago sociologist cautioned his listeners that Jewish insistence upon the maintenance of distinctive Jewish values and culture patterns could lead to the creation of a new form of ghettoization.

Sidney Z. Vincent, assistant executive director of the Cleveland Jewish Community Federation, challenged Dr. Hauser sharply. Mr. Vincent pointed out that the demographers had been completely wrong in their estimates a generation ago. Similarly, he said, repeated predictions since 1920 on the inevitable dwindling of a distinctive Jewish life in America had been upset by the continuing and increasing vigor of Jewish community life.

“Despite the great drives toward conformity,” Mr. Vincent said, “Jewish life in America has grown in depth and vitality.” He pointed to the increased stress on Jewish education, the maturing of Jewish community structures, the adaptability of Jewish agencies of all kinds to new problems, and the continued clustering of the Jewish population in support of his opinion.

A major function of the Jewish community relations agencies, including those represented in the NCRAC, Mr. Vincent said, was to help assure that the Jewish community did not become isolated from the mainstream of American life and that it would grow in spiritual distinctiveness as part of the plural culture of America.

Dr. Hauser in speaking of discrimination against minorities in this country said that much of what has been called “anti-Semitism” is not anti-Semitism at all. The use of this term to describe certain specific types of prejudice that Jews have faced in America is “unwarranted and unfounded,” he said. He conceded that Jews perhaps occupy a certain special place as scapegoats, but he contended that the pattern of prejudice aimed at Jews is the same as that aimed by the “oldsters” in American communities against all newcomers.

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