Detroit Jewish Community Divided on Issue of Sabbath Use of Center

The Detroit Jewish community was shaken again today by the newest development in a long-running dispute over Sabbath schedules at the Detroit Jewish Community Center–a decision to introduce some activities, including use of the center’s health facilities, on Saturdays.

Conservative and Orthodox rabbis met at the home of Abe Kasle, Detroit communal leader, and issued a statement that the use of the center on the Sabbath was “detrimental to the very basis of Judaism” and that the rabbinate of Greater Detroit and many interested laymen will not rest until the Sabbath, “the foundational institution in Jewish life, will be respected by our Jewish public institutions.”

Rabbi Chaskel Grubner, executive director of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Detroit, reported that the Conservative and Orthodox rabbis all preached scheduled sermons against the new Sabbath decision. While Detroit’s Reform rabbis stuck to an agreement to stay out of the dispute, some Reform rabbis joined in a public protest against the new center policy.

Mr. Kasle, in a separate statement, rejected the argument of center supporters that the institution was autonomous. He said the Detroit Jewish Welfare Foundation made up center deficits. He cited a recent meeting of 32 Detroit rabbis at which the issue of Sabbath opening of the center was discussed and noted that 31 voted to keep the center closed on the Sabbath. He said the issue was whether the board of directors of the center “have the right to take it upon themselves to desecrate the day of the Sabbath, knowing that 31 rabbis out of 32 have voted that the center be closed on Saturday.”

Charles E. Feinberg, another leader in the fight, said he had resigned from the center “as a personal protest against its scheduled opening of its facilities on the Sabbath despite the fact” that in the original discussions on opening the institution on Saturdays “it was continually stressed that the proposed opening would only be for cultural activities for children.”

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