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Danger of Jewish Assimilation Dismissed at B’nai B’rith Youth Parley

Those who forecast inevitable assimilation of the American-Jewish community are “armchair prophets of doom who just have not gotten out and around to see what is happening every summer in the young American Jewish community,” a leading Conservative rabbi said here today addressing some 125 top teen-age regional leaders of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization participating in the organization’s 4th annual leadership training conference.

Rabbi Myron M. Fenster, who is spiritual leader of the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, New York and consultant on adult Jewish education for the United Synagogue of America, said warnings of assimilation of Judaism in the United States come from those who “simply aren’t taking into account all the facts — including Judaism’s history. No one who spends any time at such a program of Jewish learning and living with our young people can help but be enormously impressed and uplifted.

“It is a refreshing experience to leave the hurried attempts at Jewish education at home and come to the open spaces where study can be both intensive and leisurely”, he stated. “One returns with heightened hopes for our leadership of tomorrow.” He admitted there may be some merit to charges that the American Jewish community was besieged “by much promotion and little instruction” and that “we busy ourselves with communal affairs, and forget the life of the individual.” But, he said, this is hardly a full picture of American Jewish life in the 1960’s.

Jewish history is not solely the chronicle of the great communities. It is also the story of devoted individuals,” Rabbi Fenster continued. “Our eager young people who participate in summer study programs are our affirmative and strident response to those who would write us off and bemoan our possibilities. It may yet be that the summer will be the saving grace of a large segment of Jewry in this country.” He confidently predicted for the future, “generations more knowledgeable than the present one.”

B’nai B’rith Youth Organization teen-agers have been meeting here since July 31st at organization-sponsored annual 19-day conference which brings together regional leaders for intensive examination of Jewish life in all its aspects.

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