Menu JTA Search

Rabbi Says Jewish Opposition to School Prayers Fans Anti-semitism

The role played by Jewish organizations in “securing and hailing” the recent Supreme Court decision, outlawing the recitation of a non-denominational prayer in the public schools, was criticized here tonight by a prominent New York rabbi. Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits, spiritual leader of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, said that the positions taken by Jewish organizations have “added dangerous fuel to the flames of anti-Semitism.”

Dr. Jakobovits spoke at a debate on the school prayer issue sponsored by the Graduate School of Education of Yeshiva University. Will Maslow, national executive director of the American Jewish Congress, defended his organization’s role in supporting the school prayer ban.

Rabbi Jakobovits said that the Jewish espousal of the “anti-prayer” position was incompatible both with the traditional teachings of Judaism and with the long-term interests of American Jewry. “By allying themselves with the rampant forces of atheism and secularism,” he declared, “these organizations were bound to expose the Jewish community to the charge of undermining the religious foundations of our society, whatever the constitutional legalities in support of such a position.”

Taking issue with Rabbi Jakobovits, Mr. Maslow noted that, during their 2,000 years of dispersion, the Jews have never enjoyed full equality in any nation with an established church. “America’s great contribution to the art of government and the creation of civil harmony,” he declared, “was the separation of church and state. Every breach in that principle invites other breaches,” He added that “no other religious group in the United States has as great a stake in the separation of church and state as the Jewish community.”

NEXT STORY