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Convention of Reform Rabbis Discusses Role of Jews in American Life

The place of the American Jew and the role of the American Jewish Community in American society was analyzed here today at the opening session of the four day convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of the Reform branch of Judaism.

Rabbi Albert G. Minda of Minneapolis, president of the CCAR, told the convention in his keynote address that “Providence and history” have combined to permit the Jew and Judaism “to carve out their destiny” in America, in “this ideological context inspired by the genius of our faith.”

“Never in the past 2,000 years,” he declared, “has the Jew been challenged to carry on a comparable experiment as he has on the American scene. The result of this experiment will refute the claim that Judaism can only survive under oppression, and that it can only flourish as a fungus plant in the shadow of ghetto walls.”

Rabbi Minda stressed that the Reform branch of Judaism “was inspired by the faith and conviction that Judaism could not only survive but could also become a positive force in the fulfillment of America’s destiny.” While the American Jewish community “is young in years,” he stated, “our role in American life and our adherence to our ancient heritage, as well as the many contributions we have already made to American society, gives us a sense of spiritual security.”

Rabbi Minda expressed dismay that “inter-group relations in the American Jewish scene are marred and distorted at times with lack of confidence.” Referring to the current Christian concern with “ecumenicity,” he said that something of the same spirit is long due on the American Jewish scene. “Lack of communication and separatist action account for much of the confusion and waste of energy and resources which characterize many of our organizations in the fulfillment of their programs,” he said. “It is, indeed, high time that we, too, catch something of the ecumenical spirit. We must learn to speak to each other and to act together when common purpose demands.”

DRAWING OF ‘CORRECTIVE PROGRAM’ ON MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE URGED

The CCAR president also discussed American home and family life and said that it is “undermined” by seven factors. He cited “juvenile delinquency, sexual immorality, illegitimate births, alcoholism, the divorce rate, the deterioration of parent-child relationships and the disappearance of the home as a sanctuary of religion.” He described as “alarming” the statistics of illegitimate births, and noted that the divorce rate also included “marriages of teenagers.”

Rabbi Minda emphasized that “there can be no question that the corrosive forces which are undermining the American home are likewise having their negative influence upon the Jewish home. This institution which was able to stand firm in the storms of our history is in danger in the benevolent climate engendered by material well-being.”

He listed seven aims which he recommended be embodied in a corrective program to be drawn up by the CCAR’s Committee on Marriage, Home and the Family in cooperation with its executive board and other Conference committees, and in cooperation with Reform Judaism’s federation of synagogues, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Among his seven aims, Rabbi Minda called for the creation of a “Jewish Family Week” and the selection of a Reform Jewish Family exemplifying “the highest Jewish traditions, values and practices.”

“As rabbis,” he declared, “we have leaned too heavily on the social worker and the psychiatrist and their techniques which often do not include the resources of religion applicable to the rehabilitation of the family. Depth studies which they have made frequently do not include the depths of spirituality, which we as religious leaders must tap and use in this realm of human life.”

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