Menu JTA Search

C.J.F.W.F. Leader Analyzes Problems of American Jewish Community

The role of Jewish federations in providing leadership to American Jewish communities for the tasks of building Judaism and strengthening American democracy was analyzed here tonight by Philip Bernstein, executive director of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds.

Mr. Bernstein, speaking at the 52nd annual meeting of the Jewish Welfare Federation of Dallas, said that American Jewry could meet its “unprecedented responsibilities overseas only as we build a strong Jewish community here. ” Asserting that it was “axiomatic” that there could be no Jewish future without Judaism, ” he said that American Jewry needed to “develop new forms of education to give expression to ancient and time-less troughs, to give new meaning to a native-born Jewish generation in the American environment.”

American Jewry has made “progress in numbers, ” he told the dinner meeting, but there was “grave concern over the quality of what we do. ” He cited as an example of unsolved problems that of “dropouts” of Jewish children from Jewish schools “after only a year or two, or after Bar Mitzvah. ” Less than ten percent of Jewish high-school age children receive “formal Jewish instruction when they need it most” in the United States, he added.

He said the Jewish community must make up shortages in teachers, standards, supervision, high schools and lay leadership for more effective Jewish education. “We must do this not alone for ourselves. We live in a pluralistic society, not a melting pot, in which each group brings its unique gifts for the enrichment of all, ” he declared.

STRESSES CONCERN OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES FOR HEALTH, WELFARE

Mr. Bernstein also stressed that while Jews, in this way, enriched the American society, “we must also help remove its pathologies. ” He said that half of hospital beds in the United States were filled with mentally ill persons and that American Jewry must help to find the causes and to prevent and cure such illnesses. He added “we are doing it. Jewish agencies are in the forefront in dealing with emotionally disturbed children in imaginative experiments in foster homes, group homes and hospitals.”

However, he added, a new approach was needed for the aged, reporting that 40 percent of the aged in Jewish institutions in the United States were mentally disturbed, a condition he said was “not inevitable. ” In recent years, the approach has changed completely in the philosophy of Jewish homes for the aged. “The institution is now for the sick instead of the well.”

The expansion of leisure also posed problems, he told the dinner meeting, noting that “in our lifetime, the work week has been reduced successively from 54 to 37 hours. Is it a blessing or a curse?” Jewish community centers, he said, were grappling with the problem of trying to create persons capable of using the new leisure constructively and creatively.”

Finally, he said, the Jewish community, as part of the overall community, was involved in all problems of human rights and opportunities, “the great moral crisis of our generation. ” He said that the Jewish communities had “written a proud record of action” on issues of separation of church and state, education, employment, on “the Arab boycott of American citizens and business firms which are Jewish-owned, have Jewish employes or are doing business with Israel.”

“We have not ghettoized our concern for health and welfare, ” he added, “We apply this to the entire community. ” He cited Jewish federation cooperation with united funds, community chests and councils of social agencies.

NEXT STORY