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U.S. Jewish Leaders Consider ‘defense Against Assimilation’ Urgent

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Many Jewish leaders throughout the United States believe that “defense against assimilation” is more urgent than “defense against discrimination,” Dr. John Slawson, executive vice-president of the American Jewish Committee, declared here today on the basis of studies on this subject. He defined the process of “assimilation” in this context as “trying to forget that one is a Jew.”

Examining the problems of how the Jew in this country feels toward himself and toward other Jews, Dr. Slawson said that “today’s Jew finds the contemplation of identity, at times, very painful” because there are vast uncertainties surrounding this issue. At the same time, he stressed that never perhaps in American history has the prevailing social framework afforded as great an opportunity for the development of Jewish self-regard as exists today.

The intense interest in the problem of assimilation which Dr. Stawson found among many Jewish leaders, “derives,” he believes, “from the need now, more than in the past, for the individual to formulate his own beliefs and support them from within.” The Jew “must decide and affirm” for himself what he is–“otherwise he will cease to exist as a Jew,” the American Jewish Committee leader said.

In contrast to “assimilation” as a means of dealing with problems of Jewish identity, Dr. Slawson set forth the process of integration which he defined in this way: “Acculturation to American society without loss of identity–either religious or religio-cultural, depending upon one’s point of view–is the essence of Jewish integration.” He made known his observations in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service.

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