NEW YORK (Aug. 23)
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, sharply criticized today the use in Jewish schools of abridged versions of the Chumash, the first five books of Moses in the Old Testament. He appealed to Jewish educators to return to teaching the Old Testament “in its complete and unadulterated form. “
Citing “complete assimilation” as one of the “terrible consequences of tampering” with the Jewish Scriptures, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that children raised in the spirit of the “mutilated” Old Testament “lacked the authentic feeling for the sanctity of the Torah. “
Abridged versions of the Chumash are generally used in afternoon congregational schools of all Jewish denominations, including Orthodox schools, according to Dr. Azriel Eisenberg, executive vice-president of the Jewish Education Committee of New York. The JEC is the service organization in Greater New York for all types of Jewish schools.
Such abridgement goes back about 60 years, it was indicated. The poet Chaim Nachman Bialik prepared the first “Kitzur Chumash, ” and there are at least a half-dozen standard abridged versions published by Jewish publishing firms; The full Chumash use is restricted to Jewish day schools, Dr. Eisenberg said.
A spokesman for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, asked why the Rebbe had chosen the present occasion to denounce a practice of more than half a century, said that the Rebbe had been approached recently by “a group of educators” for an opinion; It was decided to make the opinion public at the start of the new Jewish school year, he said.
A Jewish publishing house executive said the Lubavitcher statement could be considered a denunciation of all efforts to abridge Jewish sacred texts and that this was in conformity with the Orthodox “resistance” to all such abridgments and changes in this field.