KIAMESHA LAKE, N.Y. (May. 8)
“Hundreds of thousands of American Jews who are not synagogue worshipers, and many who are, have come to the realization that the only way to stem the tide of intermarriage and as simulation and survive as Jews in the United States is by strengthening secular Jewish cultural and social idealism,” Judge Jacob T. Zukerman, president of the Workmen’s Circle, largest Jewish labor fraternal order, said here today. He was addressing the opening session of the five-day quadrennial convention of the organization. The convention is being attended by more than 1,000 delegates from all parts of the country, representing 60,000 Jewish families.
“The growing loss of Jewish identity in the United States is now meeting the test of reversal because leading Jewish organizations and communal groups have come to realize that, in order to prevent intermarriage and assimilation, the Workmen’s Circle philosophy of secular Judaism alone can stem the tide,” Judge Zukerman said. “There are hundreds of thousands of American Jews who do not go to temple and who, yet, want to retain the traditions and heritage of Jewishness. They are using Yiddish and English to capture the literary qualities of Jewish secularism.
“We do not oppose those who think that religion holds most of the answers,” he said, “but we do not agree that the answer to Jewish survival lies in synagogue-going alone. There must be social idealism and Jewish humanism. This can be found only in Jewish secularism, which we represent and reflect. The Workmen’s Circle has been a trail-blazer in social idealism, and a torchbearer of progressive and social improvement.
“Other Jewish organizations have attempted to decorate their activities by cloaking themselves in a religious aura. From time to time, they have been forced to assume almost exclusive secular postures on civil rights or matters of foreign policy. We offer no shams to the American Jewish community. We are, we believe, following the best traditions and the deepest heritages of the Jewish people by opposing the conservative and reactionary elements within our own Jewish community and by representing the hundreds of thousands of American Jews who are proud bearers of tradition as it is reflected in the Yiddish language, in literature, in music, in the dramatic forms, in the arts and in progressive social improvement. The fact that Jewish community centers and Y’s from coast to coast have shown an acute interest in our program is demonstration enough that our secularism is the current taste of the American Jewish Community,” Judge Zukerman stressed.
SOVIET UNION URGED TO PERMIT AMERICAN-JEWISH CULTURAL EXCHANGE
Benjamin A. Gebiner, executive secretary of the Workmen’s Circle, urged the Soviet Union to “open its doors and permit American-Jewish cultural exchange.” He said that “the Soviet Union should invite the Yiddish drama group, Folksbiene, Workmen’s Circle orchestra and chorus, and prominent Jewish artists who can sing in both Yiddish and Russian so that the Jews of the Soviet Union can have true contact with their Jewish cultural heritage.” He also said that Red China and Russia were in a joint anti-Jewish campaign aimed at Israel.
Mr. Gebiner said that, while the Workmen’s Circle “has been the target of vindictive and vicious attacks by the Communists over the years, we nonetheless feel obligated to make contact with our fellow Jews of the Soviet Union, not in the language of politics but through the language of their Jewish cultural heritage.”