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‘more Revolutionary Reform Judaism’ Urged at S.c.a.r. Convention

Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, urged his Reform colleagues “to be candid enough to confess that a new, more revolutionary Reform Judism is needed” and that “otherwise, we are frozen in a neo-Orthodoxy.”

He spoke before the 500 delegates to the 77th convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis which closed here yesterday with the reelection of Rabbi Jacob Weinstein as president. He deplored that Reform rabbis, “once aflame with the fiery passion of Isaiah, are now concerned with how best to observe Hamisha Aser B’Shvat in January, or how frequently to introduce Yiskor in services or to cling tenaciously to the Bar Mitzvah as the sole reason for observance of the Sabbath.”

He also said he opposed the trend toward “Jewish separatism” in increasing numbers of Jewish day schools, Jewish country clubs and Jewish universities. He called the trend a “misguided response” to the “admittedly grave problem” of modern social trends. He insisted that Jews “can not go home again to the “Shtetl” of pre-Hitler Europe.

“We must recognize that intermarriage was always with us, even in the closed societies of the past,” he added. “We must accept this painful reality and we must help our congregations wean our people away from the primitive and provincial custom of emotionally, if not physically, sitting shiva. We must also learn to accept fully the convert to Judaism.” “It is quixotic,” he said, “to delude ourselves into believing that our rabbinic interdicting of interdating and our more stringent resolutions against intermarriage will deter those who are determined to wed even if every rabbi within this conference becomes a conscientious objector. We rabbis are not omnipotent. Indeed, the very opposite is unhappily the case,” He said that rabbinic and secular leaders were “tilting at windmills” if they failed to realize “the reality that a certain amount of intermarriage, of drifting from our fold is inevitable in an open society.”

The Central Conference of American Rabbis pledged full support of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry and established a special committee to work with the Conference and coordinate Reform Rabbinic efforts in the general Jewish community programs to help Soviet Jews, The CCAR also called on the Johnson Administration to “actively support” the seating of Red China at the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly, They lauded the Administration’s efforts to foster economic and cultural relations with Red China which “may pierce the barrier separating” the two countries.

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