Orthodox Leaders Rap Proposal to Drop One Day’s Observance of Jewish Holidays

The heads of two Orthodox bodies today attacked a recommendation made by the head of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly yesterday that American Conservative congregations change from a compulsory two-day observance of three Biblical festivals to one day’s observance as is the practice in Israel. Rabbi Zev Segal, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, and Rabbi Joseph Karasick, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, both expressed the opinion that the Conservative proposal would be divisive, was contrary to traditional Jewish law and would create difficulties for Jews observing holidays.

Rabbi Ralph Simon, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic body of Conservative Judaism, now holding its 69th annual convention at Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., argued that adoption of the Israeli holiday calendar “would represent a striking demonstration of the spiritual centrality which Israel holds for the Jewish world.” But Rabbi Segal termed this “a specious argument” because “the religious leadership of Israel will confirm that the celebration of the second day of festivals in the Diaspora was an immutable decision of the rabbis of the Talmud and was relevant for all times.” He said he had been in communication with the Ashkenazis Chief Rabbi of Israel, Isser Untermann, and was authorized by him to say that no person had the right to abolish the second day of Jewish festivals.

Rabbi Karasick said the proposal, if adopted, would expose the Jewish community to “severe conflicts and disruption.” He alleged that “damaging confusion” will be created in the general American society which has accepted and made provisions for the observant Jews. He noted that virtually all educational institutions either do not schedule any examinations on the second day of Jewish holidays or arrange substitute examinations for observant Jews, and said the same case applies to the armed forces and civil service. The one exception in the Conservative proposal would be Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which is observed for two days in Israel. Reform Jews observe only one day. Both the Conservative and Reform movements are engaged in efforts to establish themselves in Israel as an alternative to Orthodoxy which is the only branch of Judaism officially recognized there. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate and Orthodox bodies abroad have bitterly opposed these efforts.

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