Orthodox Rabbis Urged to Take More Active Role in Social Problems

Although most members of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America report a strong interest in social action, only a few have active social action committees in their congregations and only a third discuss contemporary issues during the year, according to a recent survey. The survey was made by Rabbi Stanley Wagner, chairman of the rabbinical group’s social action committee. He based his findings on responses from some 80 replies to a questionnaire, The results were reported in the current issue of the Rabbinical Council Record.

Rabbi Wagner declared that the survey indicated that “Orthodoxy has been woefully neglectful in involving itself” in such issues and has correspondingly permitted “heterodox movements and secular organizations to become spokesmen for Jewry in matters in which Orthodoxy has as vital a stake as their fellow Jews.”

He said that few of the many national committees dealing with urban problems had Orthodox representation and added that “in marked contrast to other Jewish denominations.” Orthodox Jewish organizations make “no budgetary allocations for social action.” He attributed the problem in part to the “primary involvement” of the Orthodox synagogue in such matters as Jewish education and the Jewish dietary laws.

He declared that two “negative consequences” had resulted. One was that “the Orthodox image has been tarnished” by charges of “indifference, apathy and insensibility to the challenges of 20th Century America.” The other, he said, was that “we have alienated a significant segment of American Jewry, especially our youth, who might otherwise be included in the Orthodox camp, if only for emotional or sentimental reasons.”

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