NEW YORK (Jul. 6)
The Orthodox Rabbinical Alliance of America today criticized Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, for “allowing inclusion of a Christian hymn” in the non-denominational religious service at the White House last Sunday at which Dr. Finkelstein officiated. He was the first rabbi to lead such a service at the White House. The recitation of a Doxology, alluding to the Christian trinitarian concept of God, as part of the service, has evoked criticism. Dr. Finkelstein has said his participation in the service did not constitute acquiescence in the content of the hymn. Dr. Finkelstein has said he knew in advance that the Doxology would be sung. A White House spokesman said after the service that all White House services, though non-denominational, included a Christian Doxology. “That basic form of the service is constant,” he said, “even though the faith of the speaker changes.”
Rabbi Abraham Gross, president of the Rabbinical Alliance, who says it has 500 members, declared that under Jewish religious law, a Jew may not participate, even in silence, at a service where a Doxology is recited. He asserted that “this kind of distorted religious situation.” was made possible by participation of “liberal” Orthodox rabbis in activities with “non-Orthodox clergy” of the Conservative and Reform movements. Dr. Finkelstein’s seminary is Conservative.
Rabbi Gross said that the intentions of the White House were honorable. He added that “well-meaning Jews and non-Jews such as the Presidential family” had been led to believe that “there is a Judaism outside of the Orthodox camp and that it was logical to invite a non-Orthodox clergyman to conduct a service which would be a gesture of courtesy to the American Jewish community.”