American Professor, Israeli Rabbi Are Far Apart in Aj Congress ‘dialogue’ in Haifa
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American Professor, Israeli Rabbi Are Far Apart in Aj Congress ‘dialogue’ in Haifa

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An American professor and an Israeli rabbi participated today in the seventh “American-Israeli Dialogue” sponsored by the American Jewish Congress but their views were so far apart that there was neither debate nor dialogue.

Prof. Walter Kaufmann of Princeton University said he was religious as long as he was persecuted for being Jewish but that when he came to the United States where no one persecuted him, he lost his religious faith. He said, in criticizing Israelis who firmly believe there is widespread anti-Semitism in the United States, that if there was, the American Jewish Congress would not be worried about future Jewish identity of American Jews. He added that his hostility to nationalism did not entail hostility toward Israel but that he wished Israel was less nationalistic.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz asserted that Jews had always been different from others–“a small island in an ocean of paganism” and that the Western world had turned back to paganism. What the Jewish people needed, he declared, was that minimum of Jewish education which gave the young access to traditional sources of Judaism. At another session. Prof. Avigdor Levontin of the Hebrew University said Ameri- can Jews needed a new set of standards to justify their life in the United States. He rejected as unacceptable the view that living in exile was Divine retribution for the “misdeeds” of the Jewish people and that the Jews had a “mission” to redeem mankind. Dr. Harold Weisberg of Brandeis University said he viewed with mistrust the concept of “Jewish identity.” He called it a “new myth” and said nationalism was not enough and spiritual values could not be tossed aside.

Rabbi Arthur Green, leader of the Chavurath Shalom community in Cambridge, Mass denounced in the earlier session, the Jewish religious “establishment” in the U.S. and said rabbis were not spiritual leaders. He said American Jewish youth sought new content for their lives which the present Jewish religious leadership was unable to provide. He also said that Israel must demonstrate to hoped-for immigrants that life in Israel can open the way for all Jews to personal fulfilment and spiritual enrichment.

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