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Rabbi Sees Latin American Jewish Life Better Than U.S. in Some Respects

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A leader of the Conservative rabbinate reported today that Jewish religious life and Jewish education in Latin America is “in many cases superior to what may be found in the United States.” Rabbi Wolf Kelman, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, reported on a visit he and five other Conservative rabbis made to Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Argentina last summer. He addressed the heads of the development department of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Rabbi Kelman said his group found that American-trained rabbis assigned to posts in Latin America had “revolutionized” Jewish religious life there. “Ten years ago, there was not a single U.S.-trained rabbi in any of the five countries we visited,” he said. “Today there are 15, most of them graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary.”

Rabbi Kelman said that the elementary and secondary Jewish education received by children in each of the five countries was “not only the equal of, but superior to, anything available to most Jewish children in the U.S. and Canada.” He reported that a far higher proportion of children and young people up to the age of 16 receive a Jewish education than in the U.S.” He cited 90 percent attendance in the five countries compared to 30 percent attendance in this country. “We in this country have much to learn from our brethren below the border,” Rabbi Kelman said.

In another development, the Seminary announced the appointment of Gershon D. Cohen to its faculty. Dr. Cohen is a professor of history and director of the center of Israel and Jewish studies at Columbia University. According to Dr. Louis Finkelstein, Chancellor of the Seminary, he will occupy the post of Jacob H. Schiff Professor of History beginning July 1, 1970.

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