CHICAGO (Nov. 30)
The president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Rabbi Joseph Karasick, declared here yesterday that “it is no longer possible to speak of a consensus of the Orthodox Jewish community concerning Vietnam.” The statement was a departure from the previously solid support by the Orthodox Union for the Vietnam policies of former President Lyndon B. Johnson and of the Nixon Administration.
Rabbi Karasick told the National Leadership Conference of the Orthodox Union that “all American Orthodox Jews are vigorous opponents of Communism, in all its variations and disguises. All of us therefore want to stop the tide of Communist aggression from engulfing another country. On this there is complete unanimity” in the Orthodox community. However, he added, “we are split on whether the war in Vietnam can succeed in accomplishing this and whether this war does not offset all possible gains by weakening the unity of the American people.”
Rabbi Karasick also accused the Israel Government of “endangering the unity” of its people by permitting Sabbath television which “offends so many of its citizens and friends.” He called on Orthodox synagogues in the United States to “break away from the patterns of yesterday in their approaches and their budgeting.” Pointing out that the social revolution “has imposed upon the Jewish community an entirely new set of priorities.” he urged the synagogues “to set aside a minimum of 20 percent of their budgets for Jewish education, youth work, and student affairs.” He added that “even that may not be enough and each congregation will have to decide realistically how much of its funds must go for these purposes, on the basis of its local responsibilities. A synagogue located in a community with a large university or college campus can no longer evade the duty of providing the Jewish students on this campus with meaningful programs of intellectual and social relevance.”
Calling the modern American college campus “the disaster area of Jewish survival.” a New York sociologist, himself an Orthodox Jews, suggested here that a network of Jewish institutions of higher learning be formed in order to promote “meaningful and creative Jewish survival.” Dr. Bernard Lander of Hunter College said that “these institutions are needed for American Jewish students to receive educational programs of academic excellence coupled with a curriculum of Jewish studies of sufficient scope and spiritual depth to enhance the religious commitments and experiences of the student body.”
Dr. Lander said surveys repeatedly have shown that liberal arts colleges “exercise a generally destructive influence on students’ religious convictions,” with a rising intermarriage rate and a rejection of their own faith being the “resulting penalty” among Jewish youths.
Prof. Lander cited statistics showing a turning away from Jewish values by Jewish college students. He said 10 percent of Protestant students at Sarah Lawrence College have rejected their faith, while more than 55 percent of Jewish-raised students have become apostates. The Jewish apostasy rate, he said, is 49 percent at Williams College, 25 percent at Yale University and 37 percent at predominantly Jewish Brandeis University.
In another address, another sociologist, Dr. Jerry Hochbaum of Yeshiva University, saw a relationship between the “turning off” of Jewish youth and a lack of Orthodox Jewish involvement in community action. He said “the values that define Jewish communal life must find expression and be articulated in our external contacts as well.” He urged that social action committees be formed in all Orthodox synagogues, with the Orthodox Union’s communal relations commission enlarged to include all elements of national Orthodox life.