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Ribicoff Warns American Judaism is in Trouble Due to Dilution and Compromise

Sen Abraham Ribicoff declared here that “Judaism in America is in real trouble” as a result of “diluting and compromising” the faith. “By now we should see the futility of trying to make Jews less like Jews,” he said. But the Connecticut Democrat, who is Jewish, also stated that “if this is a time of peril for Judaism in America, it is also a time for great opportunity.” Sen. Ribicoff spoke at the founders’ dinner of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The college is building a $6 million California school adjacent to the University of Southern California campus. Five new major gifts totalling $700,000 have been received for its construction. Sen. Ribicoff asserted that the “increasing frustration and alienation,” the “protest and dissent” on the part of today’s youth “are not only reactions against specific policies, but are symptomatic of the disregard for people as individual human beings.” And the causes of student frustration, while “not uniquely Jewish problems,” nevertheless “have a direct bearing on Jewish life in America.” He said “Jewish youth is increasingly becoming alienated not only from traditional American ways, but from its own religious tradition.”

Mr. Ribicoff charged that Jewish youths’ “abysmal ignorance” of their traditions was “secondary when compared to the magnitude of the potential disaster of producing a generation of American Jews with scarcely any religious ties at all.” He criticized parents for insisting on Jewish education for their children while maintaining their own traditions only “superficially.” “We have made it too easy to be a Jew,” he continued. “We have been so wrapped up in making Judaism comfortable that we have succeeded in making it trivial as well. We have tried to transistorize and miniaturize Judaism so that it can almost be learned while standing on one foot…The challenge to Judaism is to stop diluting and compromising…Historically, the basic tactic of Jews to gain admission to the mainstream of American society has been (to) eradicate the significant differences between himself and his non-Jewish neighbors. This has not worked…Today we are in danger of losing one half of the total American Jewish community.”

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