Majority of Latin American Jewish Youth Alienated from Judaism, Attracted to New Left

A majority of Jewish youth in Latin America is alienated from Judaism and identifies with the New Left, delegates to the eighth biennial convention of the World Council of Synagogues were told here today. The body, which represents Conservative Judaism in 26 countries, was addressed by Rabbi Mordechai Meyr, of the Latin American Council of Synagogues. According to the speaker, 80 percent of Latin American Jewish youth are completely out of touch with Judaism. The remaining 20 percent are affiliated with synagogues, Zionist organizations and youth movements. For the majority, however, Judaism and Jewishness is alien and it associates itself with revolution and the New Left. Rabbi Meyr said the problem was universal as youth everywhere is in a revolutionary mood and seeks a changed world. But in Latin America the problem is more acute than in other places because the social gap between classes is so visible and the goal of social reform is so attractive, he said. He urged new efforts to bring Jewish youth back to Judaism.

Mordechai Bar On, an Israeli member of the Jewish Agency Executive, said that Israeli Jewish youth, even the secular, have much more Judaism imbued in them than most other Jewish youth because he lives in a Jewish environment and is involved in Jewish communal life. Prof. Bernard Mandelbaum, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, stressed the identity between Judaism and universal social justice. He spoke of Israel as the center of Jewish life. Of the youth problem he said, “We must seek every priority of education so as not to lose these good young people. They must be brought to see the eternal values of our great tradition which are the source not only of Israel’s redemption but the world’s redemption.” The convention adopted a resolution declaring the Conservative movement’s solidarity with Israel’s struggle for peace and survival. Other resolutions condemned Soviet military involvement in the Mideast and the treatment accorded its own Jewish citizens. Morris Speizman was re-elected to a second term as president of the World Council of Synagogues.

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