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Rabbi Warns Synagogue Will Have No Future Unless It is Center for Experimentation

The non-violent rebellion of youth all over the world against “widespread corruption, bigotry and violence” is a reflection of social values which derive from the Hebrew prophets. Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), told 400 Reform Jewish leaders from all parts of the world meeting here at the 16th International Conference of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The theme of the six-day conference, which ends tomorrow, is “Crisis in Belief.” The future of the synagogue will depend upon whether or not “our Reform Jewish Establishment will tolerate experimentation, exploration and innovation by radical Jewish students,” Rabbi Eisendrath said. But there may be no future for the synagogue, he added, unless we permit such “free lance, free-wheeling Judaism in action.” The rabbi also criticized those rabbinic colleagues and Jewish laymen who believe that the State of Israel is the only center of Jewish life today. He said that Jewish life has always had more than one center of focus, and contended that both Israel and the diaspora are essential to the survival of Judaism today. Religious non-recognition by Israel of her non-Orthodox communities was scored by Prof. Ezra Spicehandler, director of the Hebrew Union College Archaeological Institute in Jerusalem, and by Rabbi Jacob Shank-man of New York. Prof. Spicehandler condemned the lack of permission for “liberal” rabbis to perform marriages and other religious ceremonies in Israel, although there are seven “liberal” congregations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. He noted the desire of many to find a religious alternative to Ortho doxy. Dr. Shankman, outgoing president of the Union, announced the publication of a book describing what he termed discrimination against Reform communities in Israel.

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