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Jewish Community Challenged to Find Ways to Make Institutions Relevant to Youth

Dr. Seymour P. Lachman, a member of the New York City Board of Education, challenged the American Jewish community today to bring back into the fold some of our “most outstanding and intellectually gifted Jewish young people” who comprise a large percentage of the radical Left. Addressing the Farband Charter Day Dinner at the Hotel Commodore, Dr. Lachman noted that these young American Jews “complain that our religious and Jewish communal institutions pay lip service to social justice and shy away from true commitment. They claim that these very same institutions are concerned with trivialities and inanities at the very same time that America’s social fabric is being ripped apart and our house is in disarray. They reproach us for misguided and misdirected priorities which they claim have nothing to do with the realities and needs around us.” Dr. Lachman also noted that the survival of the American Jewish community is at stake since so many “young Jews are so actively and completely involved in the counter-culture of America.” Bona fide Jewish life models – especially leaders in their 30’s and 40’s who are so important in influencing Jewish youth – are unfortunately few and far between-if not totally missing, he added. “Most-Jews today see themselves as competent Americans but they are no longer competent Jews,” Dr. Lachman declared.

If the name Martin Buber means anything to American Jewry, he observed, “it perhaps means something because it was brought to their attention by American Christian theologians and Christian philosophers.” The majority of American Jews are thus weakening rather than strengthening cultural pluralism by adding very little of their “own” to the “other” that is the mixing bowl of American life, Dr. Lachman said, adding “Indeed, they are no longer competent Americans if they can no longer be defined as competent Jews.” He also observed that Judaism today “needs Zionism for its modern day fulfillment and the maintenance of its integrity. Dr. Lachman declared that the achievements of the State of Israel and her people must continually be emphasized to American Jewish youth, and her striving and yearning for peace, social justice. learning and brotherhood must be reiterated to them. “These principles are not unique to this day and age,” he said. “They were initially enunciated thousands of years ago by the voices of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea among others, and the message was similar in content and appeal. Yet, they are relevant to the concerns of our youth and the idealistic of all ages. Israel’s future uniqueness must thus be based on its past uniqueness if it is to have any special message for the youth of today and tomorrow. Dr. Lachman observed that Israel must continue to be the spiritual center of world Jewry, but America is our community of here and now and it is in this land of many problems and many opportunities that we must work out our present destiny.

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