Reform Jewish Leader Warns There is a ‘jewish Cop-out’ on Social Justice

The president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations expressed grave concern over the “growing retreat” of American Jews and their institutions from involvement in general social matters, other than specific Jewish causes. In an advanced text of his keynote message to the opening session tomorrow of the 51st Blennial Assembly, Rabbi Maurice N, Eisendrath warned that “a Jewish cop-out on social justice and retreat from liberalism towards disillusionment stems from deep hurt felt by Jews at the relative silence of the non-Jewish world in the face of Jewish suffering in Russia and Jewish peril in the Middle East.

Rabbi Eisendrath stated that young Jews will increasingly be alienated from Jewish life if we “neglect their concern that the world is going up in flames” and if we withdraw from the joint struggle with blacks, the poor and the Christian community in efforts to resolve the burning questions of racial justice, ecology, the inner city. Vietnam, and the quality of life in America. He said “they (the young people) see Judaism as a living faith requiring social action in behalf of all mankind, not as a turning inward towards a self-righteous fortress behind which kinsmen hide in splendid isolation.”

JEWISH PRIORITIES EXCUSE FOR WITHDRAWAL

The Reform Jewish leader declared that, “to be a Jew means not only vigilantly helping our brethren in Israel and the Soviet Union, but it also means affirming the Jewish moral imperative not to abandon a world that is sinking sadly and all too swiftly into the morass of hopeless moral and physical degradation.” Rabbi Eisendrath is to tell the 3,000 delegates scheduled to attend the convention that some Jews tend to falsely divide the world into two categories, “them and us.” He cited several examples of the “new conventional wisdom” which, he said, impels many Jews to withdraw from such community issues as civil rights, interfaith activity and urban projects in the name of “Jewish priorities.”

The examples included: rejecting intensified relations with the Christian community on the grounds that “they did not help Jews at the time of the holocaust and, more recently, during Israel’s Six-Day War”; denigrating those Jewish leaders who base their anti-Vietnam positions on Jewish tradition and Jewish values which make the pursuit of peace a high priority, suggesting by implication that there is no possible Jewish position on such an issue and that in any event, it may be unstrategic and possibly harmful to express one. Other examples were: exaggerating incidents of black anti-Semitism in order to justify withdrawal from the difficult problems of racial conflict and urban affairs; catering to every political figure, however reactionary or racist, provided he says a kind word for Israel; isolating Jewish young people from other faith groups on the grounds this would discourage the growing intermarriage rate.

URGES LAY-RABBINICAL COALITION

Rabbi Eisendrath said that he personally does not favor “officiating at intermarriages, but I believe the problem must be given a more objective look to ferret out the basic causes for the hemorraghing that is occurring in our Jewish fold.” He warned that spreading an aura of romantic sympathy around the violent tactics of the Jewish Defense League gives aid and comfort to vigilantism in Jewish life and spreading a dangerous “mystique of machismo” in American Jewry.

In other areas of his message, Rabbi Eisendrath called for a lay-rabbinic coalition to resolve conflicts between rabbis and laymen in their congregations, and end rifts within the movement, and to “take a new look” at the problems of intermarriage in the hope of arriving at adequate definitions and requirements for Reform Jews. The UAHC president urged that revolutionary programs to revitalize the synagogue and its institutions become the prime goal of the movement during the next two years as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1973 in New York City.

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