Jewish Problem is Identification, Not Identity, Says Dr. Cohen

In his first public remarks since being chosen earlier this month to be chief executive officer of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Dr. Gerson D. Cohen contended today that the Jewish problem in the United States was not one of “searching for identity.” but one of “identification.” Addressing the biannual convention of the United Synagogue of America. Dr. Cohen said:

“We are often told that what faces us is a crisis of identity. I submit that this is a gross error fraught with the danger of misdirecting our energies toward chimerical problems. Identity is not our problem or the problem of most Jews. The problem is one of identification.”

The 47-year-old educator, who next June 30 will succeed Dr. Louis I. Finkelstein as chief executive officer of the Seminary and president of its faculties, explained; “We are faced with a crisis of faith, of purpose and of commitment. Most Jews know they are Jews, but are puzzled and confused over the implications of the name. If our parents and grandparents, therefore, were in quest of freedom and a new Judaism, the task facing us will be to mold the new Jew–a Jew who understands where he has come from, where he must go and how he will be judged.”

Dr. Cohen told the 2,000 Conservative delegates that Conservative Judaism is “singularly well-equipped for the task of building the new Jew,” because it is “committed to tradition, to the people of Israel, to the land of Israel, to the State of Israel and to the Torah of Israel.” Dr. Cohen added that “No Jewish community in history has ever been great except by producing its own scholars and also its own native-model Jew.” History, he observed, “will judge us by the American Jew we produce.”

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