Shapiro Says Jewish Community Leaders Display Total Failure in Grasping True Needs of American Jewry

A prominent American-Jewish educator and sociologist has assailed “the errors of Jewish community leadership” in America which “has mistakenly identified its own affluence with the conditions of all American Jews.”

Dr. Judah J. Shapiro, who has long been associated with Jewish education and communal services declared, in remarks prepared for delivery tomorrow night at a joint meeting of Poale Zion, Farband and the American Habonim Association here, “If the aim is Jewish communal survival and the strengthening of Jewish spiritual and cultural values, then the decisions of that leadership are a record of almost total failure in comprehending what the true needs of American Jewry have been.”

Dr. Shapiro attributed the failure to the fact that American Jewish leadership “has been defined in terms of financial status and check-writing, with no place in the communal councils for the competence and insights of those who express the spirit and culture of Jewry. What makes the matter desperately serious,” he said, “is that there is no genuine concern with Jewish communal continuity, but only with this year’s campaign and budget.”

He cited as an example the financially starved plight of Jewish education in America. “A distinguished and honorable gentleman like Max Fisher who heads the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, has recently endorsed support of Jewish day-schools. His declaration must be welcomed and it may hopefully lead to expanded support for Jewish education.”

What is shocking, however, Dr. Shapiro said, “is that people of far greater understanding of Jewish life than Mr. Fisher have urged such support long before, and for many years, with no responsiveness from the sources of Jewish communal support which Mr. Fisher represents.” This demonstrates, he continued, “that Jewish financial resources are at the beck and call of the rich, but are unresponsive to the analyses and appeals of the Jewish pedagogues and intellectuals.” He added that “While Mr. Fisher was making up his mind about Jewish education, a generation of young people have grown up without adequate programs.”

JEWISH POOR NEGLECTED

Dr. Shapiro accused the Jewish leadership of neglecting the Jewish poor in America. For a quarter of a century, he said, they have “polished the image of the affluent American Jewish community. Suddenly, in 1971, we are being told that there are from a half a million to 750,000 poor Jews in this country. We know that the Jewish Philanthropies did not provide for Jewish education, but we had every right to assume that they were engaged in philanthropic activity which would have provided for the poor and reduced their numbers. Now, it becomes obvious that they also neglected the poor.”

It is clear, he observed “that the financial leadership, which is the sole leadership of Jewish communal affairs, has mistakenly identified its own affluence with the condition of all American Jews.” Dr. Shapiro blamed “the lack of democracy” in American Jewish life for “the errors and insensitivity within the Jewish community.” He noted that “We claim close to six million Jews in the USA and there are surely not more than 1,000 who make the decisions binding on the millions.

He also chided Jewish leadership for having identified itself over the years with the “Protestant Establishment” and having given “highest priority” to the fight against anti-Semitism, the success of which it measured “by how many Jews hold important positions and earn well.”

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