FALLSBURG, N.Y. (Jun. 20)
Warning that “assimilation and intermarriage constitute grave perils to the survival of American Jewry and to the growth of a vibrant and viable Jewish community,” the newly elected president of the Rabbinical Council of America proposed today the formation of a National Commission on Jewish Survival. Rabbi Louis Bernstein, spiritual leader of Young Israel of Windsor Park, Bayside, N.Y., suggested to the Orthodox rabbinical organization’s 36th annual convention here that the Commission “welcome anyone who is committed to Jewish survival as a goal.” He urged Conservative and Reform Jewry to “cooperate” with the Orthodox branch and “unite to resist those elements that are plotting to undermine the economic and social survival of the Jewish community.”
“We must take drastic steps to preserve our people in this country from disappearance,” Rabbi Bernstein asserted. He warned that the current “process of disintegration in the community” portends, according to statistics, that “a substantial portion of American Jews will be lost to us in this generation.” American Jewry, he said, “must be alert to the dangerous pitfalls of assimilation,” which he said was nearing 50 percent in some regions and 40 percent in areas with large Jewish populations.
There has been some “progress,” Rabbi Bernstein claimed, citing “intensification of religious belief, a search for more enduring Jewish values and the production of more knowledgeable, loyal and devoted religious day school graduates.” But these, he contended, “do not loom large in the overall Jewish picture.”
In announcing the formation of a secular committee to plan the National Commission, which will be voted on by the convention before it adjourns Thursday, Rabbi Bernstein said he was “over whelmed” at the recent finding that 41 percent of Reform rabbis have officiated at mixed marriages. The survey, released last week, was conducted for the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform rabbinical body.
Rabbi Bernstein accused the Conservative rabbinate of adopting a “double standard” in “associating itself with those who sanction intermarriage” by joining the Reform effort to urge retention of Israel’s liberalized conversion procedure. He appealed to Reform rabbis to “desist from taking the road to assimilation with their approval,” because it was “contributing to this deplorable and accelerated drive toward Jewish erosion, decline and ultimate extinction.”
The RCA president also called for an “immediate” response to the “unprecedented” missionary work among Jews by Beth Sar Shalom Hebrew Christian Fellowship (the American Board of Missions to the Jews) and the “Jesus Freaks.”