LOS ANGELES (Jul. 21)
Dr. David Lieber, president of the University of Judaism here, sounded a call for a return to faith and for the improvement in the quality of American Jewish life as one answer to what he termed the deep discontent and despair engulfing the U.S. and the world.
Dr. Moshe Davis, founder of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, declared that the great challenge facing world Jewry in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War is to preserve and strengthen the traditional ideal of a world Jewish family, a relationship, he said, which reached unprecedented levels of intensity during Israel’s darkest hours last Oct.
Both scholars addressed the 400 delegates and guests attending the 45th annual convention of the National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, an organization composed of 375 brotherhoods affiliated with Conservative synagogues throughout the U.S. and Canada.
TOTAL ABSENCE OF MORAL LEADERSHIP
Dr. Lieber, head of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America’s West Coast school, said in his keynote address that there is a “total absence of moral leadership in Washington, or for that matter anywhere else,” He declared “We have awakened to the awful realization that the gods of the 20th century have failed us, that economic development, technological expansion and social engineering cannot provide the healing which mankind requires to make it whole.”
Aside from the genuine traditionalists, he said, most Jews no longer share a stable ideological context, an integrative religious vision to help make sense of their lives, and noted the concern expressed by Jewish leaders over the growing rate of intermarriage, the decline in the number of young people receiving a Jewish education, and the decline in synagogue membership as first and second generation American Jews depart from the scene and their children fail to take their place.
YOM KIPPUR WAR WAS TURNING POINT
Dr. Davis stated that the Yom Kippur War was a turning point, a summation and a begining in relationships between diaspora Jewry and Israel. The feeling in the diaspora was that not only was the Jewish State under attack but the entire Jewish people, he said.
It is a cruel fact of contemporary history that the lesson of the holocaust has not yet been learned, the 58-year-old teacher and author hoted. The newest phase of anti-Semitism, he said, is masked in the guise of anti-Zionism or anti-Israelism. The seeds of virulent anti-Semitism continue to be sown, Dr. Davis said, referring to reports about a new ware of anti-Semitism in Italy where such ominous forces as anti-Zionist committees and an anti-Zionist documentation center has been formed. He added that this trend is also being strengthened by Arab manipulations which are succeeding in subverting even some countries once thought to be Israel’s friends.
He called for increasing bonds of identity with Israel as “the center of our faith in history.” and urged that educational programs be launched which would deepen feelings and relationships with Israel through regular study groups meeting in Israel. Dr. Davis is the editor of a new volume, “The Yom Kippur War: Israel and the Jewish People,” to be published next month by Arno Press in New York. The volume details the reactions of Jews throughout the world to the Arab attack on Israel.
Rabbi Joel S. Geffen of N.Y., the Federation’s spiritual advisor, asserted that synagogue laymen have a great responsibility to focus attention upon the need for better character education in religious training. I. Murray Jacobs of Birmingham, Mich., is president of the Federation.