Hertzberg Urges Campaign to Instill Jewish Content into Jewish Life

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared here yesterday that Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress must not “lose even one moment” in starting a campaign to instill Jewish content into Jewish life.

The main components of Jewish content, he said, were links with Israel, Jewish tradition and the Hebrew language. The deep erosion in world Jewry, the results of assimilation and intermarriage, constitutes a danger to the continuity of the Jewish nation no less than the external danger that threatened during the Nazi era, Hertzberg told the Israeli Executive of the World Jewish Congress which is marking its 40th anniversary.

He said the WJC need not seek to replace the Foreign Ministry of Israel in its political activities nor need it attempt to follow the lead of the World Zionist Organization in purely Zionist activities. Its main task is to preserve the Jewish nation and its activities in interfaith discussions and efforts to establish relations with Third World nations are also of great importance, he said.

NEW INCENTIVES REQUIRED

Hertzberg observed that fund-raising campaigns and political rallies for Israel no longer constitute incentives for Jewish life nor do they fill Jewish life with sufficient content. He said the Israeli rescue operation at Entebbe Airport in Uganda may have raised Jewish prestige, but this could be of a temporary nature because the main problems of Israel and Jewishness have not changed.

He noted that Zionism and aliya are themselves dependent upon the Jewish content of Jewish lives The fact is that almost all Jews who immigrate to Israel come from traditional backgrounds, he said, either religious or Hebrew-speaking. Even aliya from Russia is primarily based on those Jews who had deep Jewish feelings. Those who lacked it remain in Vienna to go elsewhere, he said.

Hertzberg also chided Israelis who regard diaspora Jews as “good soldiers” to do Israel’s bidding but are never really consulted or asked for advice. Itzhak Koren, chairman of the WJC’s Israeli Executive, countered by criticizing American Jews for failure to prepare the tools to fight the erosion of Jewish life and, in fact, failing to foresee such developments.

NEXT STORY