ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Nov. 28)
Two leading national Orthodox rabbinic leaders called on American Jews to take advantage of the current state of American society to introduce genuine Jewish values and tradition to the broad Jewish masses, at the opening session of the three-day 54th national convention of Agudath Israel of America. The convention here, which brought together some 3000 delegates from North and South America to discuss current issues in Israel, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, ended today.
In describing the current environment in this country for American Jews, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman of Atlanta, Ga., noted that “we must recognize that American values and Jewish values are not necessarily compatible, but that these differences can work for the spiritual benefit for Jews.” The rabbi termed the trend of social mobility in America “a challenge that we ought not to be fearful of.”
He continued: “The shift of populations from the urban centers to other areas is a challenge to confront and utilize for our benefit, because it could be the beginning of the spread of Torah to outlying areas–away from the central megalopolis.” Feldman’s views were challenged by a number of Jewish leaders present who felt that the move away from the center city and its established religious Jewish institutions “are a calamity because it breaks up well-organized Jewish communal life.”
NEED TO REBUILD SPIRITUAL LIFE.
Rabbi Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth, N.J. stressed that Orthodox Jews must rebuild the rich spiritual life devastated in the holocaust and there is “no better chance than in the free society.” He added: “What we are experiencing today is not merely a Jewish revival, a desire for some form of identification, but a Torah explosion. It is a quest on the part of our youth for full commitment of heart, mind and soul.”
Teitz stressed that as Orthodoxy has finally gained recognition in Jewish society, it must now “have the vision, courage and determination to plan the total Jewish tomorrow on a Torah basis.” He also criticized the secular Jewish Establishment as being led “by men and women who can be classified as illiterate in a Jewish sense but yet have control of the Jewish identity.”
The religious needs of South American Jews was highlighted by Rabbi Selig Privalsky of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Rabbi Shmuel Aryeh Levin of Buenos Aires, Argentina. They depicted the extremes in their Jewish communities noting that “Torah was flourishing while assimilation is on the rampage.”
The convention underscored the support of Agudath Israel for the needs of this region by establishing a permanent “Commission on Latin American Jewry,” which will operate out of the organization’s central headquarters in New York City.