NEW YORK (Jan. 10)
Bemice S. Tannenbaum, president of Hadassah, urged the leaders of the women’s Zionist organization yesterday to emphasize Zionism as well as fund-raising in their efforts.
“Both ideology and fund-raising are vitally needed,” Mrs. Tannenbaum told the 250 national leaders attending the Mid-Winter Conference of Hadassah’s national board. “However, fundraising has tipped the balance too far in its favor insofar as communal policy-making is concerned.”
Mrs. Tannenbaum stressed that “while every Zionist must also be a fund-raiser, no one can be a fund-raiser without being a Zionist. I believe that only a Jew can be a Zionist. We must distinguish between involvement in a movement and support for that movement.” Mrs. Tannenbaum opened the four-day meeting at Hadassah House with a tribute to its renowned past president, Rose L. Halprin who died Sunday at the age of 82. She also delivered a eulogy today at the funeral services for Mrs. Halprin. (Her tribute to Mrs. Halprin yesterday and eulogy today were carried, in port, in Tuesday’s Bulletin).
DEPLORES DOWNGRADING OF JEWISH EDUCATION
In her keynote address, the Hadassah leader observed that because of the domination of federations and other “umbrella” organizations in the Jewish community, social work has often had priority over Jewish imperatives, resulting in decades of support for fine hospitals and nursing homes–while Jewish education received scant attention. “I cite these examples only to give you a flavor of what can sometimes happen when the charitable aspects of fund-raising blunt the inherently Jewish dimensions of enriching Jewish life and supporting Israeli society,” she said.
Turning to Hadassah’s role as a women’s organization, Mrs. Tannenbaum said, “we must begin to examine our role as the single most active, significant movement of women in America. We are concerned about serious issues and questions posed by the general women’s movement in this country–serious in the sense that such issues as equal pay for equal work are as fully relevant to Hadassah women as to our non-Jewish sisters with whom we share American society. Creative and full opportunities for all people regardless of sex, race or religion are concerns of everyone who wants to better this nation.”
However, she continued, “our participation in the women’s movement is guided by the fact that Hadassah cuts across the spectrum of American Jewish women’s thinking and religious conviction. We remember, also, that it is Zionism that brings us together under the roof of Hadassah, and that no non-Zionist issue can be allowed to disrupt the marvelous unity of purpose that we have achieved.”
CHANGING STATUS OF JEWISH FAMILY
In a related vein, Mrs. Tannenbaum said, Hadassah is concerned about the changing status of the Jewish family and families in general. “Census figures tell the story,” she said. “Women are marrying later, if at all. They are having fewer children, placing them under outside care more frequently, divorcing more often. And they are living decades beyond the life-spans of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Hence their work-life profiles begin to resemble those of men more than ever before.”
Mrs. Tannenbaum further pointed out: “At present 8 percent of all household heads of Jewish families are single parents. About 53 percent of Jewish women are employed. In terms of education, a growing proportion of Jewish women, more than the general average, are getting advanced degrees. Close to 40 percent of all Jews are marrying non-Jews–compared to a figure of six percent 20 years ago.”
Religious school enrollment has plummeted to 400,000 in the last 15 years, down one-third from a high water mark of 600,000, she observed. “This is largely a consequence of a declining Jewish birth rate which has nosedived far below the national average.” Mrs. Tannenbaum warned that “the forces of assimilation, lowered birth rote and increased intermarriage will reduce today’s six million American Jews to 4.5 million within 25 years.”