International Conference of Liberal Jews Adopts Neutral Attitude to Zionism
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International Conference of Liberal Jews Adopts Neutral Attitude to Zionism

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Dr. Stephen S. Wise, Stating Position of Zionist Liberals, Warns Against Proscribing Zionists; Demands Definite Answer on Compatibility of Zionism and Liberalism; Conference Takes No Official Stand, Allows Every Individual Liberal Jew to Answer for Himself; World Union for Progressive Judaism Created (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The question of the attitude of Liberal Judaism to Zionism, which was brought up at the final session of the International Conference of Liberal Jews held here, threatened for a moment to produce a schism at the conference. This, however, was averted by the adoption of a neutral policy.

Dr. Stephen S. Wise raised the question when he was called upon by the chairman, Rabbi Israel Mattuck, to make a statement on the attitude of Liberal Jews who are also Zionists.

In his statement Dr. Wise demanded that the conference give a definite answer to the question whether Zionism is or is not compatible with Liberal Judaism and urged the Liberals to maintain the solidarity in Israel unimpaired.

“If the Conference will not deny emphatically that Liberal Judaism is a foe to Zionism it will rue the day, unless before adjourning it will declare that the Zionists are welcome.” Rabbi Wise said. Turning to Claude Montefiore, Dr. Wise stated: “Mr. Montefiore is the foremost representative of Liberal Judaism in the whole world, but he is also the most powerful opponent of Zionism, because he fears that Zionism endangers the Jewish religion. If this were true, I would not be a Zionist.”


Protesting against what he described as “the proscriptive attitude” toward Zionism and Zionists on the part of some of the leaders of the Conference, Rabbi Wise said: “I can stand alone as a Liberal, but I refuse to stand alone and apart from the Jewish people. I warn this conference against driving young Zionist who would be Liberals into the ranks of Orthodoxy.

“If you, our fellow Liberals proscribe us, or deny us full fellowship with you because we are Zionists, then it is you who withdraw yourselves from the unity of the household of Israel.”

Upon the conclusion of Dr. Wise’s address Rabbi Mattuck immediately arose and asserted that the Liberal Conference could not asume any attitude but one of strict neutrality on the subject of Zionism. Declaring that he spoke in the name of the Jewish Religious Union of England, the Union of Liberal Rabbis of Germany and the Central Canference of American Rabbis, Rabbi Mattuck stated that the Conference of Liberal Jews takes no official attitude toward Zionism and gives no official answer as to whether or not Zionism is compatible with Liberalism. This question, the chairman stated, would be left to every Liberal Jew to answer for himself. As chairman Dr. Mattuck forbade all further allusions to Zionism.

Rabbi Felix Levy of Chicago, who delivered an address at the final session, urged the need of revising the vocabulary and idealogy of Liberalism.

The creation of a World Union for Progressive Judaism for the furtherance of the development of Liberalism and the encouragement of the formation of progressive Jewish religious organizations in the communities of the different countries was decided upon in one of a series of resolutions adopted by the Conference at its closing session.

Another resolution urged the promotion of cooperation between the various Liberal Jewish communities for the study of Judaism and its adaptation and application to modern life. It was also decided to hold biennial and triennial international conferences for the discussion of the problems of Liberal Judaism. The new World Union for Progressive Judaism will publish a periodical review dealing with the work of the Union and constituent organizations and reports of the Union’s activities will be presented to the international conferences, it was decided.


The term “progressive” as applied to the name of the World Union is intended to include all forms of modernized Judaism, whether Liberal, Reform or Progressive, it was declared. Lilly Montagu was named secretary of the Union. The American members of the Committee named to carry out the organization of the Union are Rabbi Louis Wolsey and A. Leo Weil of Pittsburgh.

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