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American Rabbis’ Convention Hears Recommendation to Adhere to Jewish Agency if It is Freed from Foli

June 28, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Recommendations to the effect that the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the federation of Reform rabbis in the United States, adhere to the Jewish Agency pact only on the condition that the Jewish Agency for Palestine is freed from any political entanglements or implications, were submitted to the fortieth annual session of the body opened here Wednesday at the Hotel Statler.

The question of Christian missionary propaganda in Palestine, as well as the missionary activities among American Jews, figured early in the proceedings of the conference, which marks the fortieth anniversary of the body’s existence. Three hundred rabbis, leaders in the Reform pulpit, are in attendance.

The case of Rozika Schwimmer, Jewish pacifist and feminist, who was refused United States citizenship by a decision of the United States Supreme Court, with Justice Holmes and Justice Brandeis dissenting, because of her pronounced pacifist views, was a feature in the discussion of the world peace movement.

The progress of Reform Judaism in the United States, its achievements during the forty years that have elapsed since its foundation in this country, and a defense of Reform Judaism against recent attacks, were contained in the presidential message of Dr. H. G. Enelow, rabbi of Temple Emanu-El. New York. In 1890 there were in the United States 533 congregations, with a membership of over 130,000 in 1926 there were 3,118 congregations with a Jewish population exceeding four millions. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1890 consisted of 93 congregations. Today it embraces 279 congregations.

Dr. Enelow assailed the view that Judaism or the Jewish people can exist without religion. “One of the unmistakeable marks of Jewish life in recent years has been the attempt to dissociate the Jew from the Jewish religion and to secularize Judaism. As far as I am concerned, we have no task more important than the combating of this view, which not only misrepresents Jewish history but must also serve to confuse the Jewish mind, to vulgarize Jewish life and to undermine the Jewish future. What does history tell us about the Jew and Judaism of the past? One thing above all else; namely, that from the dawn of Jewish history to the present moment, Judaism has been the religion of the Jewish people, just as the Jewish people has been the vehicle and the guardian of the Jewish religion. Would there ever have been a single Jew in the world but for the Jewish religion-for God’s revelation to the Jew and the Jew’s acceptance of that revelation?” he asked.

The recommendations of the president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis concerning the Jewish Agency followed a reiteration of the view that Reform Judaism could (Continued on Page 3)


“I recommend that the convention go on record as being opposed to the attempt made in some quarters to represent Palestine as the only homeland of modern Jews, seeing that wherever Jews live and enjoy the rights of citizenship-of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happines-there is their homeland.

“Furthermore, I recommend that the Conference express its whole-hearted sympathy for every effort to restore Palestine as a home for such Jews as may live there and can be added to its population, and particularly for those institutions which in a non-political spirit devote themselves to the intellectual and spiritual advancement of Palestine, such as the Hebrew University, the Teachers’ Institute, and similar institutions.”

“Finally, I recommend that the Central Conference of American Rabbis go on record as favoring the disentanglement of the Jewish Agency for the restoration of Palestine from all political connections and commitments, and its development as an international non-political and non-partisan society for the advancement and protection of Jewish work in the Holy Land.”


In explaining his stand and in argument for his recommendation, Dr. Enelow stated that Reform Judaism could not accept what has now come to be labelled as the ideology of the new Palestinianism. Reform Judaism could not accept the representation of the Jews of today as a separate nation whose proper homeland is Palestine. Reform Judaism could not accept the attempt to depict Palestine as the only place where a wholesome Jewish life might be lived and developed. It could not accept the proposition that Palestine alone was competent to serve as a spiritual center for the Jews of the world and as a prospective seat of Jewish authority.

All these assertions, he said, Reform Judaism rejected not because of wilfulness, but because they are contrary to the conivetions upon which Reform Judaism is based and to those views concerning the character of religion and the destiny of the Jewish people which mark the soul of Reform Judaism.

“We do not believe, as did some of our primeval predecessors, that to live outside Palestine means to be without God,” Dr. Enelow declared. “We do not believe that outside Palestine the God of Israel lives the life of an emigre deity and the Jews are nothing but an uprooted people, a race of expatriates and nomads, as some of our nationalistic phrase-artists are teaching their non-Jewish reviewers to regard us. We do not believe that being taken back to Palestine by a Messiah is likely to form the culmination of Jewish history, though we have all possible respect for the memory of our ancestors who by all manner of misfortune were taught to cherish such a vision.

“The fact remains that Reform Judaism could not agree with the protagonists of the new Palestinianism, and thus it aroused their anger and hostility. So much the more eager, however, has been the desire of Reform Judaism to see Palestine treated as the Holy Land of the Jew and of the world, and to help to restore it as a place for Jewish people and as a habitation for the Jewish spirit. The very fact that Reform Judaism construes the history and the destiny of the Jewish people in terms of its religious genius was bound to pledge its own adherents to an affection for Palestine, the scene of so many of our classic personalities and preachments. It has been to the disadvantage of Palestine that the devotees of Reform Judaism have been prevented by the phraseology of its new champions ( or their ideology, as now it is called) from taking an active and conscientious part in its rehabilitation.


“Recently, however, under the tireless leadership of Mr. Louis Marshall, a plan has been proposed for the inclusion of all Jews in the support of the Palestinian project. It is meant to enlarge the Jewish Agency in such a way as to embrace Jewish non-nationalists and, by accommodating a variety of Jewish views, to accomplish so much the more for Palestine. What the outcome of the present negotiations shall be, we cannot tell. But, it seems to me, that the best and most reassuring thing the Jewish Agency could do, would be to free itself entirely from political alliances and declare itself a non-political and non-partisan organization for the assistance of Jews who desire to live and work in Palestine.

“Political entanglements have never been good for the Jew nor for Judaism, and they are sure to impede Jewish activity in Palestine. It is not for the American Jew, for instance, to bother about the plans of England in Palestine. It is none of our task to interfere or to participate in its political aims or needs there. It is not for us to decide whether Palestine is or is not to become the Seventh Dominion of the British Empire, as is now proposed by some English patriots. And yet in all such questions a Jewish Agency, it seems to me, would be in- (Continued on Page 4)

volved if it retained any political characteristics or implications.

“On the other hand, under British rule, just and fair treatment might properly be expected for a Jewish organization of international membership devoted to the welfare of the Jews of Palestine. Freed from political entanglements and projects, the Jewish Agency might serve to reduce the hostility of the non-Jewish population of Palestine as well as the outspoken or secret antipathies of other non-Jewish elements, and it might more safely count on securing whole-hearted support from the Jews of America and other countries. Even in England it might thus gain the collaboration of Jews, who, though British patriots and lovers of the Jewish people, have been prevented from joining it on account of its political aspect,” he said.


Dr. Enelow made a plea for a united front on the part of all Jews to combat the missionary activities of certain Christian sects in Palestine, and recommended that a study of this question be made. A considerable number of Jewish children in Palestine are attending Christian missionary schools, according to official reports, he said.

The question of Christian missionary propaganda among the Jewish population in New York City also came up in the report of Rabbi Solomon Foster of Newark, N. J., in behalf of the Synagogue Council of America, which comprises Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis. The Synagogue Council, he stated, devoted a number of its meetings during the past year to an intensive study of the problem. As a result of this study it adopted a resolution in which it is stated that the situation must be “envisaged by the Synagogue Council entirely as a Jewish problem and as a Jewish responsibility, so it refrained from protesting to Christian bodies.” The Synagogue Council, he reported, decided to bring the conditions obtaining to the attention of the Jewish communities and to urge the need of counteracting the “Christianizing influences”

The Synagogue Council proposes to draw the attention of Jewish institutions, social and educational agencies, to this problem so that a Jewish educational campaign on broad lines and in an inviting and attractive manner, be instituted.

A forthcoming change in the relations between the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America in regard to their joint good-will work program was foreshadowed in a report by Dr. Abram Simon of Washington, D. C., chairman of the Central Conference’s Committee on Good-Will between Jews and non-Jews.

Dr. Simon submitted the text of the resolution adopted unanimously at a joint conference of both bodies held on June 6 to “take under consideration some other form of conference and cooperation” than the forms followed hitherto. The reason for the change given in the resolution is the recognition that the hitherto functioning joint conference “lacked the authority to formulate or to inaugurate any independent program of action. A change in the existing arrangement was therefore considered desirable. No comment was made by Dr. Simon.

An interesting discussion developed at the afternoon session on the question of the advancement of peace. While the conference went on record endorsing a movement for the advancement of peace and for strengthening movements for the advancement of peace and the efforts for the unification of all societies aiming for the advancement of peace, it balked at attempts to introduce the Rosika Schwimmer case into the proceedings.

Rabbi Max Currick of the Committee on International Peace urged that the rabbis go on record as favoring the entry of the United States into the League of Nations and the World Court and referred to the refusal to grant citizenship to Rosika Schwimmer by urging the rabbis to support an effort for the passage of a law which will not throttle the conscience of a peace lover desiring to be a citizen. Thereupon Rabbi Philip Bernstein of Rochester, N. Y., moved that the Conference commend the stand taken by Justices Holmes and Brandeis on the Schwimmer case. Following addresses in opposition to this question by Rabbis Louis Wolsey and James G. Heller, the motion was defeated. Hoover’s efforts for peace were commended.

Another interesting report at the convention was the one in which the efforts of rabbis to bring about social justice in industries were described by Rabbi Edward L. Israel of the Commission on Social Justice. Rabbi Israel referred to the situation in the textile industry and related steps taken by a committee in cooperation with the Federal Council of Churches and the National Catholic Welfare Council to bring about peace in this industry. He urged the rabbis to join other religious bodies in an endeavor to bring about some order through government investigation into the chaos that now exists in the textile industry. He cited the Mooney-Billings case as an instance of the miscarriage of justice and a resolution urges the governor of California to appoint an impartial group to investigate the case.

Rabbi Solomon Foster in his report for the Synagogue Council declared that the Council opposes any reforms in the calendar that would change the periodicity of the calendar by inserting a blank day in the year. It was reported by Rabbi Louis Wolsey of Philadelphia that revisions are being made in the hymn book and that thirty-eight new hymns have already been accepted by the committee for inclusion in the hymnal. Abraham W. Binder will be musical editor of the hymnal. Among the new authors is the Rev. John Haynes Holmes.

Dr. Enelow announced a gift of $5,000 from Lucius N. Littauer for Jewish literary efforts.

Rabbi Morris Newfield, the treasurer, reported that the Conference had $190,048 in the treasury at the end of the fiscal year, a large portion of which was invested in bonds and the income used for Conference activities. During the year the Conference received $45,437 and disbursed $50,616.

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