Menu JTA Search

J. D. B. News Letter

Download PDF for this date

What may be regarded as an indication of the reaction in circles of Reform Rabbis in the United States to the arguments made against this wing of American Judaism at the recent session of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America was expressed in an article in the current issue of the Reform Advocate by Tobias Schanfarber, Rabbi Emeritus of K. A. M. Congregation.

The writer first denies the assertion that it was the graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary who created what is now called the third party in American Judaism. “The graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America are riding in the face of the history when they wipe off the records all that was done for Conservative Judaism before Dr. Schechter’s inaugural address in 1902. They seem oblivious of the services rendered to traditional Judaism by men like Szold, Jastrow, Kohut, Huebsch and others and center all their thought on the one man and the one institution. The sainted Morais, also, seems forgotten though were it not for him there perhaps would have been no Theological Seminary of America,” the writer says.

Rabbi Schanfarber devotes the major part of his article to taking to task Rabbi Max Drob of Philadelphia and Rabbi Elias Margolis of Mount Vernon, New York, for the assertion that Reform Judaism in the United States has made a ‘mess of its task,’ and proceeds:

“To say as Rabbi Drob said in his paper that ‘the reform rabbis have made a mess of their task,’ does not relieve the so-called conservative wing of Judaism of its ‘own mess.’ We are the last ones to say that all is well within the ranks of reform Judaism but are conditions any better in the life and in the synagogues of the adherents of the self styled advocates of traditional Judaism? Are their followers any more devoted to Judaism than are the members of the reform synagogues? Do they show their attachment and love for Judaism by attending synagogue service? We were present on a recent Sabbath at the synagogue of one of the graduates of the Theological Seminary and had we not been there, there would not have been a minyan in attendance. What about this mess? We know of a synagogue in the west of which a graduate of the Theological Seminary is rabbi that has been forced to discontinue the Saturday service altogether. We are well aware of the fact that there are a number of synagogues of reform congregations that have given up the Saturday service and it is regrettable enough, but why speak of the ‘mess’ of reform congregations when the ‘mess’ is equally sad in the conservative synagogues.

“When this same rabbi has the effrontery to say that ‘traditional Judaism as expounded by the Jewish Theological Seminary does not differ fundamentally from so-called Orthodox Judaism. In fact they are identical except for the method used.’ he is saying what he knows does not harmonize with the facts. Certainly the authorities of the Elchanan Spector Seminary would repudiate such a statement. When the rabbi of the B’nai Jeshurun Congregation of New York sanctions the introduction of a Sunday lecture in his congregation is he acting in harmony with the spirit of simon-pure orthodoxy? When a large number of the graduates of the Theological Seminary introduce confirmation of girls are they acting true to the spirit of the Shulchan Aruch? When they hold these confirmation services on a Sunday instead of the traditional day of the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mr. Sinai are they simply deviating in method and not in the fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism? When the graduates of the Theological Seminary permit men and women to sit in the same pew at worship again is this merely difference of method or is it breaking fundamentally with the traditions of orthodox? We are afraid that the real genuine orthodox believer will not want to form any compact with the graduates of the Theological Seminary even if the graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary say that their Judaism and the Judaism of orthodoxy are ‘identical’.”

“Rabbi Israel Goldstein is right when he declares that ‘an invasion of secularism in the synagogue in the United States has created a menace which threatens to drive out the Jewish God-idea and bring into Jewish religious life a confusion unparalleled in the history of the ancient Jewish institution.’ Rabbi Goldstein was careful enough not to say that this secularization of the synagogue was confined to the reform rabbis. Some of his confreres are not so cautious. They seem to think that whatever is awry in Judaism, is to be laid at the doors of the reform rabbis. How false an attitude of this kind is will at once become apparent when we consider the recent declaration the so-called ‘Program’ of a rabbi in the west, a graduate of the Theological Seminary of America. He says: ‘I can not believe in the personal God of traditional religion. To me God is the advancing totality of man’s highest ideals. He is not the source whence man comes, but on the onward moving goal toward which man is directing himself. God is not a constant but a daily growing God.’ And of such not a little more. A man who preaches a misty, vague, non-personal God of that character has no right in the Jewish pulpit today. He is not a God to whom one can pray. Small wonder that this same rabbi emasculates the Union Prayer Book at his service and theatrically turns down the lights at two different times during worship to secularize the worship and

(Continued on Page 4)

(Continued from Page 2)

have it partake of the nature of a movie show house! This is not a graduate of the Hebrew Union College that is resorting to this spectacularism, but a graduate of the Theological Seminary of America.”

The writer then refers to Rabbi Margolis’s paper on the growing influence of Conservative Judaism and the alleged retreat of leading Reform Rabbis under the pressure of the Conservative movement and concludes:

“We are all of us more or less asleep. We need not try to arouse those in another camp. We need not accuse the reform Jews of making a ‘mess’ of things. We had better get out of our own mess first. We had better do a little stirring up within our own camp before we sneak into the household of another and denounce him with our unjust criticism and censure. Nor do we consider it just the right thing for Rabbi Margolis to throw stones into the well from which he drank his spiritual drafts and received his spiritual support. ‘Physician heal thyself,’ might well be applied to the members of the Rabbinical Assembly. They will have all they can attend to if they will try to get rid of their own ailments and diseased condition. As we tell the Christian proselytizer and propagandist to sweep before his own doors before he tries to go out and convert the Jew to Christianity so we advise the members of the Rabbinical Assembly to clear away their own ‘mess’ before they try to remove the so-called mess which they claim to find in the home of reform Judaism. Conservative Judaism can stand a little housecleaning of its own. It shows no more enthusiasm, in fact it shows less than the reform Judaism which it is constantly attacking. We repeat first perfect conditions within your own camp and after you have done that you can help the reform Jew to get rid of the ‘mess’ you find in his home. He will thank you for it.”

The $1,000,000 estate of Maurice W. Levy, retired Kansas City banker, who died on July 11 at the age of 83 was willed to his widow, residing at 150 W. 79th Street. New York City. After her death the residuary principal passes equally to their three sons. Herbert W., 241 W. 97th Street: C. Sedgwick, 12 E. 86th Street, and Guy W., who lives with his mother.

“Belleiaire” is the name selected by the board of the Jewish Orphan Home at Cleveland. O., for the group of new buildings in University Heights.

November 3rd is the date set for the formal dedication of the institution, including its beautiful new cottage buildings. Alumai Hall, Administration Building, the chapel and hospital.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund