Three American Reform rabbis, two non-Zionists and one Zionist, have responded to the American Israelite’s invitation to comment on Dr. Samuel Schulman’s recent characterization, in Temple Emanu-El of New York City, of Zionism as a “spiritual escape.”
The non-Zionists are Dr. David Philipson, honorary president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and rabbi of Cincinnati’s Rockdale Avenue Temple; and Rabbi Louis Wolsey, rabbi of Temple Rodeph Shalom of Philadelphia and past president of the C. C. A. R. The Zionist is Rabbi James G. Heller, rabbi of Plum Street Temple of Cincinnati and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of America, 1929-30. No reply has been received from the other outstanding Zionists invited by the Israelite to comment.
“May it not be possible that Dr. Schulman has too narrow a definition of spirituality?” says Rabbi Heller. “The prophets would not have sneered at the Chalutzim.
“I would personally go even further than this. There is some hope for an agnostic or an atheist who is a staunch and courageous man and who will give his life and endure untold hardships for an ideal. It may be heterodox, and I suppose I lay myself open to excommunication, if there were such a thing nowadays, but I have no hesitation in admitting that I greatly prefer such an atheist or agnostic to many of our weakling worshippers.
“Nationalism is either good or bad. I have always been unable to understand the combination, which is again that of Dr. Schulman, of opposition to Jewish nationalism on the score that it is backward and retrogressive, with the defensive assurance of our patriotism in the various lands in which we dwell.
“My own interest in Zionism is surely not because I am a rabid nationalist. Strange, is it not, that some of us have ventured to speak out against American nationalist aberrations and hypertrophies, while our exponents of the ‘Jewish mission’ and our ardent Jewish anti-nationalists are of the variety who consistently make the eagle scream?”
“Zionism is a policy of despair, a surrender of the universalistic mission of Judaism,” says Dr. David Philipson. “When I once declared that Reform Judaism and political Zionism are incompatible, that statement called forth clamorous disclaimers from rabbis who wanted to march under both flagsâ€” Zionism and Reform Judaism. Now as then, I hold that Jewish nationalism, the chief article in the Zionist creed, and universalism, the teaching of Reform Judaism, are incompatible.
“I am an American nationalist and a Jewish religionist. The Zionist is a Jewish nationalist and religiously he may run the gamut from extreme orthodoxy to sheer unbelief. In Zionism Executive Director, university graduate, thoroughly experienced in Jewish Center work, publicity, financial campaigns, program building. ect., available soon. Address inquiries to Box 12-A, Jewish Daily Bulletin.
an atheist may be in very good standing; in fact Nordau was such. This is indeed something new in Jewish experience, namely, that a man can deny the prime articles of the Jewish faith and yet be a Jewish leader.”
“The non-Zionist has been silent for the last 13 years,” says Rabbi Louis Wolsey. “He has said no word to discourage those who honestly believe in a revived Palestine; nay more, he has given money to the cause with great generosity, and he has suppressed his Jewish ideology and entered the so-called Jewish Agency that there might be a practical rehabilitation of Jewish life in Palestine for those Jews who wish to go there.
“Unfortunately his generosity, his peaceful spirit, his reaching out of the hand of cooperation and fellowship, have not alone been misunderstood by the Zionist, but they have been exploited by the Zionist into a fanatical misrepresentation of the non-Zionist. The Zionist has exceeded the limit of human patience.”
Executive Director, university graduate, thoroughly experienced in Jewish Center work, publicity, financial campaigns, program building. ect., available soon. Address inquiries to Box 12-A, Jewish Daily Bulletin.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.