Community Organization to Meet Jewish Problems Engages Conference of American Rabbis
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Community Organization to Meet Jewish Problems Engages Conference of American Rabbis

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have another group of representatives who would express the interests and the point of view of the contributors. The second group would be like an upper legislative body passing in review the decisions of the lower legislative body, and initiating measures which would in turn be reviewed by the latter. The upper legislative body would make itself responsible for keeping alive the larger aims of communal organization which each of the beneficiary organizations is only too apt to forget.

“It is in this upper legislative house of the community that the congregations could, through their representatives, exercise their influence on the community. If the congregation would be given an opportunity to help direct the policies of the various communal undertakings, we may reasonably expect that the interests of the groups into which its membership would be divided for the purpose of specializing in the various phases of communal activity would not only be long-lived but grow in intensity. The danger that these groups might come to regard themselves as engaged merely in academic discussion would then be averted. They would realize that the more they know about the affairs and the needs of the community, the better able would they be to exercise a determining influence in shaping the communal mind and furthering the development of Jewish life. Without some such means of consolidating the communal organism, all suggestions to improve the functioning of congregations is like trying to tie knots in a rope of sand.

“In sum, we should be grateful to Judge Stern for having disturbed the mental stagnancy in matters touching the inner life of our people in this country. He has rendered invaluable service in having aroused the mind of the Jewish laity to appreciate the need of integrating the religious phase of Jewish life with the various Jewish communal endeavors, which at present lack co-ordination and unity of purpose. Coming from a layman it may ultimately move his fellow laymen to action.”


Leading the discussion of “The Relation of the Synagogue to Jewish Communal Life” inaugurated by Rabbi Kaplan, Rabbi Sydney E. Goldstein of the Free Synagogue, New York, expressed a radical difference from the thesis of Rabbi Kaplan. The Synagogues must become religious centers for community services if they are to develop into effective instruments of the new religious spirit. Religion is intimately related to social life, and the community is not only a legitimate, but a necessary and inevitable expression of the religious spirit.

“The function of both the Synagogue and the Church,” declared Rabbi Goldstein, “is not so much to organize the community as to reorganize the social order. The conflict today is no longer between religion and science. The conflict ended years ago; the conflict now is between the social ideals of religion and the social evils of the present economic and political order. In this conflict the Church and the Synagogue must choose between the part played by Amaziah, the High Priest, and the role of Amos, the Prophet. If the Church and the Synagogue should choose to stand with Amaziah as the defender and maintainer of the present order both the Church and the Synagogue will suffer the defeat of the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia and the Catholic Church in Spain. They will go down to defeat with the order they endeavor to defend. If on the other hand the Church and the Synagogue should take their stand with the Prophet and not only protest against incompetence, injustice and corruption but become the protagonists of a world that is fair and just and righteous, they will suffer hardship and trial and will eventually triumph in the establishment of the ideals that have for centuries been sovereign in the soul of Israel. This is no time for compromise with conditions. We are witnessing not a depression nor even a dislocation of economic machinery but a breakdown of a social system. We are at the end of one of the epochs in history as truly as men were at the decline and fall of the Roman Empire or at the disintegration and collapse of Feudalism. No recitation of creeds and no ritual of religion can possibly save the old order. The Synagogue and the Church can survive this crisis not by trying to save itself but by seeking to serve the creation of a new order in which ownership and control and management will rest not in the hands of the few but within the power of the great mass of men and women, the workers of the earth who fashion with their hands the fabric of the world.”

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