Goldmann Warns Against Making Synagogue the Center of Jewish Life
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Goldmann Warns Against Making Synagogue the Center of Jewish Life

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The Zionist General Council began today an extended debate on proposals to broaden the base of the Zionist movement by admission of non-Zionist organizations into the World Zionist Organization. The debate followed submission of proposals by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zinnist Organization, for amendment of the organization’s constitution.

The 10-day session of the Council, supreme body of the Zionist movement when the World Zionist Congress is not in session, was opened by Dr. Goldmann last night with a somber review of the Jewish situation throughout the world and of the forces affecting the future of Israel. He warned that the situation demanded unity and maximum Jewish efforts in behalf of the State of Israel and termed proposals for widening the Zionist Organization a means of achieving these ends.

Dr. Goldmann told the Council that fund-raising in Jewish communities was losing its emergency character and was emerging as one of the main instruments of cooperation between the communities and Israel. He said the second welcome development in those relations was an increase in the number of younger leaders in fund-raising organizations and the third, the awakening in Jewish communities outside of Israel to the importance of Jewish education.


Apparently with specific reference to the United States, Dr. Goldmann warned of a “tendency to concentrate Jewish life around synagogues and to turn Judaism into synagogue worship.” He called this “the Jewish version of the Christian churches” and charged that the leaders of synagogue organizations “were developing ambitions to turn synagogues into the center not only of religious life but also of secular matters. This may lead to a distortion of Judaism’s true character.”

He asserted that “making synagogues into the general basis of all Jewish life is the most dangerous form of collective assimilation.”

He again rejected the identification of Zionism with Aliyah and said this was not true even when East Europe was the center of Zionism. He called Aliyah “a vital part of Zionism” but insisted that the entire movement “cannot be identical with halutziut or the movement would have to give up the task of mobilizing the support of the Jewish people for Israel.”

Dr. Goldmann stressed that because of the “special character” of American life, it was the task of the Zionist movement, “particularly its religious components,” to oppose tendencies of synagogue organizations to seek the center role in American Jewish life.


In his review of the world situation, Dr. Goldmann warned that present trends toward a thaw in East-West relations did not point automatically toward greater international security for Israel. He said that while Jews more than any other people were praying for an end to the cold war and for permanent peaceful coexistence, the trend was “full of dangers for us. The atmosphere of conciliation influences the attitude of both blocs toward Israel’s enemies.”

He said that the latest United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Arab refugees, which revived the 1948 Palestine Conciliation Commission, was “the worst of any adopted in recent years.” He cited also the disregard of the Great Powers for the United Arab Republic blockade against Israel of the Suez Canal and the World Bank loan to the UAR as indicating that “possibly even greater difficulties are waiting ahead.”

He argued that if the forthcoming summit meeting was successful, the Great Powers would try to stabilize the Middle East and that “in any such arrangement the Soviet Union would have a dominant influence. In view of Russia’s great hostility toward Israel, it is difficult to predict how such Middle East settlements could be compatible with Israel’s interests.”

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