Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Zionist Rabbis Interpret Ben-gurion’s Statement on ‘godlessness’

January 4, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbis from many areas of the world, attending the Zionist Congress here, held an informal symposium today, agreeing that the statement made last week by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, which aroused adverse criticisms overseas, were based on “proper and justified” interpretations of the Talmud.

However, the rabbis said, it is incorrect to state that most commandments (mitzvot) can be observed only in Israel, since the precepts that are linked with the Holy Land are few. The consensus among the rabbis was that Mr. Ben-Gurion’s view, to the effect that a religious Jew violates the precepts if he lives abroad, applies only to those who have the possibility of emigrating to Israel.

(The New York Times today carries a cable from Jerusalem signed by Dr. Emanuel Neumann and Max Bressler, leaders of the American Zionist Organization, expressing “much amazement and not a little chagrin” over the fact that the Times correspondent in Israel “lifted out of context” a passage from Premier Ben-Gurion’s two-hour long address which lent “the wrong impression” as if the Jews living today outside of Israel are godless.

(“We regret that the usually well informed New York Times should have so thoroughly misunderstood and misconstrued the Premier’s words, which were aimed at encouraging young Jews from all over the free world in a spirit of American pioneering to help in the upbuilding of the young and democratic State of Israel, ” the ZOA leaders said in their cable. “We who as the heads of the Zionist Organization of America delegation to the congress attended the session and heard the Premier’s address can bear witness to the true burden of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s statement which, if properly understood, was intended to bolster an idealistic pioneering movement and not to start a theological controversy.”)

Recommended from JTA