Convention of Reform Rabbis Hears Report on Converts to Judaism
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Convention of Reform Rabbis Hears Report on Converts to Judaism

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Eighty percent of all Reform rabbis in this country polled on the sentiments of their converts to Judaism replied that the converts have been assets to Jewish life, it was reported here today at the convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, central body of the Reform rabbinate.

The report said that free pamphlets were in preparation, one by Rabbi Bernard Bamberger of New York, former CCAR president, directed to the non-Jew seeking a faith; the second is by Rabbi Robert Kahn, whose appeal will be to the unaffiliated Jew. The third already completed is by Rabbi David M. Eichhorn of New York, to interpret to the Jewish laity the philosophy of mission and the reasons for engaging in this sharing of religious insight.

The program is not necessarily intended to win converts only for Reform Judaism, the report said. If applicants are more suitable for admission to other branches of Judaism, such as Orthodoxy or Conservatism, referrals will be made, the report said. For male applicants over 21, circumcision will not be required, the report stressed.


Rabbi Maurice L. Zigmund, of Boston, speaking at the convention, was pessimistic about Jewish campus youth. He reported that, despite the fact that there is an acceptance of and cordiality and cooperation toward Judaism, the overwhelming majority of Jewish students have no such interests, and identification with Judaism is seldom considered a serious option.”

As for intermarriage, Rabbi Zigmund said, the ultimate decision of the individual “is unpredictable” however sincere the commitment. “As long as we consider a college education as essential, ” he said, “and as long as the campus is an open market in which people and ideas circulate freely, boy will meet girl and girl will meet boy, regardless of background, commitment or solemn promise.”

He summarized the situation by stating: We are not winning a substantial number of the college generation to deep and serious commitment. Our young people are Jewishly illiterate, and they feel that Judaism has nothing to say to them in the modern world. The sad thing is — they do not even ask.” He stressed that “no walls can be built thick enough to keep our Jewish youth in or keep non-Jewish influences out. An integrated assault is necessary, and by all elements — and at an earlier stage.” He pleaded for Jewish youth to go to Israel, and find stimulation there.

Mark Eli Saperstein, of Lynbrook, L.I., son of a CCAR member and a recent graduate of Harvard University, agreed that students are Jewishly illiterate and deplored that historic normative Judaism seems foreign and repugnant to a student from a Reform background. He said students also are repelled by the “middle class vulgarity” about them. Religious needs, he said, are not felt by the students. Chairs of Jewish studies, he declared, will, however, attract men of top academic caliber who will draw Jewish students to their courses and lead them to an understanding of their faith. For this, all Jewish national organizations, he said, must cooperate, and it should not be left to B’nai B’rith alone.

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