Dispute Within Ranks of Reform Movement Widens; New Exchange of Charges
Menu JTA Search

Dispute Within Ranks of Reform Movement Widens; New Exchange of Charges

Download PDF for this date

The dispute between the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the central association of Reform congregations, and Temple Emanu-El of New York, the largest Reform congregation in the world — which withdrew from the UAHC last month — was widened this weekend by an exchange of charges between them.

The UAHC made its charges in a letter from president Irving Kane of Kansas City, which was sent to all member congregations. The letter charged that the congregation had opposed "many dynamic and important programs" in the past 25 years, including a resolution "joining with the rest of the Jewish community in supporting the establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine." In disclosing the withdrawal, Emanu-El president Alfred Bachrach charged that UAHC president Maurice Eisendrath, a leading foe among American Reform rabbis of the United States involvement in Viet Nam, had sought to act as spokesman for American Reform Jewry, which Emanu-El opposed.

The congregation’s senior rabbi, Dr. Julius Mark, deplored public airing of "a family dispute." He took that position in a message in the temple’s weekly bulletin to the 3,200 family members of the congregation. Dr. Mark declared there were "good and sufficient reasons" for the vote by the congregation board of trustees last April 25 to withdraw. However, soon after the vote was made public, Louis Broido, a former New York City Commissioner and trustee, said the vote had been a split one. He announced that he and other opponents of the withdrawal planned to seek a reversal.

Dr. Mark, who himself has publicly criticized the American role in Viet Nam. said in his message that he upheld the right of Rabbi Eisendrath "to express his views on Viet Nam or any other subject — including his intemperate attack on President Johnson in a recent issue of American Judaism" the official publication of the UAHC, "provided he makes it crystal clear that he is speaking for himself and not for the Reform Jews of America."

Dr. Mark expressed the hope that the dispute would be settled "behind closed doors" and said the congregation members would get an explanatory letter from the Board of Trustees. That letter, signed by Mr, Bachrach, was received the next day by congregation members. The letter reiterated the charge that Dr. Eisendrath "implies" he spoke for all Reform Jews in his public statements and that the UAHC "is managed without any recognition of, or regard to, the views of constituent congregations."

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund