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Agudath Israel Leaders Warn Orthodox Jewry to Avoid Elitism

November 30, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A dean of a rabbinical seminary and two leading Orthodox rabbis warned “a rapidly growing American Orthodox Jewish community to avoid the attitude of elitism in its relationship with other Jews.”

Addressing more than 3,000 Orthodox Jews from this country and abroad attending the three-day 59th convention of Agudath Israel of America at the Rye Town Hilton here, Rabbi A. Henoch Leibowitz, dean of the Chofetz Chaim Rabbinical Seminary in Queens, N. Y., called on Orthodox Jews to “attract unaffiliated Jews by setting an example of superior moral standards.”

It is essential, he said, “to address our alienated brethren as our equals rather than talking down to them.” At the same time, Leibowitz called on Orthodox Jews to “perfect their own religious observance before reaching out to others — not as an act of self-centeredness, but as a means of being worthy of helping others.”

The spiritual leaders of Agudath Israel chapters called on Orthodox Jews to re-examine their observance of such religious standards as kashruth and ethics in business. Rabbi Moshe Heineman of the Agudath Israel in Baltimore said that the Jewish community “should be applauded for its success in making kosher food so widely available,” but he criticized those who “make summary judgments about the validity of kashruth supervision without knowing the facts.” Heineman also congratulated rabbinical authorities in Israel for cracking down against fraudulent religious articles, such as tefilling and mezuzos exported to this country.

Rabbi Nisson Alpert of the Agudath Israel of Far Rockaway, N. Y. condemned the “abuse of specific religious laws pertaining to business ethics.” He added: “We cannot accept that Jewish businessmen should conduct their business in an atmosphere where a word is not a word and a promise is not a promise.”


At a session marking the 60th anniversary of Agudath Israel of America, a leader of the organization’s Council of Torah Sages and the president of the organization agreed that Orthodoxy’s goal was “nothing short of a complete revival of its pre-Holocaust strength.”

Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, dean of the Telshe Yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio called America “the last Torah station,” adding: “We must seek to introduce Torah values to all Jews as a guide for their lives.” He criticized “the synthetic Judaism promulgated by some secular Jewish leaders.”

Picking up on this theme was Rabbi Moshe Sherer, president of Agudath Israel of America and chairman of its world organization. Calling “the trauma of the three wings of Judaism” the biggest problem for world Jewry, he urged Orthodox groups to leave religious umbrella groups which include Reform and Conservative representation. He added: “How much longer will they continue to sin by being part of this soap bubble of synthetic Judaism?”

The Agudath Israel convention applauded the promise by President Reagan to work for tuition tax credits for parents of private schools. In a message to the convention, the President wrote: “I welcome this opportunity to express my continuing high regard for your organization, which for so many years has worked to preserve the historical continuity of Judaic culture and history and contribute to the moral and religious fiber of our nation … I firmly believe that the role of government in the field of education is to assist parents, to make their burden easier, not to interfere with them. Government’s proper role is to ensure that parents have freedom of choice in selecting those schools which best reflect their own moral and cultural values.

“As I have said, let there be no misunderstanding. This Administration will keep its pledge to work with this Congress to formulate the kind of legislation which provides tax relief to those families which pay tuition in addition to supporting their public schools.”

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