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Berlin Conference Adopts Constitution for World Union Progressive Judaism

August 21, 1928
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The framework for the organizing of the Federation of Liberal Congregations, professing Reform Judaism, into the World Union for Progressive Judaism was laid at the Union’s second annual conference in session here, with the adoption Sunday afternoon of a constitution. The Federations of American Reform Congregations, Great Britain, France, Germany and other countries are to constitute the Union which is to be led by a Board of Governors to be elected annually at the conference.

In addition to the Board of Governors a General Council is to be created composed of delegates designated by the federations of each country. The conference of the leaders of Reform congregations also voted to create a fund to be used for the purpose of propagating the ideals and doctrines of Liberal Judaism among the Jewish population in such countries where the liberal interpretation of Judaism has taken root. A journal will be published, appearing every two months, for the interpretation of Liberal Judaism.

An invitation to hold the third annual conference of the Union for Progressive Jdaism in one of the principal cities of the United States was extended by Ludwig Vogelstein, of New York, in behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations of which he is chairman. The message of Mr. Vogelstein was read to the conference by Miss Lily Montague, Secretary of the Union and was greeted with applause.

The ninety-seven delegates of whom thirty-six come from the United States, six from France, seventeen from England, thirty-one from Germany, one from Danzig, one from Sweden, three from Poland and two from Czechoslovakia, heard at the Sunday morning session in the Prussian House of Lords, the address of welcome of Count Tattenbach, in behalf of the German Federal Government, in which the ethics and the ideals preached by Liberal Judaism were exalted as “world embracing” and as constituting an effective factor for world peace.

A large number of prominent guests were present at the sessions as well as at the banquet and reception given in honor of the American and other delegates. At noon a luncheon was given by the Jewish community of Berlin at the Kaiserhof Hotel where the president of the Kehillah. Herr Gerson Simon, welcomed the conference.

In the evening a festive banquet was given by Herr Lachman Mosse, publisher of “Das Berlinner Tageblatt” in honor of the delegates. Mr. Leo Weil, Pittshurgh attorney, and active leader of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Dr. Claude G. Montefiore of London and Mr. Peyser delivered addresses.

Dr. Claude G. Montefiore, who presided over the sessions, in deference to the hosts delivered his opening address in German, while Herr Heinrich Stern, president of the German Liberal Congregations Federation, in respect for the delegates from English speaking countries, spoke in English. Dr. Montefiore, who recently celebrated his seventieth birthday, was honored by the German delegates by the presentation of a specially prepared de luxe edition of a book containing essays and treatises concerning the work of Montefiore for Liberal Judaism. Dr. Montefiore was also presented with the title of honorary member of the German Liberal Synagogue.

In responding to the presentation, the leader of Liberal Judaism in England recalled his visit to Berlin forty-five years ago, when he sat at the feet of the fathers of Liberal Judaism, Maybaum, Zunz and Steinschneider. “Germany.” he stated, “was the birthplace of Liberal Judaism and of the ‘science of Judaism’.”

The Sunday morning session was presided over by Leo Weil of Pittsburgh. During the session, the question of the attitude of the Union toward the Zionist movement was again raised. The chairman declared that the World Union for Progressive Judaism takes a neutral attitude toward Zionism. The chair. he declared, has no objection to the distribution among the delegates of a special issue of the “Juedische Rundschau,” German Zionist organ, wherein articles by Liberal rabbis Baeck, Elbogen and Perzweig, were published, and wherein the appeal is made to the Union to “abandon the dogmatic oppositional attitude toward Zionism” and to inaugurate instead “a spirit of understanding of the Zionist Palestine ideal as it is understood by the Zionist masses.”

Dr. David Philipson of Cincinnati, in a paper he read declared that Liberal judaism is the assertion of the right of individual judgment against entrenched authority. “Liberal Judaism delivered the individual from the thralldom of the individual to the community,” he said.

Dr. Philipson paid tribute to the German pioneers of the Liberal movement, notably Abraham Geiger. He referred to Chassidism as another instance of the protest of individual religion against the legalism of official, codified Judaism. “Although entirely dissimilar, Chassidism and Liberal judaism arose from a similar impetus, the longing of the individual for spiritual expression.” he said.

Liberal Judaism in Poland is making rapid progress and a formal delegation will be sent to the next conference of the Union. declared Leon Bregman of Warsaw, reporting on the status of Liberal Judaism in Poland.

Surveying Jewish religious development in Poland. Mr. Bregman characterized Chassidism as the first movement for freedom, representing a mass movement with almost revolutionary forms. The division of Poland into three parts prevented Polish Jewry from participating in the Reform movement in the nineteenth century, although a few rabbis like Akiba, Eger and Lisz participated and Polish Jews like Abraham Geiger and Samuel Hodheim contributed to the Reform movement in Germany.

The Russian revolution of 1905 secured relative political freedom, but it was accompanied with the propagation of atheism. The masses distrusted every reform, rejecting western culture as Christian, he stated.

The war did not produce changes, while thousands remained apathetic, others joined in the nationalist movement and the masses remained under the influence of Clericalism. Little has so far been done to elevate the masses and spread modern civilization. The Jewish intelligentzia is propagating Socialism or nationalism and have lost contact with religion, being unable to unite modern living with old religious forms. This explains the power of Orthodoxy in Jewish quarters. German Orthodoxy utilized the war to send Pinchas Cohn and Carlebach to Poland in order to organize Orthodoxy. They brought about an understanding between Chassidism and Misnagdism, creating the Agudah party, which today is dominating, obtaining in 1924 75 percent of the votes in the Kehillah elections. In Galicia they succeeded in obtaining new Kehillah laws which open new possibilities for the Agudah.

The strength of the Agudah, he continued, is based on the fact that it is the only party which considers Judaism a religion, while the Jewish intelligentzia is indifferent. Theyy have therefore been estranged from the masses, but now the feeling is growing among intellectuals that the liberal religious spirit must be awakened in order to tear leadership from the hands of Orthodoxy, and the movement has the best prospects.

Dr. Fritz Seifter in a report he presented stated that few Liberal congregations exist in the former Austrian part of Silesia, which recently formed the Union of Democratic Jews of Polish Silesia. He reported interesting developments in the town Kongshutte, where immigrating Jews from Galicia and Congress Poland obtained a majority at last Kehillah elections, taking by force possession of two synagogues and ousting the Liberals who were compelled to hire a hall for their services until an understanding was reached recently.

The situation in Posen and Western Prussia resembles ruins, it was reported. Most cities have been deserted by Jews, the synagogues were closed and the Kehillahs dissolved. In the whole territory, which was once populated by many Jews, only one rabbi functions in the town of Posen. His sad function is to liquidate the Kehillahs.

Instead of the former German Jews who have migrated to Germany, there come Jews from Galicia, Congress Poland, who introduce their own religious forms, while Liberal Jews have dwindled to an insignificant minority.

Samuel Untermyer has cut short his vacation tour in Europe on advice of physicians and is returning to this country aboard the Leviathan.

Rumors that the distinguished lawyer who is seventy years old, has been stricken with paralysis were denied by his son, Irwin Mr. Untermyer, the son said, had suffered on the voyage to England from bronchitis and had decided to return sooner than he had planned. There is no reason for alarm, he said.

Dr. Edward S. Cowles of No. 591 Par? Avenue, said he had advised Mr. Untermy## to cut short his vacation, but denied that his patient’s condition was serious.

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