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Dr. Finkelstein Sees Danger in Lack of Understanding Between Generations

July 16, 1968
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Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York, warned today that “a new and dangerous gap in civilized society” is being created because of the lack of understanding between the generations. Speaking at the opening session of the World Council of Synagogues before 200 delegates from 14 countries. Dr. Finkelstein said that the Conservative movement was seeking to bridge the gap and to develop a continuing dialogue between the generations on the questions giving youth the greatest concern today.

Youth today, Dr. Finkelstein said, has far greater technical knowledge than the majority of their elders. “Nevertheless,” he noted, “there are some permanent insights into life which we have inherited from our ancestors and which are indispensable to the development of our children’s lives. The curious difference between mastery of techniques and lack of experience and understanding of the permanent truths is creating a new and dangerous gap in civilized society.”

In the United States, he said, these questions included the type of educational administration being provided in high schools and colleges; the treatment accorded minority groups, particularly Negroes; whether the war in Vietnam could be justified, and the paradox of people starving in the midst of affluence in America itself and beyond its borders.

“There can be no doubt,” he emphasized, “that the questions raised by American youth of its elders are very pertinent, even if the answers seem somewhat more obvious to a more staid generation.” He declared that “the solution of such a problem of failure of communication–which in America is felt in almost every urban family and is now convulsing the great colleges and universities–cannot lie in authoritarianism, for authoritarianism is dead and cannot be resurrected. It must be in a new teamwork between the young, living in a new world, and their elders, deriving from a different world which yet had many wise insights, which can be forgotten only at our peril.”

Emmanuel G. Scoblionko, president of the World Council, stressed in his opening address, the great unity existing among the Jews of the world today following the Six-Day War and contrasted it with the “great rifts” between Jews in Israel and between the Jews of Israel and the rest of the world two years ago when the Council last met. “In one swoop,” he said, “these differences disappeared.”

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