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Hadassah Convention Opens with Call to Strengthen Jewish Life in U.S.

August 15, 1966
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The importance of strengthening Jewish life in this country was stressed here tonight at the opening session of the 52nd national convention of Hadassah by Mrs. Mortimer Jacobson, president of the organization, in her presidential address. More than 2,000 delegates and guests are participating in the four day convention.

“The basic concern of a modern Jew in a free society is not whether his son will face anti-Semitism–not whether his son will be able to earn a living–but whether he will remain a Jew,” Mrs. Jacobson asserted. She urged Jewish parents to: 1. Provide their children with Jewish education in the home “as an important part of their way of life”; 2. Practice Judaism in daily life so as to set an example for their children to follow.

“Ignorance of our Jewish heritage is by no means confined to young people,” Mrs. Jacobson said. “We need a campaign–a ‘Project Late Start’–to educate the parents who need to be educated in Judaism. Books alone cannot educate or inspire children. Youth must see its parents and teachers as live illustrations.

“The vitality of American democracy does not require the loss of one’s own particular culture,” she emphasized. “On the contrary, to give up the cultural pattern that has made the Jewish people one of the great moral and social forces of humanity diminishes ourselves not only as Jews but as Americans. A generation that has helped to rebuild Israel can surely find the way to maintain a conscious, affirmative Jewish way of life in America.”


Mrs. Jacobson said that a century ago, the Jew was concerned about the future of his children in terms of their ability to survive pogroms and anti-Semitism; their ability to avoid starvation; their plans to emigrate. “But one concern he did not have–whether or not his children would remain Jewish,” she pointed out. “Even fifty years ago, Jews were still, in the main, being raised within a Jewish society. Judaism was their primary culture. The culture of the country in which they lived was secondary.

“Today the reverse is true. For Jews outside of Israel, Judaism is a second culture acquired on top of the culture of the countries where they live. The Jews of America today are worried about whether the next generation will retain its specific Jewish identity. There is cause today to worry over indifference to–and ignorance of–Judaism and Jewishness.”

Mrs. Jacobson said that “every survey of the Jewish scene reports frightening statistics. This year, a survey showed that only half of the Jewish school-age population in the United States receive any form of Jewish education. The education of the 600,000 who do attend Jewish schools is said to be woefully inadequate.

“How can Hadassah help to remedy this situation? As an organization representing over 300,000 homes, we are responsible for approximately 650,000 children and grand children. What if we started with them? There is no doubt that Jewish education begins in the home and when parents view their own continuing education as an important part of their way of life, it helps to set an example. Therefore, I call upon our members to set the example–a Jewish home is one where everyone studies Judaism and practices it.”


President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a message to the convention, hailed the Badassah as a voluntary organization “which gives impetus to our nation’s major objectives–that of helping people to help themselves. “Your convention theme–‘Horizons Unlimited’–is one of challenge, both here and abroad. Efforts such as yours enable countries throughout the world to develop and look to the future with hope and confidence,” the President said in his message.

Israel Prime Minister Levi Eshkol stated in a message: “The name of Hadassah is written large across the panorama of modern Israel, bearing testimony to the magnificent record of creative achievement and inspired endeavor, which has consistently characterized your movement from its inception.”

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of a special citation to Hadassah by the American Association for World Health, in recognition of Hadassah’s medical aid to developing countries in Africa and Asia and support of the World Health Organization. The citation was presented to Mrs. Jacobson by Philip E. Nelbach, executive vice-president of the American Association for World Health.

It stressed that in a half a century of dedicated effort, Hadassah has become the “healer of the sons and daughters of many nations as well as of Israel.”

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