In a major address dealing with the past, present and future of the American Jewish community, one of American’s leading sociologists, Dr. Leonard J. Fein, said that “Jews are embarking on an entirely new chapter in our history in this land,” dramatically different from that which existed since 1880 when Jews began to migrate in large numbers to this country.
For the first time in the history of the American Jewish community, he said, “a Judaism rooted in Jewish values with the kind of commitment which regards Judaism as a challenge, as an achievement, as something which excites the imagination-a Judaism worth the effort-a Judaism which one can love-has now become a real possibility.”
Addressing the National Social Action Conference of the National Women’s League of the United Synagogue. Dr. Fein, professor of Polities and Social Policy at Brandeis University, told the 600 delegates attending the conference from 17 states: “The fundamental assumptions which formed Jewish life in this country for over three quarters of a century, which lay at the heart of what may be called ‘the Jewish-American arrangement,’ are simply no longer tenable, and therefore, the arrangement to which they gave rise is no longer viable.”
Dr. Fein asserted that if Judaism is to survive in the United States it will require a priority concern with Jewish needs, Jewish values and a “deep concern for our Jewish brothers” which must take precedence over universal values and the “welfare of our universal cousins,” despite the need and desirability of such concerns as well.
CRITICAL OF JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT
He was optimistic about a new American Jewish renaissance because “Jews are restless, seething, searching, indeed, hungry for Jewish sustenance,” He was critical of the Jewish establishment, however, nothing that synagogues and Jewish educational systems and welfare funds were not productive.
“Our synagogues,” he said, “are organizational and architectural successes, but Judaic failures.” Jewish school administrators and those providing the funds “are not setting the proper standards. They may be teaching our young Jews where they came from but not why their past should be relevant to where they are going.”
Dr. Fein termed the Jewish leadership in the welfare funds as a “self-enfranchising group” and said that access to leadership in those bodies would have to change, especially since the major responsibility of the funds today is not service to needy individuals but in the area of the “collective malaise of the Jewish community.” Above all, he said, the survival of the Jewish community requires the development of a network of human support systems, groups of Jews who come together-chavurot-to help one another to view Judaism as a contemporary, vital adventure.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.