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Orthodox Rabbi Calls for Uniting with All Branches of Judaism to Address Challenges Facing Jews

January 19, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A leading Orthodox rabbi said here tonight that the only way to successfully address the many challenges facing Jews and Judaism “is to regroup and strengthen our forces by uniting with all branches of Judaism in those areas where we can be most effective without yielding our own individualities and loyalties. This would also require a wide reappraisal of areas in which existing organizational functions overlap.”

Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, also told the more than 200 rabbis attending the Council’s midwinter conference at the Homowack Lodge that they must “reach out beyond the confines of the congregation and create a corps of volunteers to serve” in various community efforts.

He pointed out that “we often overlook the crying needs that are just beyond our immediate congregational perimeters.” Referring to the Jewish poor who are generally outside of the organized congregation, the rising rate of violent crime in the synagogues, and such international issues as the almost total shutdown of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, Klaperman declared:

“We must initiate a significant program to rehabilitate the poor, economically and socially, to restore dignity and fellowship as well as food and lodging to their tired lives. Rabbis should also join community efforts to fight and contain the violent crime which is shrinking and inhibiting the functional use and pleasures of city living. We cannot just sit back and decry the infringement on our freedom of movement and enjoyment without actively joining the effort to contain and diminish crimes.”


Klaperman also called for “forging new partnerships” with the young people and the slowly rising members of “baale teshuva” (newly returned Jews) to religious observance. He pointed out that the “baale teshuva” find themselves lonely travelers on the road to Judaism because they have left their families and friends behind as they are absorbed into their new way of life.

He called upon the rabbis to help integrate “baale teshuva” into their congregations by encouraging them to become part of their congregations and by twinning them with families more securely rooted in Judaism. He also urged that the rabbis strengthen new partnerships with the young people of their congregations.

“Our leadership is getting old and we have to develop and encourage replacements from the ranks of the young,” Klaperman said. “In some cases we will have to take chances on some young people — but they must be shown that we see them as part and parcel of the Jewish caravan and who must ultimately take their places at its head.”


Klaperman, who is a former chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry and one of its early organizers, said the rabbis “must also become activists in an all-out battle to help free the imprisoned Jews of the Soviet Union” and to exert every effort to keep Soviet Jewish emigration at the top of the Jewish action agenda.

He decried the policies of American Jewish organizations the U.S. rather than to Israel, Calling that policy “shortsighted,” he pointed out that this policy deprived Israel of a vital resource of manpower to help develop the land and at the same time furnished the USSR with an excuse “to shut down the gates to Jewish freedom.”

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