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Reform Leader Denounces Orthodox Hold on Israeli Religious Life

November 16, 1959
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, charged tonight that a “sterile Orthodoxy” had a stranglehold on religious life in Israel and had established a virtual ban on Liberal expressions of Judaism.

Addressing the opening session of the organization’s 45th biennial general assembly, the speaker advised Premier David Ben-Gurion that without “the life-giving waters of our Reform faith,” there was “more danger of Judaism perishing in his land than in ours.” He referred to the acceptance of American equipment and technicians and rejection of “rabbis made in Cincinnati and New York” as “a disdainful and false emphasis on the alleged exclusive materialism of America as well as a reflection of the equally mundane stress in Israel.”

He urged the 3,000 delegates and guests at the assembly to protest allocation of funds and facilities to “but one religious group in Israel” and to insist that facilities be made “equitably available to all Jewish religious bodies within Israel.”

Rabbi Eisendrath said American Reform Judaism must meet the religious demands of an area beset by “spiritual thirst” and called on the assembly to “mobilize against the pagan idols” of what he termed our “rocket and racket-ridden age.” He said the essence of Reform Judaism was to “cease to do evil, learn to do good, rather than a preoccupation with the ceremonial “peccadilloes pertaining to pots and pans and dishes and diets and hats on or hats off.”

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