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Reform Temple Educators to Intensify Teaching About Christianity

January 3, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The National Association of Temple Educators called today upon Jewish teachers to intensify their studies of Christianity and other faiths to meet the growing demand for knowledge of various religions from religious school youngsters. The educators from the 664 Reform Jewish synagogues of the Union of American Hebrew congregations in the United States and Canada concluding their annual convention here, indicated that this was necessary because “in this ecumenical age the frequency of communication between the church and the synagogue has increased.” They reelected Max Frankel, of Temple Emanuael, Denver, as president.

The convention adopted a resolution calling on Reform congregations “to expand our participation in cooperative institutes, seminars, and workshops for religious school teachers involving religious institutions of all faiths and denominations in the community, and to share information and broaden interfaith understanding to make more effective the teaching of comparative religion.”

At the same time the NATE members adopted a statement encouraging greater contact and communications between youngsters of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism through social, religious and organizational programs. The educators felt the need not to neglect a broader understanding by the young men and women in the religious schools of the various branches of Judaism while, at the same time, gaining a greater insight into Christianity and other religions.

Abraham Segal, Philadelphia, the newly appointed director of teacher education of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in New York City, announced that his department would prepare educational materials on comparative religions in a curriculum for teacher certification. The UAHC department would also encourage and provide material for regional teacher training education institutes in this same area. He said that this increased interfaith understanding is necessary “to meet the growing menace of secularism and materialism, especially in our urban centers. We must cooperate with other religious faiths in improving our communications and impact on all age levels, he declared.

Dr. Louis Lister, chairman of the NATE resolutions committee and professor of Education at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, said that there had been an increased popularity in courses on comparative religion in the religious schools of Reform congregations. He indicated that such courses were being supplemented by visits to churches and institutions representing other faiths, so that youngsters could observe ritual and other practices.


Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, UAHC national director of education, called for a radical revision of the approach to Jewish education to conform with the pervasive changes in the American Jewish community. He said the present program of religious education, promulgated decades ago, has become largely irrelevant, and “fails to cut into the current of our children’s deeper needs.” He called for a change of emphasis in Jewish education from an “ethnic to a religiously centered curriculum,” explaining that “the younger generation views Judaism in strictly religious terms, and finds unintelligible the stress placed by their parents on a cultural, national and defense-oriented Judaism.”

Rabbi Schindler spoke of the “loosening of the ethnic strains” which once bound the American Jewish community and of the “compensating reinforcement of the religious bonds expected to serve as a unifying force in the stead.” He stated that the “secular culture or nationhood envisaged by many Jews of a previous generation has proved illusory, incapable of fulfillment on the American scene. The community has become a communion, bound by belief, turning primarily to religion to define its nature and to justify its continuity.”

As a first step Rabbi Schindler announced that the Commission on Jewish Education of Reform Judaism — a joint body of the UAHC and the Central Conference of American Rabbis has directed its curriculum committee, under the chairmanship of Rabbi Samuel Glasner, of Baltimore, to “summon a conference of Jewish theologians of diverse convictions not necessarily to forge a unified Reform Jewish theology, but to agree on what we should teach our children in the realm of belief.” He also indicated that the UAHC’s department of education must begin producing new texts, new teachers guides, redirect the orientation of existing texts, and change the orientation of our religious school teachers.

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