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So. African Community Leader Evaluates American Jewish Life

January 5, 1953
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The strong and weak sides of American Jewish life were analyzed here today by Gustav Saron, general secretary of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, prior to his leaving the United States where he spent two-and-a-half months studying various aspects of Jewish community activities.

“American Jewry today,” he said in a statement, “constitutes an intricate many-colored mosaic. There is so much variety: In one sphere you encounter striking examples of progressive organization; in another fragmentation and disunity still persist; here you meet a pulsating Jewish way of life; there you encounter enormous indifference and ignorance; now you are troubled by doubts regarding the continued identification of the young American Jew with his people, and then you are gladdened by coming upon groups of vital young men and women devoted to Jewish values and consecrated to the furtherance of Judaism.”

Emphasizing that he believes that the future of world Jewry depends greatly on developments in the United States, Mr. Saron declared that he was immediately conscious of the notable strides forward which American Jewry made in meeting the crisis of the last 15 years and especially in coming to the rescue of the survivors of the Hitler terror and in aiding the State of Israel through the travails of its birth.

“As a result,” he pointed out, “Jewish group solidarity has been greatly strengthened and a very effective organization for fund-raising has been perfected throughout the country. This has redounded to the benefit of local communal organizations, where there has been a notable trend towards centralized planning and coordinated activity, and additional men and women have come forward to participate in the leadership of Jewish communal life.

“One cannot fail to be impressed by the high quality of the welfare services which have been developed by the Jewish community–especially by its professional workers–services that in many fields have set new standards for the country as a whole. If what has been so far achieved is conserved and advanced, it can become a sure foundation for great future progress.”

On the other hand, Mr. Saron found that the thinking and action of the American Jewish community is still too largely centered on fund-raising and philanthropy and social welfare in the narrower sense of the term. “The undue emphasis which is now placed on these aspects of communal life tends to obscure the importance of other more abiding, though less tangible facets, of Jewish life. I refer to such matters as Jewish education, culture and the life of the spirit, “he stated. He urged greater cooperation and coordination, wherever possible, in all spheres of American Jewish life where common ground can be found.

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