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Wolf Tells Jwb Parley Jewish Intellectuals Often Flee from Jewishness

April 16, 1964
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A noted American Jewish historian and communal leader advised delegates to the National Jewish Welfare Board convention here tonight to help close the gap between the Jewish intellectual and his Jewishness, and warned American Jews not to forget their Jewishness in the matter of civil rights, The convention opened Wednesday and will close Sunday. The speaker was Edwin Wolf 2nd, president of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, author and curator of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

“We have the paradox,” he said, “of more Jews active in cultural and intellectual activities, and at the same time more Jews accepting the worst of anti-intellectual materialism. Free access to academic positions, a wide reading public for books of Jewish content, and a respect for Jewish learning have been gained. Yet there is still a chasm between the great majority of the intellectuals who were born Jews- and Jewishness in any religious, philosophical, cultural or social sense. I blame the gulf on the intellectual who has failed to find for himself the values in his heritage, and on the Jewish organization man who has scorned matters of the mind.

“I can say that Jewish Community Centers are better attuned to the coming cultured world than most other Jewish organizations. They have brought Jewish intellectuals into their programs. Yet they, also, have not succeeded in making these men and women part of the Jewish life the Centers represent. To be sure, there are exceptions, but I am speaking in generalities.

“I believe that the raising of the level of education is creating a great new potential for you. I also believe that if we can only get together the Jewish intellectuals who have fled from Jewishness with the young seekers, who are looking for a synthesis of their psychological need to belong and their intellectual desire to expand, we shall go far towards solving one of the most difficult problems of our time.”

The National Jewish Welfare Board is the National Association of YM & YWHAs and Jewish Community Centers. It is also accredited by the Department of Defense as the agency to serve the religious, welfare and morale needs of Jewish military personnel and their dependents.

Mr. Wolf called upon JWB and its affiliated Centers and YMHAs to promote “a frame of mind, a way of life, which is Jewish in that it devotes itself to things of the intellect, not exclusively religious. The working-out of a philosophy of American Jewish life, which is American, Jewish and of the 20th century, should be enough of a problem to keep our best brains as busy as the Talmudic scholar kept his.”

Dr. Abram L. Sachar, president of Brandeis University, Walter D. Heller, San Francisco civic leader, and Arthur S. Kling, a one-time candidate for mayor of Louisville and Jewish communal leader, were announced as the winners of the three 1964 Frank L. Weil Awards of JWB.

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