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Z.O.A. Leaders Warn on ‘rising Tide’ of Jewish Assimilation in U.S.

November 30, 1959
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A warning that a “rising tide” of assimilation is leading to the disintegration of Jewish cultural life in this country, coupled with a call for an overhaul of the Jewish education system was sounded by Zionist leaders here today.

Addressing several hundred members from all parts of the country gathered at a two-day meeting of the National Executive Council of the Zionist Organization of America, Abraham A. Redelheim, president of the organization, said that “before our very eyes we see large Jewish settlements, particularly in suburbia drifting away from our spiritual heritage and become total strangers to traditional Judaism.” He further asserted that the “alleged revival of religion that is so much touted about represents but a temporary response to what we may describe as ‘gimmick’ Judaism.”

The ZOA head further pointed out that while close to $60,000,000 a year is being spent on Jewish education in this country, half of the Jewish educational network consists of Sunday classes where children receive no more than one hour or one and a half hours tuition a week. He termed this type of education as “practically useless.”

Dr. Emanuel Neumann, president of the World Confederation of General Zionists and member of the Jewish Agency executive, led a discussion on the problems to be dealt with at the forthcoming sessions of the World Zionist Actions Committee opening in December in Jerusalem. Speaking of the proposed revision of the constitution of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Neumann urged support for certain recommended changes which do not infringe on basic Zionist principles.

“Included among such recommendations,” said Dr. Neumann, “will be a far-reaching proposal to invite representatives of American Jews, both Zionists and non-Zionists, active in mobilizing support for Israel, to share in the responsibility of planning the programs and framing the budgets of the Jewish Agency. If American Jewish leaders are now desirous of having a voice in the disposition of the funds raised in the United States, then we, Zionists, should welcome this inclination.”

Max Bressler of Chicago, associate chairman of the National Executive Council, who presided, joined in the warning that American Jews are “in great danger of ultimate extinction by assimilation.” To counteract this danger he said that the Zionist movement must assume as one of its special functions “the development of Jewish educational systems for our young that will serve as an efficient instrument for the transmission of our Jewish heritage to succeeding generations.”

Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, chairman of the National ZOA Committee for Hebrew Culture, also urged the launching of greater efforts by American Zionists in the cultural field. Jacques Torczyner of the World Zionist Affairs Committee of the ZQA, joining in the warning against the dangers of assimilation, urged the development by Zionists of day schools and the strengthening of teachers’ institutions.

Other principal speakers at the session were Rabbi Irving Miller, chairman of the American Zionist Council, Abraham A. Goodman, of New York, chairman of the Administrative Committee of the ZOA, who presented a detailed report on its activities, and Dr. Harris J. Levine, chairman for Israel Projects.

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