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December 06, 1963 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1963-12-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, December 6, 1963—THE DETROIT JEWISH NEW S-2

Purely Commentary

Hanukah, usually hailed primarily as a festival that marks a notable Macca-
baean military victory against tyranny, is as much a spiritual festival. It was the
cleansing of • the Temple, the • refusal to bow down to idols, the rejection of the
Greek culture which the subjugators of Judaea sought to impose upon our
ancestors, that was of major importance.
These facts must not be overlooked when we seek inspiration from the
Festival of Lights. It is not enough to place emphasis on gift-giving to children, on
games and hilarity. There is need also for understanding of basic values which
revolve around the obligation to strive for survival. The moment we abandon
our interest in survivalism we lose all the powers of retaining our identity and
we are back exactly where the Maccabees were before their revolt.
And so, if we are sincere about the Hanukah observance, as about any other
spiritual event in the life of our people, we must face issues that are vital to our
existence.
We must not overlook the seriousness of the dangers that stem from mixed
marriages. We place emphasis especially on this problem because it has been
brought into the forefront and because it seems to grow in seriousness.

*

*

There has been such a vast increase in intermarriages in this country that
the problem has been in open debate for some time. At the recent convention
of Reform Jewish leaders in Chicago, laymen joined with rabbis in viewing the
subject, and a local newsman, in interviews with a group attending the convention,
was told by a Grand Rapids delegate: "Why worry about survival? People who
marry are people first and religionists second."
If this were truly the ultimate answer to the issue, it would mean the total
relinquishment of responsibilities by Jews towards the continuity of our faith and
the retention of Jewish loyalties.
There was a time when Jews sat shivah when their children married out of
the faith. There undoubtedly is a lessening of such demonstrations of opposition
to mixed marriages—primarily because there are so many of them, because of
what many believe to be the inevitability of such developments, but mainly
because serious efforts are made, when love affairs result in decisions to marry,
to induce those who are about to marry Jews to accept the Jewish faith.
*
The fact remains that all religious factions in Jewry, every element in our
ranks, whether it is Reform, Conservative or Orthodox, are firmly opposed to
intermarriage and discourage it unless there is an earnest desire on the part of
the non-Jewish partner to the marriage to join the Jewish fold.
Indeed, there was a. time when very many Reform rabbis performed mixed
marriages. Today there are very few of them, and only one Detroit rabbi has been
mentioned as a conductor of mixed marriages. This is in itself significant. It
points to the unanimity on the issue in Jewish ranks.

*

*

*

A conference on intermarriage called by the American Jewish Congress last
week, in New York, provoked the charge that rabbis who perform mixed marriages
are "ocntributing to the ultimate destruction of Jewish life."
A Reform rabbi (Dr. Joseph Klein, Worcester, Mass.) went so far as to demand
that communities should exert "pressure" against rabbis who officiate at • such
functions and he declared that rabbis who perform mixed marriages are "a dan-
gerous element in the struggle for Jewish survival."
While Dr. Max Eichhorn took an opposite stand, asserting that there is a
marked increase in intermarriages, that he did not favor them but that he per-
formed them, Dr. Leo Jung maintained mixed marriages are "unfair to the mil-
lions of Jews who have fought for survival." Dr. Jung's view also was that such
marriages are "morally hazardous and wrong," that "at best they end in a state
of belligerence or in divorce court."
Thurs, we had a public airing of the matter, and again the question of survival
was uppermost in the minds of those who oppose mixed marriages.

*

*

*

The issue will grow in gravity unless the problem will be faced frankly
and without panic or fear. It has come to a point that rabbis in some communities
where there is a large percentage of intermarriages hesitate to mention the very
term "intermarriage." There is a hesitation lest those already affected by inter-
marriage of children or other relatives should be offended by the ban on mixed
troths.

*

*

*

Indeed, this could be considered a Hanukah objective: to renew the effort
to stem the tide of increased mixed marriages. What other aim to retain Jewish
identity could be closer to the Hasmonean spirit of warding off the dangers of
loss of Jewish cultural existence?
Again, indeed, there enters the question of Jewish survival, and in spite of
those who believe that a love affair is more vital than our existence as an entity
we must strive for the most dignified continuity as a people, else we may as well
close up shop—we may as well write finis to synagogues, Jewish relief agencies, our
schools and our houses of research and study.
Dr. Erich Rosenthal, associate professor of anthropology-sociology at Queens
College, New York, is the author of the study on intermarriage, based mainly on
conditions in Iowa and in Washington, D. C., and his conclusions are that the
statistics he has gathered point to a glum prospect for hopes for a growing Jewish
community in this country.
If we wish to preside over the disappearance of the Jewish people, let us, by
all means, like those who pleaded for love as against survival, encourage intermar-
riage. But that happens not to be our objective. Therefore we must strive to create
a loyalty in Jewish ranks to prevent it.

The natural question will arise: are we advocating isolation from our neigh-
bors? Indeed not! There is no reason why we can not live side by side with our
fellow men in a spirit of utmost respect for each other's faiths. It may not be easy
for the young people, but we must ask them to make every effort to prevent their
loss of Jewish identity while retaining the most dignified spirit of sociability
among all faiths.

Hanukah's Supreme Challenge:
Intermarriage an Issue in the
Basic Aspiration for Survival

Catholics, too, object to mixed marriages, and so do many Protestants. If this
is part of the price we pay for our survival as a spiritual entity, we must bear it—
with courage and with dignity.

Special Memorial tributes
will be paid to the late Presi-
dent Kennedy, to Rabbi Abba
Hillel Silver of Cleveland, a
found and former national
chairman of the UJA, and
other top UJA leaders whose
passing occurred over the past
Over the weekend the dele-
gates will hear addresses from
Israel's Ambassador to the
United States, Avraham Harman;
former Israel Prime Minister
Moshe • Sharett; Brandeis Uni-
versity President Abram L.
Sachar; Rabbi Herbert A. Fried-

*

*

One of our very able columnists, Nathan Ziprin, the editor of the Seven Arts
Feature Syndicate, in a special column in which he reports on reader reactions
to his article on intermarriage, calls attention to an "unbelievable outpouring of
letters," proving that "the problem of intermarriage is holding the concern of
our people in the communities throughout the country more than any other
development on the American Jewish scene." He states that never in the more
than two decades of writing for the English-Jewish press "has there been such
an avalanche of reader reaction. The high rate of intermarriage—judging from
the letters—has seemingly reached a point where there are few Jewish families
that have not been stricken by the malady."
Mr. Ziprin's column is worth quoting because of the opinions he enumerates.
He states:

Women have written in to say that they had given their children a good Jewish upbringing
but that it would seem education was no antidote to intermarriage. Men admitted guilt in
neglecting the religious needs of their children, but they were almost uniformly of the opinion
that their wives had done a good job in raising their children Jewishly, within a measure of
tradition and a climate of ritual.
However, both the women and the men sadly concluded that the outside climate seemingly
corroded the Jewish element in their_ children once they were exposed to another climate—
in the colleges, university, professional schools, businesses and offices.
Uniformly the letter writers complained "we seem to lose control over our children once
they leave home."
The letters from young people, mostly college students, were Iess hysterical. Most of them
said they could not fathom "the sudden tragic concern" of their parents over intermarriage
when "in fact they showed no such concern in the formative years of our growing into man-
hood and womanhood." They all admitted having received some form of Jewish education, but
evidently their concept of what constitutes Jewish education was at variance with that of their
parents. Many of the letter-writers said their Jewish education was shallow, superficial and un-
rooted to Jewish continuity and that when they encountered a crisis in relationships outside
their own environment parental admonition was not enough to offset the lack of meaningful
education.
Interestingly, there were a number of letters from "lonely" readers who said the `-lonely"
were contributing quite substantially to the high ratio of the intermarriage figures.
All indications point to an alarming rise in intermarriage. Can the trend be arrested? A
leading American intellectual with the highest reputation for scholarship and honesty in the
American Jewish community has recently told this writer that he believed the trend to
assimilation can be reversed, but that time was of tragic essence. If we fail to take vigorous
action to check the trekking away from our paths, he said, the end of the twentieth century
may "see us breathe hard for mere existence as an indigenous segment in American society."
*
*
*

Emerging from these experiences are warnings of an increasing indifference
among our youth and their nearly total abandonment of Jewish affiliations the
moment they leave their Bar Mitzvah classes and especially when they enroll in
colleges and universities.
The existing organizations have proven inadequate to deal with the problem.
The synagogues have not succeeded in holding the young people within the fold.
The Hillel Foundations at best get a very meager response from students.
Never before have we had so many opportunities for free actions as Jews by
Jews within a democracy, yet never before have there been as many defections.
What causes it and how is it to be averted?
*
*
*
At the recent convention of the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congrega-
tions, one rabbi charged that there is an abandonment of the oldest established
Jewish tradition of the unity of family life. Rabbi Henry E. Kagan of Mt. Vernon
warned of the rise of juvenile delinquency among Jews, of premature marriages
and a shocking increase in premarital sex relations among teenagers in colleges,
even of the rise of homosexuality among Jews, and of a decline of parental
authority.
We are, indeed, subjected to a truly serious series of developments which may
prove to be the most serious challenges ever to face Jewry. But it can not be said
that we have not been warned in advance.
More than 25 years ago, the brilliant short story writer and poet, the eminent
Hebrew educator, A. H. (Hes Aleph) Friedland, of Cleveland, wrote a Hebrew
short story in which he described a stroll through a Jewish neighborhood on a
Friday night. But for a very few exceptions which showed families gathered around
festive tables, with candles lit, books open, tunes of traditional songs echoing
the Sabbath—except for a very few such isolated instances, all he saw in home after
home through unshuttered windows, were men and women at card tables, fortified
by cocktails.
This has gone on for a long time. The playing cards have replaced the Torah.
The Friday night and the Sabbath spirit have been abandoned.
*
*
*
Is it any wonder that we are finding it so difficult to hold onto our youth
and that they are leaving us, singly and in groups?
Is it any wonder that whenever there is a defense of the Sabbath there is some
one to argue that if the rabbi can play golf on the Sabbath, why can't the com-
munity have the social functions of its choice on that sacred day?'
That is why your Commentator dares to say on the Festival of Lights and
Dedication that what we need is a new rededication, a revitalized cleansing of the
temple—and in our day the home must again become the temple and the sanctity
of family life must be elevated above all else.

*

*

*

The issue does not lend itself to an easy solution. It calls for sacrifice from
those affected. It demands strong wills to counteract the temptations that
confront us.
But there are so many other temptations in a free land, and all of them must
be faced fearlessly, they must be overcome by mighty will power, they must take
into consideration the main objective: our survival as a people. For those who
reject survivalism our words will prove worthless, we shall be branded bigots
and chauvinists, we will undoubtedly stand condemned as unrealistic. But those
who adhere to the hope for survival will have no other alternative but to support
us in our views. What other course dare we follow as Jews?
What more poignant lesson is there for us on Hanukah?
Let there be rejoicing on this Hanukah, and all Festivals of Lights to come,
in the spirit of spiritual strength for our people everywhere!

Large Detroit Delegation at

A large delegation of De-
troiters will participate in the
26th annual national conference
of the United Jewish Appeal,
which opens today at the New
York Hilton Hotel, New York,
and will continue through Sun-
The delegates, representing
hundreds of U.S. communities,
are to participate in a confer-
ence which Joseph Meyerhoff of
Baltimore, UJA general chair-
man, has described as "one
which will inaugurate • a new
era in worldwide Jewish recon-
struction."

By Philip
Slomovitz

man, UJA executive vice chair-
man, and other distinguished
leaders on the American and
international scene.
Sharett, in his capacity as
the chairman of the Jewish
Agency for Israel, Jerusalem,
will submit the Agency's bud-
get outlining the costs of
bringing in, resettling and ab-
sorbing another record wave
of immigrants from various
parts of the world.
Charles H. Jordan, director-
general for overseas operations
of the Joint Distribution Com-

UJA

Conference

mittee, will present the 1964
budget of the JDC covering its
program of aid to 485,000 needy
and distressed Jews in 30 coun-
tries.
Sharett and Mr. Jordan will
speak at the opening session
Friday morning.
The Friday session also will
receive the 1964 budgets from
two other agencies that derive
their funds from the UJA. New
York Association for New Amer-
icans, which helps newcomers
to the United States, and United
Hias Service, the worldwide Jew-

ish migration agency which as-
sists in the movement of Jew-
ish refugees to countries other
than Israel. The Friday luncheon
session will hear an address by
Dr. Sachar.
A conference highlight will be
an historical pageant written for
the United Jewish Appeal by
Allan E. Sloane, one of Amer-
ica's leading television play-
wrights, and produced and di-
rected by Himan Brown, former
national chairman of UJA radio,
television and motion picture
activities.

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