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May 15, 1964 - Image 19

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-05-15

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

British Orthodox Jewry Is at Odds
Over New Knowledge and Piety

JTA Correspondent in London

(Copyright, 1964, JTA, Inc.)

LONDON—The New West End
Synagogue, which includes some
of Anglo-Jewry's favorite sons,
elected an Orthodox rabbi and
scholar, Dr. Louis Jacobs, as its
minister and preacher.
A synagogal group, The United
Synagogue, which owns the build-
ings of its constituent units (an
old custom irrelevant to present-
--" day conditions) vetoed the ap-
pointment, invoking the chief
rabbi's authority. But the congre-
gation refused to change its mind.
The parent body thereupon called
an emergency meeting of its
After a stormy debate, in which
Edmund de Rothschild and Dr.
Israel Feldman, an elder, spoke
against drastic steps, the meeting
nevertheless adopted a resolution,
138-94, which sacked the wardens
of the synagogue and appointed in
their stead four caretakers.
The folowing Saturday, the care-
taker-wardens arrived in silk hats,
occupied the Wardens' Box and
assumed responsibility for every-
thing, from Maftir to maintenance,
from Peticha to plumbing. The
bulk of the members of the syna-
gogue are, however, determined
to establish their own house of
prayer (they have the material
means) with Dr. Jacobs as their
Here the matter rests, though
the popular press tries to find
new angles every day—and who
can blame them? Especially since
the council meeting, which de-
posed the wardens and appointed
the caretakers, was held in cam-
era, the press having been ex-
cluded by a proposal of the pres-
ident, Sir Isaac Wolfson, after a
show of hands.
But, of course, these comings
and goings, toings and froings, the
bitterness and the abuse, the irony
and sarcasm, are but the outward
expression of a conflict of ideas.
True, not all Anglo - Jews are
equipped for a kulturkampf, but
the chief rabbi and Dr. Jacobs are
both scholars. And there are a few
others who are more interested in
ideas than in the administrative
The chief rabbi, Dr. Israel
Brodie, is an Oxford graduate,
and a man of the world. But he
is also a fundamentalist—not an
obscurantist, just a fundamen-
talist. In terms of Jewish ortho-
doxy, it means this: The Torah
is revelation. Moses received the
Torah from Sinai and handed it
down to Joshua, and Joshua to
the Elders, and the Elders to
the Prophets, and so on until
our time.
It is not for us to analyze and
dissect articles of faith. We must
accept them as handed down to
US in writing and by word of
mouth. Any kind of inquiry into
what is beyond our grasp may lead
to deviation. In the words of the
old Hebrew adage: "B'Muflah Mim-
cha Al Tachkor" (Thou Shalt Not
Inquire Into What Is Beyond Thy
Grasp). Faith cannot be tested in
the light of reason. Our Torah is
not a law of physics which needs
looking into every time new scien-
tific discoveries are made. They
are the 13 articles of faith, enun-
ciated by Maimonides, who traced
each of them to. the Torah. He who
rejects one of them, rejects Ortho-
dox Judaism.
The chief rabbi has never stated
publicly his views in this conflict.
He seems to assume that it is
pretty obvious. But the above is
a fair summary.
Dr. Jacobs' views are on record
in his books and papers, and he
has also stated them several times
on public platforms. On one occa-
sion he summed up his position in
the following terms:
"Large sections of Jews live
in self-assured ease, materially
as well as spiritually. Their re-
ligion is part of their content-
ment. But who wants a life of
spiritual contentment? The Jew-
ish religion throughout the ages

has been used to comfort the
troubled. We should now use it
to trouble the comfortable. In
this, study must play a vital
part. It is our raison d'etre.
"Prayer is important, but study
is more important. And study, to
be profitable, must conform to
certain rules. There is new knowl-
edge at our disposal, which was
not known to our forebears. We
ought to use it. This will not
weaken our faith; it wiill
strengthen it. It is doubtful
whether we can be completely
scientific in the non-physical sci-
ences, but we should try to adopt
the objectivity of the scientist in
examining texts and sources."
Dr. Jacobs remains an Orthodox
Jew. He accepts revelation and he
adheres to the Orthodox forms of
prayer and service in the syna-
gogue. The comparison with Dr.
John Robinson, the bishop of
Woolwich, who recently shook the
Church of England, is tempting
and often used by Jewish and non-
Jewish speakers and writers.
But Woolwich says that the
image of God, as cherished by
Christians throughout the cen-
turies, cannot appeal to the mod-
ern mind. God is in us and not
outside us. He is not a separate
entity. Dr. Jacobs, on the other
hand, accepts the Jewish God as
known throughout the ages, and
the divine inspiration of the Bible.
However, he refuses to accept the
Biblical dates and miracles as
sacrosanct, and must be taken
Does this bar Dr. Jacobs from
being rabbi, guide and mentor to
an Orthodox community? Dr.
Brodie says yes. Some other Ortho-
dox Jewish scholars and rabbis
say no. This conflict is new to
Anglo-Jewry but not to Jewish
In every generation, we have
had pious Jews who nevertheless
did not shirk from treading the
slippery ground of inquiry.
Maimonides himself explored
the philosophy of the Greeks in
relation to our faith. Rabenu
Bachya Ibn-Pakudah advocated
theological studies within the
framework of absolute piety.
Rabbi Yehuda Halevy conducted
philosophical polemics with his
In the Lithuanian tradition of
later centuries, a doubting scholar
was preferable to a pious ignor-
amus. Indeed, the ancient saying
"Lo Am Haaretz Chassid" (No
Ignoramus Can Be Truly Pious)
had developed as an attitude of
mind among Lithuanian Jews —
the most learned of all Jewish
The works of the great doubters
of generations gone by have been
absorbed into our religious litera-
ture, and their ancestors have
found places for themselves in the
Pantheon of our great.
The trouble with Dr. Jacobs is
that he is a contemporary. A pious
Jew is permitted to indulge in
theological inquiry provided he
lived eight centuries ago.

Reform Congregation Unit
Adopts $2.8-Million
Budget; to Spur Education

NEW YORK, (JTA)—The Union
of American Hebrew Congregations,
central congregational body of Re-
form Judaism, adopted a budget
of $2,777,986 for its 1964-65 pro-
gram operations and at the same
time declared "war on spiritual
poverty" through the resources of
its 657 member congregations hi
the United States and Canada.
The phrase was used in a state-
ment to the all-day session of the
UAHC board of trustees by its
chairman, Irvin Fane of Kansas
City. He outlined a comprehensive
"battle plan" against the "forces
of apathy, sloth, passivity and ig-
norance" in Jewish life, which, he
said, the organizations of Reform
Judaism will pursue "despite the
strictures of budgetary setbacks."

Friday, May 15, 1964

Rockefeller's View
on Israel Related
in New Gervasi Book

A newspaperman and former
war correspondent, Frank Gervasi,
has written a biography of Nelson
Rockefeller which supplements
the historical background of the
Roosevelt, Truman and Eisen-
hower administrations.
"The Real Rockefeller," by
Gervasi, to be published by Athe-
neum, May 25, reports the unpub-
licized part the present Governor
had in influencing foreign policy
under three Presidents.
Gervasi indicates that most of
the progressive legislation which
Rockefeller fought for in behalf
of Eisenhower's objectives were
frustrated by "a gang of Budget
F i r s t e r s" responsible for the
administration's actions. The book
also discloses how he opposed
Dulles on abandoning the Aswan
Dam project, a decision which the
biographer says enabled the R -is-
sians to move into the Middle
East. Rockefeller had favored
financing the Dam to retain a
foothold in Egypt and thus turn
Nasser's energies from belligerency
against Israel toward domestic

Religious Issue Charged by Foe
of Congressman Farbstein in Race

NEW YORK — New York Con-
gressman Leonard Farbstein has
been charged by his opponent in
the Democratic primary with in-
jecting the religious issue into the
William F. Haddad, who claims
that both his parents came from
Jewish backgrounds, said Rep.
Farbstein was heard referring to
him as an "Arab," an "Egyptian,"
a non-Jew "passing himself off as
being Jewish" or a backslider from
He filed a complaint with the
National Fair Campaign Prac-
tices Committee, saying that at
an electioneering coffee hour,
30 men and women reported they
had heard rumors that Haddad
was an Arab and, in effect,
Five hours after Rep. Farbstein
was asked to comment on the
charges, Farbstein's intention to
file a counter-complaint was in-
The executive director of the
Fair Campaign Committee, Bruce
L. Felknor, said the Haddad com-
plaint was the committee's first I

major case of the 1964 elections.
Farbstein called the allegations
ridiculous and said his opponent
was "trying to misrepresent . .
because confusion has been cre-
ated relating to his own religion."
In Haddad's campaign flyer,
his biography mentions his
mother as being born in Kiev
and his father in Cairo. "Both
came from Jewish backgrounds
and from families persecuted for
their religious beliefs," it said.
Although Haddad didn't say he
himself was Jewish he did insist
that his "own religious back-
ground does not differ in any way
from that of Congressman Farb-

Meyer Feldman, advisor to
President Johnson, is the tennis
star of the White House staff.



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