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April 09, 1965 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-04-09

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

Dr. Jacob Neusner Outlines: A Policy for Religious Jewry

In a recent address, Dr. Jacob I
Neusner, professor of Semitics at
Dartmouth College, whose essays
frequently appear in The Jewish
News, set forth an important plat-
form as a policy for religious Jews.
In his thought-provoking address,
Dr. Neusner stated:
Religious Jews are those who af-
firm faith and trust in God and
the Torah. Within that definition
one may find room for adherents'
to orthodox, reform, conservative,
reconstructionist and other inter-
pretations of Jewish religion, as
well as many who affirm the faith
without affiliating with an institu-
tional expression of the faith.
The difficulty we meet in defin-
ing who is a religious Jew to the
satisfaction of both Jewry and
commonsense is ominous. It hints
at far deeper divisions within the
sector of religious Jewry than any-
one has publicly admitted.
If Orthodox Judaism regards it-
self as the only correct and his-
torically authentic expression of
40 centuries of Jewish religion, and
of divine revelation, so does Con-
servative Judaism and so does Re-
form Judaism.
I find nothing wrong, and every-
thing right, with that. Tolerance
for the beliefs of others, for the
rights of others to err, does not
prohibit the recognition that others

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do err. What promises disaster,
however, is the arrogant and in-
tolerant attitudes of the several re-
ligious groups toward one another.
The fact that the Jewish com-
munity center movement re-
gards itself, perhaps fatuously,
as the great unifying force that
must bring together the conflict.
ing "sects" of modern Judaism
is our dreadful and humiliating
reward.
We are too few • to fight each
other when the enemy is at the
gates. That enemy is apathy, in-
difference, ignorance, lack of com-
mitment to Judaism. It afflicts
each of us and all of us. The syna-
gogues stand mostly empty most
of the time. The people who call
themselves orthodox or reform or
conservative in fact reveal no seri-
ous commitment to orthodoxy, to
reform, to conservatism.
They do not—if they are ortho-
dox or conservative or reform —
observe the Sabbath as their re-
spective movements teach it
should be observed. They do not
study the Torah in great numbers.
They do not raise their children by
the moral and ethical principles of
Judaism, because they themselves
know nothing about these princi-
ples.
A religious Jew is hard to find.
My argument is that since there
are so very few religious Jews,
they should move closer together
—not in belief, not in religious
practice, but in their attitudes
toward one another.
* * *
I think, first of all,that we must
cease to apologize for believing in
God. We concentrate too much
energy on 'proving' that God ex-
ists, and too little on responding
to the presence of God in the
world. We are hypnotized by the
atheists among us, and have be-
come fascinated with the issues
they pose to us so that in the end,
they set the grounds for discus-
sion.
No proof exists for God's ex-
istence, and none is needed .. .
The task of religious Jews is not
now, and never has been, to
`prove' that God exists, for re-
ligious Jews are not so presump-
tuous or arrogant as to think
such a task is necessary or pos-
sible.
The religious Jew does not be-
come religious after an argument.
His religion begins with birth, and
is nurtured through life, and with
the help of God, that religion bears
fruit in the mature years in an
abiding trust in God and an endur-
ing submission to his will.
* * *
I call for more than mere con-
versations. I ask that religious
Jews undertake a massive effort
to win to the synagogue the alle-
giance of the great number of
Jews who, with bovine serenity,
manage without it.
We need to convince our fellow
Jews of something more than that
they should join a synagogue. We
need to demonstrate to them that
they cannot live without God, with-
out the Torah, without Judaism as
a daily and creative life's disci-
pline. We can do so by our words,
by our demanding attention for the
things we believe in, but we can
succeed only by our deeds. Reli-
gious Jews must themselves ex-
plore the meaning of Judaism,
must continue to deepen their un-
derstanding of it through Jewish

GORDON MEISNER and DAVID
LIPPITT, representatives for Indi-
anapolis Life Insurance Company,
are in Hollywood, Fla., attending
a meeting of Counselors' Club, the
company's top production organiza-
tion.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, April 9, 1965-15

PENN

learning, and must continue to
broaden their experience of it
through Jewish actions.
* * *
Religious Jews represent a piti-
fully small minority within Ameri-
can Jewry. Recently, some reli-
gious Jews have begun to assert
a more vigorous role within the
Jewish community. They have, for
example, demanded that all of the
varied institutions that bear the
name "Jewish" and that turn to
Jewry for support assume some
responsibility toward the meaning
of their Jewish origin.
Until now, religious Jewry has
not asserted itself within the
community, though it has been
the chief instrument for the
preservation of the community,
and though its leaders have
served valiantly the concerns of
the community as they must and
should.
And now, if religious Jews are
seeking a more religious orienta-
tion for the community as they are

and need to, they need to retain a
very vivid sense of what they
want, and what they do not need.
They do not need positions of
power. They want to win those
who hold positions of power to the
conviction that power and author-
ity are God's alone, and that the
duty of man is to serve Him, in
every station of life, by carrying
out His will for every situation of
life.

The Agudat liachazzanim of
Detroit wishes a hearty
"Tsaischem L'shalom" to Can-
tor and Mrs. A. A. Rosenfeld
for their forthcoming trip to
Israel. May "God" be with
them and bring them back to
us in good health.

Cantor Jacob Sonenklar,
President
Cantor David Bagely, Sec.

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