The Purpose of Jewish Community Service
By ISIDORE SOBELOFF
Executive Director, Jewish Federation—
Council of Los Angeles
(Copyright, 1966, JTA, Inc.)
The purpose of Jewish commu-
nal service is to discharge col-
lectively those personal obligations
which can best be met through
organized endeavor—and more par-
ticularly, those obligations which
can be discharged effectively only
through collective instruments of
Social responsibility is as high a
value in the Jewish ethic as per-
sonal fulfillment—and salvation is
impossible outside the community.
Neither the solitariness of individ-
ual salvation nor the rootlessness
of abstract universalism fulfills the
terms of the covenant. What
Judaism can , uniquely give to the
world is Jews, men and, equally
important, communities that live.
by their social, messianic hope
and try to effectuate them in every-
The rabbis tell us that when this
people is faithful to its God and its
tradition, it produces an astonish-
ingly high proportion of men and
communities whose sense of inter-
human responsibility is as great as
anything mankind has ever known.
Judaism has given Jews such a
fundamental sense of the import-
ance of the communal, linked to
the human, linked to the personal,
that the social concern has not van-
ished from among them even under
the most trying circumstances of
persecution or of affluence. Even
when Jews are not faithful to an
institutional God, even when Jews
stop believing all else, they still
have guilt about what they do or
Formal worship and synagogal
activity certainly have religious
significance, but so does the atti-
tude toward intermarriage, the
feeling of Jewish solidarity in the
fdt-e- of anti-Semitism—, - pre-occupa-
tion with health and welfare
projects, the involvement with Is-
rael and world Jewry, and the
deep sensitivity to social justice.
At least one rabbi has made bold
to suggest that for the contem-
porary Jew the contribution to his
Welfare Fund, even participation
in a demonstration for Soviet
Jewry, or involvement• in the Bonds
for Israel program, have become
mitzvot and have a religious sig-
nifance which is often greater than
that engendered by many tradi-
tional mitzvot. The failure, the
rabbi says of most Jewish theore-
ticians to come to grips with the
true facts of Jewish life and Jew-
ish practice constitute the greatest
anomaly of Jewish life.
It is therefore not clear where
the religious aspect of Judaism
ends and where so-called secular
service begins. The Tora Jew and
the mitzva Jew run into each
other's domain all the time—and
similarly, humanitarian activity
and social justice are at once
Jewish and religious, secular,
ethnic and universal. They can-
not easily be separated out, if
And yet, when they can be sep-
arated out, social needs which are
peculiarly Jewish and which must
rely on the Jewish community to
the exclusion of others have the
highest claim to priority. Assis-
tance to Jews as individuals is no
less Jewish in nature than the
Jewish group needs which require
From time to time, for economic,
geographical, political or historical
reasons, particular health, welfare,
educational or related services may
be inauguarated, expanded, con-
tracted or discontinued. Only a
continuing study of changing fac-
tors and other resources and aus-
pices can determine the propriety
or the priority of a program at a
given time. Both intra-community
and external forces have a bearing
on responsibilities and decisions.
The voluntary nature of our com-
munity and the consequences of
autonomy also must be taken into
account, but by common consent,
the synagogue itself, perhaps the
most purely Jewish activity on the
social scene, is not regarded as the
responsibility of the central Jewish
community, certainly not for fi- hers of a community, have been
taught. Others, who have wandered
In many areas of service, the from the synagogue, may find in
Federation and its agencies are the community idea, a first step
nonetheless the arm of the re- toward their return to the syna-
ligious community. Through this gogue. In any event, the com-
communal social service depart- munity is a vessel for all.
ment of the synagogues, the re-
There is solid social usefulness
ligiously oriented perform many
in the idea of community that
tries to bring together all Jews
The Federations and Welfare in their common purpose of meet-
Funds also enroll the interest and ing both individual and group
material assistance of many unaf- needs, and in the preservation and
filiated, including some secular- enhancement of Jewish life.
ists and humanists. There is noth-
The purpose of organized Jew-
ing in their inclusion which need
offend the larger number whose ish life and its institutions, then,
participation is motivated by re- is to promote personal fulfillment
ligious affiliation and sanction. To and group survival and enrich-
all members of the humanitarian ment, but there is no quick, arbi-
fellowship the Federation serves trary yard-stick for declaring one
as a united front. While all mem- program or another, more or less
bers of Federation (that is, all Jewish, more or less core or peri-
contributors) may not employ the pheral. Times change, specific ob-
same rationale for belonging, their ligations shift and emphasis on one
affirmative act of affiliation be- program or another may move
speaks a kinship with their fellow- from local to overseas, from chil-
Jews and a sense of belonging to dren to aged or from health to
education, all depending on what
the Jewish people.
the total situation may happen to
Theological qualifications are be in a given year, both within
left to the religiously-organized in- the Jewish community and beyond.
stitutions in the community to Indeed, orderly planning and bud-
enunciate and to champion. Those geting are as much a part of Jew-
who participate in the Welfare ish community organization as
Fund may have learned the les- fund-raising and all of these com-
sons of tzedaka and loving kind- bined, properly respectful of each
ness from the synagogue and are other's role, promote Jewish pur-
now practicing what they, as mem- pose.
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, December 2, 1966-17
Start Off Brandeis' Campaign
Brandeis University inaugurated a two-year, $46,025,000 vicennial
(once in 20) development campaign to strengthen and augment its
academic programs at a recent dinner at the New York Hilton.
Among the principals attending were (from left) Dr. John P. Roche,
special consultant to President Johnson while on leave as Morris
Hillquit Professor of Labor and Social Thought at Brandeis, who
was the main speaker; Samuel Lemberg, New York realtor, Brandeis
trustee and the donor of a $1,000,000 gift to underwrite Brandeis'
Center for the Study of Violence; and Brandeis President Abram L.
Sachar. More than $9,500,000 in pledges and gifts for the campaign
were announced at the dinner.
VIPERS R LArillard CO.
'All the News That's Fit to Print"
Adolph Ochs' life story reads like one of
Horatio Alger's rags-to-riches tales. For
his is the story of a printer's helper who
became owner of the most successful and
influential newspaper in the world .. .
The New York Times.
You might say Adolph Ochs started his
newspaper career in 1872, at the tender
age of 14. That year he took a 250-per-
day job sweeping floors and running er-
rands for his hometown newspaper, the
Rnox. ville Chronicle.
Five years later, young Ochs purchased
the almost bankrupt Chattanooga Times
'With a borrowed $800. Within a relatively
f ew years, the young publisher made
that inoribund newspaper one of the
nlost influential in the South.
In 1896, Ochs was invited to reorga-
nize The New York Times which was
steadily moving towards bankruptcy.
Just three short years later, Ochs became
owner of The Times and had it on the
road to becoming a great newspaper.
Ochs' policy for The Times was simple.
In the days of "yellow journalism" and
sensationalism, he set out to publish a
newspaper that "reflects the best in-
formed thought of the country, honest
in every line, more than courteous and
fair to those who may sincerely differ
from its views."
Married to the daughter of Rabbi
Isaac Wise, Ochs was one of the promi-
nent leaders of Reform Judaism. He also
headed the fund-raising campaign for
the Hebrew Union College. The Adolph
S. Ochs Chair in Jewish History at the
college is a fitting and lasting memorial
tcl this eminent publisher.
P. LORILLARD COMPANY
First with the Finest Cigarettes
through Lorillard research