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January 10, 1986 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-01-10

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8 Friday, January 10, 1986



`American Rabbinate'

Continued from Page 4

lingness to succumb to the secular
tendencies and modern mores
which the surrounding culture
sought to impose. The Seminary,
meanwhile, represented accommo-
dation to America, a desire to be
traditional and modern at the same
This tension between resisters
and accommodators lies at the
, heart of Gurock's pathbreaking
analysis. Stressing diversity
within the Orthodox movement —
a diversity he associates with dif-
ferent rabbis' divergent
backgrounds, training, institu-
tional affiliations and personal at-
, titudes — he limns the key figures
and institutions within the Or-
thodox rabbinate. As he sees it; re-
sisters have always aimed to rein-
vigorate rabbinic authority, to
lead Jews back toward greater ob-
servance of traditional Jewish law,
and to counter Americanization.
Accommodates have at the same
time sought what he describes as
simulation of American religious
norms, inclusion of as broad a
range of Orthodox Jews as possi-
ble, and cooperation with non-
Orthodox Jews on matters of gen-
eral Jewish concern.


It is indicated in the definitions of Or-
thodoxy that the current president of
Yeshiva University, Dr. Norman Lamm,
urges lay and rabbinical leaders "to
broaden our horizon beyond our immediate
needs and the concerns of our narrow con-
stituency to embrace all of the Jewish
communities throughout the world. Dr.
Lamm is introduced as having spoken out
in an historical vein against "right-wing
. . . authoritarianism which . . . has largely
abandoned the fierce intellectual indepen-
dence which had always been the hallmark
of the European yeshivah scholar in all
segments of religious life."
Dr. Lamm is additionally introduced,
declaring that "We are committed to secu-
lar studies, including all the risks that this
implies, not only because of vocational or
social reasons but because we consider that
it is the will of God that there would be a
world in which Torah be effective; that all _
wisdom issues ultimately from the Creator
and therefore it is the Almightly who
legitimizes all knowledge."
It is important at this point to learn
about the' Conservative interpretation of
rabbinic duties. Dr. Karp's evaluation of
the activities of the Conservative Rabbini-
cal Assembly provide the factual regarding
Conservatism and especially the ideologi-
cal challenges represented in the commit-
tee on Jewish law. The late Rabbi Morris •
Adler had an important role in problems
confronted and the emphasis on the duties
imposed on that committee as they arose at
the 40th anniversary convention of the
Rabbinical Assembly, held at Cong.
Shaarey Zedek in Detroit in June 1940. It
lends special importance to these details in
Karp's essay:

When the Rabbinical Assem-
, bly met for its 40th annual conven-
tion, held in Detroit in June 1940,
its membership had grown to 282,
an increase of about 40 percent
during the preceding decade. Its
placement committee reported
that 40 placements had been made
duiing the year, that the committee
was in negotiation with 33 other
positions, but that 33 members
were without positions, six of
whom "are this year's graduates."
The committee on Jewish law had
considered such questions as the
legality of the use of an organ at

Sabbath find festival services;
whether it is permissible to eat
cooked vegetables and broiled fish
in nonkosher restaurants; the
Jewish attitude toward autopsies;
the validity of civil marriages; the
attitude toward birth control; the
legality of burying a person inza'
crypt or mausoleum; whether a
physician may act as a mohel; and
the question of relief for the agunah
(a woman whose husband has dis-
appeared or abandoned her with-
out having granted her a Jewish
divorce), a problem which has agi-
tated the assembly throughout its
existence. There were also reports
by the committees on adult educa-
tion, elementary education, social
justice, and the Seminary cam-
paign; and statements on chap-
laincy, interrabbinical coopera-
tion, Jewish students, activities,
Palestine, and the pension fund.
The Rabbinical Assembly had
become a functioning professional
organization, operating on the
volunteer labors of its members, on
a total budget of $4,430. For the
first time it had ventured beyond
the eastern seaboard to dispel, in
the words of its president Rabbi
Max Arzt, "the mistaken impres-
sion that Conservative Judaism is,
in the main an eastern movement
limiting its influence to the Hudson
River Valley." '
The convention's theme was
the rabbinate itself, and introspec-
tive self-examination. Rabbi Mor-
Hs Adler of host Congregation
Shaarey Zedek reminded 'his col-
"As our teacher, the late Pro-
fessor Davidson once pointed out,
whereas in our day
' of specializa-
tion every profession has con
tracted the area of its intensive
study and operation, thaeoffice of
the rabbi has, on the contras-
Burned new and multiple duties. ...
He is, or is expected to be, at once
scholar, teacher, priest, pastor,
preacher, administrator,
communal-leader, social worker
and ambassador of goodwill. To
him come many and diverse appe-
als for assistance, for counsel, for
leadership.... In the brief span
of a fortnight a rabbi, to give a con-
crete example, has been ap-
proached on behalf of the Yiddish
Scientific Institute, the Zionist Or-
ganization, the publication of a Bi-
blical encyclopedia, a B'nai B'rith
project, the Federation of Polish
Jews and the Agudath Israel. Nor
is the appeal exclusively for finan-
cial aid. The rabbi is urged to take
part in the leadetship of these
numerous causes."
Adler argued that the rabbi
cannot remain all of from "the mul-
tituinous manifestations of Jewish
life in the community" nor "from
the social and cultural movements
of American society.... In the de=
sire to preseve the character and
strength of the synagogue (the
rabbi) must Seek to guide, to chan-
nel and inform with something of
his spirit, the streams ofJewish life
that course outside of the syna-

The question of "modernization" be-
came an issue for the committee on Jewish
law and Rabbi Adler's interpretive role be-
came significant. Dr. Karp indicates how,
the problem developed, pointing to Dr.
Adler's views:


est of challenges and the greatest
of opportunities."

Former Detroit rabbis are mentioned
in numerous respects in The American
Rabbinate. Abraham Hershman, Leon
Fram, B. Benedict Glazer shared in
numerous activities.
Of notable importance is the revealing
accouint of the late Dr. Leo M. Franklin's
confrontation with American Zionists
when he was president of the Central Con-
ference of American Rabbis in 1921.
The very title of the essay on Reform
Judaism and its author immediately add
significance to that study. Dr. David Polish
had important associations with Reform
commissions which were involved in con-
flicts with Zionism. Himself an ardent
Zionist, his review of the experiences is so
objective that it merits high commenda-
tion. The title of that chapter in The
American Rabbinate, "The Changing and
the Constant in the Reform Rabbinate,"
deals with the feuds, many bitter, the
anti-Zionist advocates and the changes
that made the Central Conference of
American Rabbis one of the strongest sup-
porters of Israel and Zionism, the Halachic
approaches and especially the issues that
were raised by the American Council for
Judaism. Combined, these Reform issues
emerge as an inerasable chapter in Ameri-
can Jewish history, superbly tackled by
Rabbi Polish.
The treatment given to the American
Council for Judaism by Dr: Polish is
dramatic and if it were not so factual it
could be judged as fiction. It is dramati-
cally related here, how the elders in Re-
form-Judaism in the main supported the
anti-Zionist movement, the younger rabbis
almost unanimously opposing it and, in the
process, really reducing its influence
which was always minimal.
Dr._Leo M. Franklin was among the
founders of the Council for Judaism but
apparently played a very insignificant role
in it. He is not mentione4 at all by. Rabbi
Polish in his analyses of the rabbinic de-
bates and conflicts on the subject. It should
be noted that Dr. Franklin, together with
Rabbi Louis Wolsey, a virtual founder of
the Council for Judaism, were the first to
withdraw from it. Dr. Franklin's son, Leo
M. Franklin Jr., many times came to this
writer, at Temple Beth El functions, boast-
ing, "My father was the first to abandon
the American Council for Judaism."
Dr. Franklin does have an interesting
relationship to the Reforin rabbis' early
confrontation with Zionists and an impor-
tant episode is recalled in Dr. Polish's ac-
count of the early occurrences.
After tracing the anti-Zionist senti-
ments in Reform ranks, 'Dr. Polish points
out that "with the onset of World War I, the
CCAR's (Central Conference of American
Rabbis) attitude toward Zionism began to
relaX." At the 1921 convention a resolution
proposed by Prof. Max Heller and Rabbi
James Heller, together with Rabbi Horace
J. Wolf, called for the following:
"Be it Resolved, that this conferende,
through its committee on cooperation with
national organizations, endeavor to arrive
at some practical and expedient method of
cooperation with the Zionist Organization
toward the rebuilding of Palestine."
Thereupon follows the revealing role
of Dr. Franklin in the proposal to the
Zionist organization of America:


Morris Adler

With the expansion of the move-
ment and in response to a growing
segment of the assembly urging a
liberalization of the process to afford
greater freedom to adjust and develop,
the Rabbinical Assembly, at its 1948
convention, defeated a motion that the
committee "hold itself bound by the au- -
thority of Jewish law and within the
frame of Jewish law, " and formed a
new Committee on Jewish Law and
Standards whose membership would
represent the "varied and varying
points of view of the Rabbinical As-
sembly.' Its first chairman, Rabbi
Morris Adler, explained its purpose to
the 1948 convention of the United Syn-
must face the truth that we
have been halting between fear and
danger; fear of the Orthodox and
danger of Reform. We have set our
watches by their timepieces. ir he time
has come for our emergence from the
valley of indecision. We must move
forward to a stage in which Conserva-
tive Judsiam revolves about an axis of
positive and unambiguous affirma-
tions. This will require a measure of
boldness and vision on our part which,
as a movement, I am sorry to say, we
have not thus far manifested."
A concluding paragraph in Karp's
essay is important in viewing the Conser-
vative modernizing status. It states:
It is appropriate that it was

Louis Finkelstein, the acknow-
ledged head of the movement dur-
ing its period of greatest growth,,
who best expressed the basic sen-
timents of the Conservative rabbi,
those which sustained him when
frustrations shook his morale and
those which drove him when op-
portunity 'beckoned. They were
spoken in 1927, when the Conser-
vative" rabbiniate was beginning
its ascent as a force in Jewish life.
"We are the only group in Is-
rael who have a modern mind and
a Jewish heart, prophetic passion.
and Western science. It is because
we have all these that we see
Judaism so broadly. ... And it is
because we are alone in combining
the two elements that we can make
a rational religion, that we may
rest convinced that, given due sac-
rifice and willingness on our part,
the Judaism of the next generation
will be saved by us. Certainly titan
be saved by no other group. We
have then before us both the high-

The Zionist reaction to the re-
solution is indicated by the de-
nouement: ,
"The Re- solutions Committee
referred this to the Executive
Board "for such favorable action
as is in keeping with the declara-
tion of its attitude on Palestinian
reconstruction which the Confer-

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