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November 15, 1959 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1959-11-15
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_ . . . , .

Identit WI
Today's Jew Must Decide,
teligion's Place in His Life






IDENTITY without inconvenience
is the goal of today's American
Jew, a -social being whose link with
the past is being marred by an
intense desire to fit smoothly in
his environmental niche.
He doesn't want to be associated
with alien cultures and strives for
a type of uniform conduct and
action that will eventually make
him indistinguishable from the
rest of his community today.
He finds it much harder to prac-
tice his faith than did his Euro-
pean ancestors who developed
much of the liturgy, laws and
customs of Judaism.
It was easy to be a "good" Jew
in Europe 500 years ago. Enclosed
in any one of thousands of ghettos
that stretched from the Rhine
River to the Ural Mountains, an
individual could devote himself to
pious study of the Bible and the
commentaries in the Talmud and
It was easy to observe the laws
faithfully as a member of a ho-
mogenous religious group. The en-
tire community was Jewish. Right
action, Just conduct and group
morality were all prescribed in
clear terminology.
THEN THE enlightenment came
in 1800 and Jews were allowed
to move away from the cultural
stockades that had enclosed them

for so many years. Eager to be part
of societies that had shunned him,
the tacitly liberated semite broke
sharply with the past and nu-
tured new concepts of ethical
From the point of first being
allowed to freely mix in the pre-
dominantly Christian society to
the present, it has become increas-
ingly difficult to follow the faith's
A vast number of Spanish Jews
converted to Catholicism in the
15th century under the Inquisition
pressure. Others assimilated be-
cause identification with the Chris-
tian majority eliminated much of
their previous trouble.
Two other groups sought an-
swers by modifying the religion
along more up-to-date lines. A
liberal interpretation of the faith
provided the basis for today's Re-
form Judaism, founded by Isaac
Mayer Wise, a German rabbi.
The Reform movement started
in the eighteenth century, was
particularly aimed at blurring the
distinctions between Jews and
S OLOMON Schechter, a disciple
of the earlier reform move-
ment, avoided Wise's almost com-
plete elimination of tradition. He
spurred the growth of a middle

road orientation which is today's
Conservative' Judaism.
While the Reform group gained
momentum in Germany, later
spreading to this country, the
strength among the American im-
migrants from Eastern Europe.
The mass which came from
Poland and Russia at the turn of
the twentieth century were caught
between the extreme rituals of
Orthodox Judaism and the un-
familiar methods of the Reform'
group .
They were unwilling to strictly
adhere to ancient rules that would
anchor them in a Middle Age cul-
ture. And they would not accept
the radically different ideas of the
religious forms that had come
from Germany.
Conservatism bridged the gap
for these frightened people and
allowed them to remain staunch in
their faith and integrated in
American society.
MODERN AMERICA allows com-
plete and free practice of reli-
gion. Thousands of the Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform Jews
have poured into this climate of
relative tolerance seeking the se-
curity that was not possible in
their homelands.
Today there are over five million
Americans who call themselves
Jews. The problems facing them
have not greatly increased since
the 18th century-only the means
of escaping from their religious
heritage have multiplied.
The Jew remains a minority
that must depend upon the good
will of a Christian majority for its
social, economic and political sta-
bility. Observing the traditional
holidays, laws and rituals mean
for many the disassociation from
community activities.
Unlike the Jew in Spain who
converted under coercion, the in-
dividual living in the religiously-
mixed community is gradually
(some very rapidly) drifting away
from any real tie with organized
religion. He cannot really .be clas-
sified as an agnostic, and his views
rarely reach the sophisticated
status of the atheist. He's simply
afraid to exert his Jewishness,.
fearing association with a bearded
Talmudic scholar who communi-
cates through the decadent collo-
quialism of Yiddish.
He .may emphatically point out
that he "needs no organized reli-
gion but prays in his own way
and on his own time," minus the
political -pettiness that encircles
many congregations. But if you
ask him "when did you pray last?"
he may be unable to ,answer.
PART OF THE group reticent to
mark themselves as Jews seek
another means of compromising
religion and middle class living.
They extremely modify their ob-
servances of even the most im-
portant holidays and festivals.-

DURING THE past fifty years
Dthere has been a revolution- in
theological thinking. According to
the Church's self-interpretation;
theology, is a branch of thought,.
and as such it is sensitive to the
rest of thought. It is affected by
philosophical, political, and scien-
tific thinking of all cultures con-
taining the Church.
What follows is a very subjective
description of some of the im-
portant encounters between the-
ology and secular thought. It is
also an attempt to evaluate the
resultant .influences on theology,-
and the contemporary revolution
in Protestant thinking.
No one is certain in detail what
the original Christian ideas were.
In fact there may never have been
any uniform idea among Chris-
tians as to what the Christian
message is. An early theological
"schism" took place in the church
between Paul, his. followers and
the Jerusalem Church.
Early Christianity resulted from
the convergence of several ancient

tween holy God and self-willed,
self-sufficient, finite man.
The new existence of man was,
to be the Jewish eschatological
Kingdom of God. It was reunion
with God the Source of Life for
the mystery cults. And he was the
Son of Man, the Logos of the
A personality who is any or all
of these things is a christ. Jesus
claimed to be the Christ. This was
the message of the early church;
and it is the message of the church
B UT THE astounding idea that
God has personally set foot
among men and redeemed them
seems somewhat unbelievable. The

Theology's Approach Changes
As New Cutura eas volve

The Ark -- a common link

Their tie is more social than
Many of them can be seen in
temples and synagogues on the
holiest days of the year the New
Year, "Rosh Hashonah" and the
Day of Atonement, "Yom Kippur."
They are "revolving-door" Jews
at services only on these high holy
days when their attendance is
This tendency to exclude religion
from day-to-day life is found in
all three major divisionsof the
faith. Feelings of group identity,
the desire to preserve a culture
and reverence toward Judaic law
are most completely negated by
the Reform and Conservative ele-.
The nucleus of the faith remains
strong though historians believe
that the Jew must be classified
along with certain other archaic
forms of civilization and even the
Jewish college student is willing
to reject his religion on the basis
of the antique ritual which per-
vades much of the service.
AND surprisingly enough, the
basis of strength is the ortho-
dox movement which people pre-
dicted would be the first element
to disappear. Orthodox believers
who came to this country after
World War II brought the man-
power necessary to sustain the
dying rituals, language and law.
As the middle class attempts to
lose ties-with the past, a dedicated
group ! of people, believing that
Judaism has lost none of its rele-
vance, continue traditions which
began over 5,000 years ago.
With the perseverance of the
militant Orthodox as a reminder,
the Conservative and Reform ele-
ments are reviving much of the
religion that was regarded as "use-
less" 100 years ago.
It becomes increasingly apparent
that it is the Reform movement
which is becoming more "Jewish"
and moving closer to Conservative
religious ideas, which in turn are,
assuming a more Orthodox over-
But even if religion assumes the
character that it once had in
Europe, the cultural . and social
accoutrements will be missing. For
today's Jew will only accept a faith
that doesn't put him at odds with
his Christian surroundings.
HE MAY unfortunately relegate
observance. to a once-a-year

status and lose all of his religious
benefits. He may, however unlikely,
involve himself entirely in a faith
that depends a great deal on
day-to-day moral action.
Which extreme or middle ground
is chose by each Jew depends a
great deal on his past and the
realities of his present existence.
Any choice will be made on a
single basis with each person as-
certaining the purpose of religion
in his life. For Judaism above all
else has "always been a faith of
individuals comnunicating with
God, proud of their heritage and
its contributions to the civiliza-
tions of man.
(Continued from Page 7).
of man. It was forced to divide
man into the material-rational
and the spiritual.
Religion is concerned with man's
"spiritual problems" whatever they
are, and science with the rest of
his being. Unfortunately, as mod-
ern Gestalt thinking suggests, man
cannot be dissected into a soul, a
heart, a body and a mind.
And so religion claimed some
aspect of humans that all dynamic
contemporary thought finds vague
and ill-defined.
Another reaction was the crude
and thoughtless reassertion of
earlier world-theoretic viewpoints.
This was the rise of Fundamental-
ism in some of its less honest or
convincing forms.
Thousands of books and pamph-
lets are written today which dis-
avow all modern insights into hu-
man history biology, and psychol-
ogy. They substitute literalistic
misunderstandings of symbolic
Biblical doctrines and later pre-
scientific thinking for modern,
very compelling insights.
The Fundamentalists have had
a rather remarkable negating ef-
fect on the serviceability of the
Christian message to honest non-
A THIRD reaction was that of
Modernism and Theologic al
Liberalism. The liberals have em-
phasized the freedom of man and
his essential rationality and good-
ness, rejecting- such theological
formulas as the total depravity of
man. Much of the liberalist posi-
tion is derived from early works
in biblical criticism knd historical
It is propounded by such men as
Concluded on Pag. 12

the level of human intellects; and
what had once .been Christianity
became a grudging acknowledge-
ment that God might "exist" and
that Jesus was a wise if slightly
demented man, coupled with nu-
merous, high-sounding ethics.
Man could no longer see God
through the impressive battery of'
icons which his mind had created.
God was made out of innumerable
human brains.
In Idealism everything was'
transcendent. Things and men
exist in an abstract heaven which
also contains God. God's voice
could no longer speak out of the
eternal into the real. His searching
prophecies assumed approximately
the prophetic significance of a tea
party conversation with the local
But the "reductio ad absurdum"
came with Romanticism, the fool-
ish revelling in man's sub-ra-
tional energies. His-ecstatic devo-
tion to himself and his faith in
reason were replaced by faith in
his emotion and beauty. One could
find truth in a rose petal and God
in the twinkling stars.
demption from sin; then as a
Rationalist he needed to be purged
from irrationality. The Romanti-
cist required salvation from ugli-
ness and oppression. Here again,
Christianity was invaded and
transformed into a strange in-
verted religion where God is im-
portant only as the object of those
emotions expressable by transitive
verbs. The important element was
not God's awesome message to
Man, but man's striving after God.
This grotesque Romantic view of
man, the world, and God tumbled
to a bloody, screaming end in this
century. The Romantic world view
was already challenged by that of
science in the 17th and 18th cen-
turies and very seriously in the
We now. live in the much-
vaunted Age of Science. And it
appears that in this age the
Church must either purge itself of
its unconsciously-acquired, theo-
logical secularism and discover its
original purpose-to be the vehicle
for the incredible news of the
Incarnation and Redemption - or
assimilate itself to death. Science
has been mainly responsible. for
In the' present age science has
offered man a. new world view,
which might perhaps be more ac-
curately described as a non-view.
In earlier thoughts about na-
ture, man has always been an
integral part. In magical and other
supernatural cosmologies and an-
thropologies man's social orders
had a meaning dependent upon
himself. Thus, the universe was
just a small part of the earth
vaulted by a starry dome beneath
the gods' dwelling. Later scientific
knowledge made such views highly
untenable, although .not impos-
NATURE, said science, has no
discernable personality. It
added, parenthetically, that per-
haps men had really unconsciously
recognized this fact all along-
that their religions compensated
for the terrified reaction to a
universe indifferent to human ex-
Astronomy unveiled the absurd-
ity of man's mythological cosmolo-
gies, and forced the painful
wrenching of superstitious pesudo-
physics from theology. Physics de-
manded that all spirits had no
Timothy Swanson expects
to return to the University
shortly to continue his educa-
tion. He will be a senior ma-
joring in -mathematics.

place in the natural scheme; and
all science protested against super-
naturalism in any form.
It showed a world Which is
orderly and understandable. With-
in a space of two centuries man's
total concept of himself and na-
ture had been dramatically freed
from super-naturalism and meta-
physical speculation. Presumably a
totally new world-view was estab-
The philosophy of science be-
came the chief interest of most
thinkers, and the final glory of
this thinking is-and was-logical
Man no longer needs to ask reli-
gious questions, much less look to
religionists for the answers. The
positivists argued that theological
questions, such as "does God ex-
ist?" could not be given meaning- ,
ful answers, because the questions
were themselves meaningless.
IN THIS sea of new thought
ordinary theology floundered
pitifully. It didn't know the cause
of the deluge nor how to swim. It
was rooted in the finite and tom-
There were, theological reactions
besides bewilderment. True to
form, theologians 'retreated to
make way for the new thought,
especially in its. naturalistic view
(Continued on Page 10)




The crown for the holy scrolls

patterns of thought in the teach-
ings of Jesus. He combined the
eschatological. teaching of the
Jews concerning the Kingdom of
God and the Messiah, certain
pagan mystery religions, with their
d'ying-and-reviving fertility gods,
and Greek "Logos" thinking.
JESUS USED these religious sym-
bols by identifying himself with
the Messiah, and with the Logos.
of the Greeks, and although again
not explicitly, with the Adonis.
Adonis was the renewer of life of
the mystery cults.
But Jesus did this only while
denying many of the eagerly held
ideas which come from this rich
symbolic and mythological back-
ground. He was not exactly what
the Jews, Greeks or Orientals ex-
pected their heroes to be.,
He rejected the secular mes-
sianic concept of the Jews and the
impersonal. Logos-ism of the
Greeks. He claimed to be the Suf-
fering Servant of Isaiah, 'not a
king or general in the familiar
He actually claimed to be the
invasion of time by the eternal, to
be the truth, and to be life. He
was to reverse the existence of,
man by removing the barier be-

good news . has been time and
again confirmed to the rack of
human culture and twisted and
tortured beyond recognition.
In nearly every -vestern society,
ancient and modern, the Christian
idea has had its individual, cul-
turally determined form. It has
yielded to nearly every significant
political, scientific, and philosophi-
cal spirit that has blown across
man's civilization.
It was early diluted into Gnosti-
cism; later petrified by Thomism
and Scholasticism. Its insights
mixed so well with ancient myth-
ologies that any new cosmology
was considered heretical, prompt-
ing the persecution of Galelio.
The crystallization of the Chris-
tian community-the Church-be-
came an important political or-
ganization, which still remains. It
had drifted so far from the Chris-
tian morality that it claimed the
power to kill and persecute men.
kFTER this assault by Ignorance
came the assault from Enlight-
ened Ignorance. With the advent
of the Renaissance and the "mod-
ern age" the complete surrender of
the Christ-message and all its
ramifications occurred.
Its transcedent truth plunged to

Pringle scarves: from
soft, warm lengths of c
cashmere in rich solid
authentic tartans. .,w
or - match with all yo
ideal for gift-giving.

I Charles Kozoll, Daily Per-
sonnel Director, is a senior in
the literary college. He is ma-.
joring in political science.


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