The Southern Israelite
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Is Judaism Declining?
One of our friends asked us that question this morning, and it
is a query that is heard today with increasing frequency. We
attempted to answer our friend’s question and when he left us,
we were still talking but without an audience. Speaking coloquially,
it is a question that brings op “more talk,” and after mature con
sideration we have not only failed to reach a definite conclusion
ourselves but we are prepared to dispute the conclusion of anyone
else, either pro or con.
In putting the question, it is imperative that there he a clear
understanding as to whether the reference be to American Jewry
or World Jewry. Only in its wider aspect can the subject be fully
Throughout history and continuing down to present time there
has been a continuous effort either conscious or unconscious, by
force or otherwise, on the part of the ruling majority to submerge
the identity of the Jew as such and to assimilate him into the
mass of the national population.
From the time of the Babylonian Empire until the Middle Ages
the Jews were regarded not only as a religious group hut also as a
national group, and as such were held as an entity, separate and
distinct from the rest of the population of the particular country
in which they at the moment might be residing. Attempts at assim
ilation during this period most frequently took the form of con
version by force, and when this failed resulted in massacre or
Towards the end of Medieval time theories of government
passed through a stage of evolution bringing the separation of
church and state. The Jews were then regarded not as a national
group separate and distinct but merely as a religious group and as
such subject to assimilation while preserving their religious iden
tity. This resulted in the legal emancipation of the Jew in those
countries in which these theories prevailed.
Today the legal emancipation of the Jew is complete in all
modern civilized nations, but the process of assimilation is still in
operation and will continue to operate so long as there remains a
single discordant note in the body of a national population. The
assimilation of minorities is a fundamental, economic law as inex
orable in its operation as the law of gravity. Majorities and minori
ties affecting and blending until all differences are eliminated.
We see this law operating to a greater degree with each suc
ceeding generation of American Jewish youth despite all efforts of
the preceding generation to halt the change. Economics accom
plishing that which force could never do. And it is easily conceiv
able that the time may come when certain great classes of Amer
ican Jewry existing today will cease entirely to be identified and
exist as such.
Speaking personally, however, we cannot somehow work our
selves into any great degree of fever over this situation. History
has shown that for various reasons Judaism has increased in one
country while for various other reasons it was decreasing in an
other. There has always been someone, somewhere to “carry on
the torch,” but if the world and mankind ever change and im
proves to such an extent that the necessity for “carrying on”
ceases to exist, then the world will have become a wonderful place
in which to live and it seems to us that Judaism will have accom
plished its purpose.
Fundamentals In Judaism
Rabbi Louis J. Schwefel, resigning his Orthodox pulpit in
Washingtxon, D. C., told his congregation that “unless the Ortho
dox synagogue becomes more liberal there is no future for that
synagogue in America.” Peculiarly enough, although quite natural
ly, Reform synagogues are told that unless they become m0 r
traditional they cannot survive. An inner battle thus rages i
American Jewry, creating an unpleasant situation for manv (f
us whose hope for “unity” is not a sham but a sincere desire
“An Orthodox Rabbi” writes very interestingly on certain a-
pects of this subject in the New Year’s number of the London
Jewish Guardian. Under the heading “Religious Differences a
Religious Indifference,” this anonymous author declares that “th?
confusion of thought which religious differences engender i
bound to stir up many disturbing influences inimical to robu<-
faith and religious loyalty, with a resulting spread of indifferent
from which Judaism so greatly suffers.” He suggests that a basi?
of agreement be decided upon and lists a number of fundamental
beliefs upon which there ought to be agreement in both camp>
In this belief the following should be regarded as fundamental:
1. There is one God.
2. The Jewish race has been specially chosen to carry through
a Divine mission.
3. These beliefs have been communicated and the means 0 f
realizing and fulfilling them have been disclosed in the Hebrew
4. These Scriptures have been inspired by God and must not
be upset or discarded; although certain provisions may be modi
fied or reinterpreted by a duly constituted representative body,
regard being had to the social, economic, and domestic needs of
5. The coming of a Jewish Messiah, related or unrelated ti
In conformity with these beliefs are certain fundamental
2. Observance of the Sabbath.
3. Purely inter-Jewish marriage.
4. The keeping of festivals and celebrations commemorative
of the births, trials, and achievements of the Jewish people.
5. Observance of prescriptions regarding meats that arc
permissible and prohibited.
6. Adherence to marriage and divorce laws and regulations.
This author modifies his suggestions by adding that he “may
have omitted certain fundamentals, nor is this list strictly
scientific, nor would each item be accepted by everyone as funda
mental, but enough has been stated to give us guidance regarding
the method of approaching the problem.”
The trouble is that the Sabbath is observed in neither the
Orthodox nor the Reform camp. Nor are the festivals commemo
rated. The dietary laws are abused. What is worse, there is such
an indifference toward the basic principles of Judaism, and such
ignorance of Jewish values, particularly among younger Jews,
that the situation is a much more deplorable one than if it were
merely a difference of certain principles between Reform and
Let both groups forget differences and set out, with renewed
vigor and determination to train a well-informed Jewish youth
and it will eliminate many trying problems that are certain to
face us in the future if the coming generation is to be ignorant
of the most elementary things and events in Judaism and Jewish
history. Unless the coming generations are taught accordingly,
we are in danger of reaching a state in which even the most essen
tial fundamentals in Jewish life and law will be ridiculed because
our own children will be strange to us. We repeat the oft-quoted
warning that we have nothing to fear from a Jewishly trained
and informed youth; whereas an ignorant Jewish youth will ka
lis to national and religious suicide. —Detroit nr
*Rosh ('hodesh Cheshvan .Monday, November
*Rosh Chodosh Kislev __ Tuesday, December •
First Day Chanukah Friday, December-*
*Rosh Chodcsh Tebeth Wednesday, January
Fast of Tehetli Friday, January
Rush Chodesh Shebat Thursday, January
* Rush Chodesh Adar Saturday, February -
Purim Friday, March
Rush Chodesh Nissan Sunday, March
First Day Pesach Sunday, Apru
Seventh Day Pesach Saturday, Apru
*Rosh Chodesh Ivar .. Tuesday. Apr*
* Rosh Chodesh Ellul Monday, August -
* Also observed the day previous to Rosh Chodesh.
All Jewish holidays begin at sunset the preceding secular day•