This article was originally published in The Jewish Press on May 20, 1960.
Yesterday, another Conservative Temple was dedicated.
Yesterday, ten more Jews married outside their faith.
Yesterday, a hundred thousand Jewish families sat down to enjoy a non-kosher meal.
Still yesterday, a million Jews lounged about the house discussing their Saturday auto ride to visit the relatives, while in New York and Cincinnati a score of young men prepared for their coming ordination as rabbis in the Reform movement.
Again yesterday, the largest gathering in the history of the Rabbinical Assembly-the national association of Conservative rabbis-convened at Grossinger’s Hotel, while a few miles away, another Conservative body, The National Federation of Men’s Clubs, opened the greatest convention in its existence.
Yesterday, Reform rabbis continued to marry and divorce, and convert individuals in violation of Jewish Law.
And yesterday, three million Jewish children played in the streets, victims of their elders ignorance and apathy, divorced from the beauties and truths of traditional Judaism, wanderers down a path that could end only in religious destruction.
The age we live in is not an age of faith. It is an age of reason, of doctrinal skepticism, of pragmatism, of agnosticism. It is an age of science that questions all. It is an age of Marxism that preaches materialism, not spirit. It is an age where religion is pushed to the side; doubted by the intellect, attacked by the Marxist, played by the masses.
It is an age that threatens the values that we hold dear. Torah and its pillar-faith-face a life and death struggle with this new age and its flashing rapiers, doubt and materialism.
Day by day the struggle continues. In every hamlet, in the soul of every Jew, the battle rages. Day by day traditional Judaism is faced with greater and greater problems, with an ever-widening gulf between it and the mass of our brother Jews, with ever growing heartbreak. Tragic? Yes. Heartbreaking? Undoubtedly. But far more tragic and far more heartbreaking all too often is the reaction of Orthodox Jewry to the crisis that threatens it.
One would imagine that having surveyed the awesome tasks that need be done, Orthodox leadership and organizations would put shoulders to the wheel and begin the holy task building a mighty community of Torah Jewry. One would imagine that our money, time, energy and talents would be carefully hoarded, each ounce to be saved for the building of yeshivas, synagogues, mikvahs, youth groups, and the countless myriads of institutions so vital to the survival of authentic Judaism. One would expect a concerted, dedicated, coordinated pooling of resources for the great battle against the desecrators of Torah. One would imagine that in our poverty, the great enemy would be waste; that in our lack of numbers the watchword would be unity. And yet, we seem to have so much.
We have so many resources. Resources to pay for inexcusable duplication of institutions. Resources to put up fifteen yeshivas in a neighborhood wherein two good ones would suffice. Resources to erect three synagogues per block instead of the one large one that would be ample. Resources to have three major political parties to defend the faith in Israel, and twenty-three rabbinical organizations to defend it here.
We have so much energy. Energy to heap abuse on those other Orthodox Jews who might deviate ever so slightly from our particular standards. Energy to painstakingly search out the minutest failings in the other Orthodox Jew. Energy to condemn every Orthodox institution which does not conform every day in every way to our own strictures.
The curse of Disunity is an ancient one with us. Its shadow lies across the remains of many of our wrecked hopes. Is there indeed that much of a difference among the Orthodox rabbinical, lay or Zionist organizations? Is our background and practice so different so as to call for ten different bodies claiming to represent the “true” Orthodoxy? Surely not. The same laws of Shabbos, kashrus and taharas hamishpacha are accepted and practiced by all. The duplication and waste, the cross accusations and inter group hatreds, the curse of disunity are all inexcusable. It is something all too often fostered by petty politicians who when screaming denunciation do so merely to contemplate the sounds of their own voices, to admire the noises made by the rappings of their knuckles on the door of opportunity.
The house of Judaism burns, and we debate who shall have the honor of putting out the fire. The Children of Israel wander in a barren desert, and we are too busy fighting our own petty, provincial quarrels. So long as this continues, we will have no moral right to blame Conservatism and Reform. The true enemy continues to be- ourselves.
Has much really changed? We await your thoughts at email@example.com
Rabbi Meir Kahane