To the Editor:
In “The Jewish Community & the Jewish Condition” [February], Robert Alter writes that the Segals Centre conference demonstrated “at least on a limited scale, that unity among Jews is not a theoretical goal to be realized through ecumenical programs but rather an existential fact, merely ignored, disguised, or hidden from consciousness by the partisan quality of Jewish public life.”
But it must be pointed out that Alter creates an inaccurate impression by implying that the conference was a rare, if not unique, instance of Jewish unity. In so doing he ignores, among other examples, the recent establishment of such groups as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Jewish Youth Council. Both these groups are noteworthy for the broad range of organizations which, despite great diversity in philosophy and program, have chosen to become members. . . .
Furthermore, these two groups go beyond the Segals Centre conference in three significant respects: they meet not once annually but throughout the year; they are committed to joint action as well as to discussion; and they have managed to develop their programs not by minimizing the “partisan quality of Jewish public life” but by working toward common goals, while each of their constituent organizations continues to affirm its distinctive identity. . . .
Bernard Joshua Kabak
New York City
To the Editor:
I find Robert Alter’s condemnation of the first of the two rabbis he discusses in the opening section of his article curiously misdirected. By Mr. Alter’s own testimony, this rabbi admirably fills the needs of his congregation for a “spiritual leader,” in spite of his lack of even a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew and Scripture. Presumably this well-to-do and large congregation appointed a graduate of an equally well-established and prestigious seminary. Would it not be more relevant to criticize the institution that certifies such men as rabbis and sends them out as teachers? . . . By the same token the seminary is undoubtedly connected to one of the three major branches of the organized Jewish community in America. So the responsibility does not end with the seminary. . . . Yet in the main part of his article Mr. Alter treats Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform with equal deference. . . .
Los Angeles, California
Mr. Alter writes:
I am of course encouraged by what Mr. Kabak has to report, while I am astonished to learn from Mr. Storch that I treated the three main movements of American Judaism with “deference.”