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"The genius of the Jewish people is their ability to respond to great challenge, but unfortunately the American Jewish community has not been able to combat comfort," stated American Zionist Council officer Ted Comet last Wednesday.
Addressing prospective and actual members of the Student Zionist Organization, Comet observed that the lack of overt anti-Semitism in America has ironically undermined the value of Jewishness to the American Jew. In the creative Jewish communities of the past, in late 18th century Russia and Europe, Jews were subjected to hostility from outside of their community.
Our American tendency to describe three western religious as parallel--Protestant, Catholic, Jew--is incorrect, he asserted. Judaism, inherently means not only a religion but a peoplehood, although this concept has been forgotten in America, and is hard for both the Jew and non-Jew to understand.
At this point Comet described the role of Israel as the embodiment of the Jewish peoplehood, the central point of the world Jewish community. And Zionism is the active and personal identification of the individual with Israel. Calling the American Council for Judaism (the only anti-Israel American Jewish group) the "Birch Society of American Jewry," he said that in America today most Jews feel mildly pro-Israel, although their involvement is not active or personal. This pro-Israel philosophy is not Zionism, the director of the youth department of the AZC stated.
The entire frame of mind in which Jews outside Israel condescend to help Israelis financially is wrong, in Comet's opinion, for the essence of Zionism is the unity and totality of the people. Therefore Jews in and out of Israel must work as partners, not as older and younger brothers, and the state must be the product of the people as a whole. This concept transcends the idea of a political state, and since it has not yet been realized Zionism was not made useless in 1948, he said.
Two historical events of our century had a great impact on Jewish history: the Russian Revolution and World War II. Both served to physically and culturally demolish what had been extremely flourishing centers of Jewish thought.
It was this, said Comet, that suddenly thrust the responsibility for leadership upon the American Jewish community, which was in fact not ready for or capable of it. And out of America has come no Jewish culture. Jewish intellectual work in secular areas, and Jewish education has become negligible and sometimes completely meaningless.
For culture and Jewish thought, then as well as for the embodiment of people-hood, most Jews look to Israel, which has at the present time, and in the foreseeable future will be, the sole source of Jewish creativity.
Comet concluded by outlining the specific goals of Zionist youth movements in college.
Students in the audience represented M.I.T. and B.U. as well as Harvard ask Radcliffe.
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