Mr. ——

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your letter with enclosure, and regret the delay in my reply, all the more regrettable since there was also a delay in your writing, while time is truly of the essence.

I trust you will not take amiss my candid remarks on how I feel about the matter, since my approach is based on the principle of our Sages of blessed memory; namely, that the essential thing is the deed.

Having read your letter very carefully, the first question that occurred to me was: what will the Jewish children gain from our exchange of correspondence? What have they gained, and what will they gain today or tomorrow? Since you are a successful businessman, I trust it is not necessary to elaborate on this approach.

With regard to the enclosed prospectus for “The Institute for Jewish Life”—far be it from me, of course, to minimize the esteem and honest intentions of the individuals who are involved in this project. However, as mentioned above, looking at it from the practical viewpoint, one thing seems to me quite certain: that for the next three years this project will not contribute anything tangible to all those children who need Jewish education now, while the hundreds and thousands of dollars which this project will cost could have immediately been used to pay the salaries of hundreds of teachers and provide scholarships to scores of Jewish children for their Jewish education, even on an elementary level.

Needless to say, I can see that just as it is necessary to plan for the present and for the immediate future, it is also necessary to plan for the distant future. However, this is the normal approach under normal circumstances. By way of example, when treating a patient, it is necessary both to alleviate his condition immediately as well as to have a plan for long-term treatment and cure, but when the condition of the patient is so serious that he may not be around in the distant future, a long‑term plan will not help him much. Such is also the situation of many of our Jewish children and youth, a large proportion of whom may unfortunately not be around to benefit from any long‑range investigations, research, and the like in view of the tremendous forces threatening to engulf them. Indeed, to say “a large proportion” is a gross understatement.

Returning to the beginning of your letter, in which you write that I overestimate your power and ability to influence the Jewish Federation organizations throughout America, my answer is twofold. First, I will be content if you will utilize to the fullest your power, ability and influence, whatever they are, though I will add that I think that you underestimate them. Second, and this is just as important, let us look at it from the viewpoint of a practical businessman. Although I am not a businessman, I have had enough contact with businesspeople to know that in the case of a partnership, the problem sometimes arises that although an extraordinary opportunity presents itself, only one of the partners is ready to act on it, while the others hesitate for various reasons. In such a situation, the obvious thing for the alert partner to do is to take the initiative on his own. And since it is indeed an extraordinary opportunity and the success of it will soon become apparent, no doubt the other partners will eagerly wish to have a part in it. To be sure, having to act on his own initiative, the alert partner may have had to limit his investment, but since the other partners will surely want to jump on the bandwagon, the opportunity could well be utilized to the fullest with the cooperation of all the partners.

The above illustration is clearly applicable in the present case. If there are certain organizations or individuals who do not as yet see eye-to-eye with you and me on this approach, I am confident that if you and those individuals who do share our view would start a pilot project for immediate action, it would not only be very successful, but it would also serve as a breakthrough, and many others would jump on the bandwagon, as the saying goes.

I need hardly add that the spirit of initiative and individual pioneering is not new in the USA, since it is this spirit that has built and developed this country, even where there were great difficulties to overcome. The very challenge itself was a stimulus.

You allude to various approaches to Jewish education. Would that we had already reached the stage where most of our American Jewish children had attained a level of Jewish education at which the different approaches become an issue. For the time being we can only speak in terms of the most elementary Jewish education and identity, so that the Jewish boy will know that he is a son of our Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Jewish girl will know that she is a daughter of our Matriarchs Sara, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah; that they should be able to read the Sh’mah and understand a simple sentence of Chumash; that, above all, they should know that what they learn about our ancestors is relevant to them in their personal daily life and conduct; that they should identify themselves with the Jewish people in a meaningful way.

Inasmuch as we are now in the Days of Forgiveness, I am confident that you will forgive me if some of my expressions went beyond the bounds of usual diplomatic language. However, the situation in the USA and many parts of the world calls for much stronger expressions. Fortunately, the situation of the young generation in the USA is comparatively much better, in view of the fact that there is no shortage of Jewish money for good causes. There is only a lack of understanding of this most vital need, and if the matter were properly explained, there would be many and generous donors who would be only too glad to help save Jewish children before they become totally estranged and lost to our Jewish people.

With esteem and prayerful wishes for a kesivah v’chasimah tovah,


With blessing,