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thoughts and regulate the lives and command the respect of the people, are gone by. We have heard that the church, all churches, all denominations, are disintegrating. A very popular magazine writer in a very widely circulated magazine, in a series of most interesting articles, which many of you will doubtless remember, laid down the thesis several years ago that the churches are growing weaker and materialism is growing stronger, and if the acceleration of that pace that is destroying the churches is not stopped the churches will disappear. I hated to think that that was true. It filled me with regret that the church which my vocation, my training, my experience in life all combined have taught me to think the most valuable asset in the world,—that the church is losing its hold upon man and is being relegated to the background.
If it was true that the church was becoming weaker and its influence on the social life of the individual and the community was being diminished, the war has brought about a change. Among the mighty transformations wrought by the great war, none is more indicative of hopeful accomplishment than the effect the war has had in strengthening the influence of the church.
I do not wish to make these statements as mere abstract propositions. As workers in the field of social endeavor you want to have concrete illustrations for every abstract statement. Do you not think that it has given the church an infinitely higher position in the esteem of the common man, that the dispatches from abroad after the first brushes of our American soldiers with the outposts of the Germans had taken place, brought back reports that the Catholic priests had done so nobly, that among the heroes of the American army mentioned for special commendation were the names of two Catholic priests who had gone out into the hail of shot and shell and at the risk of their lives rescued their brother soldiers and had brought food to them when they needed food in the hour of stress and trial? What do you think the soldiers who were ministered to by these priests, thought of their rescuers and helpers? Do you not realize that the heroism in the church, the dignity and the manhood of the priesthood was brought home to them as never before? They used to joke about the preachers, and say there were three sexes, men, women and preachers,—male, female and ministerial.
It was a poor joke, but it showed the feeling among the common people that the ministers were not really men, that they were fit only for pink teas, that they did not know anything about business, that they were shy and shrinking and reticent, and if faced with a man's duties would be found deficient. My own experience has been that time and again after I have presented my ideas and my ideals to my congregation, whatever I may have said has been rendered ineffective by the remark of some well intentioned but misinformed hearer: "The rabbi is not a business man. He is a dreamer. He does not understand business necessities." And what has been said to me has been said to preachers of all denominations. The people have believed that there is a line drawn between the church and the world, between business and religion, between actual life and life as depicted in the Scriptures and portrayed in sermons. The war is bringing the soldier and the preacher into intimate relationship with one another, and has taught the world the fallacy of this prepossession against the preachers of religion, against the ministers at the altar, against those who have consecrated their lives to the service of God among men. You should know that the war work of the rabbis and the preachers, and the priests, has broken down the dividing walls of prejudice between them and the people, that ought not to separate them, and has weakened sectarianism.
We, in America, are all Americans in this war. We are not Catholics, or Protestants or Jews. We are American people and united by our devotion to the cause of democracy. We feel the bond of union that ties us together. I have a touching illustration of this. At the beginning of the war, I read in a French paper an episode that has been repeated by the American papers and has since been put into verse by an American poet. The story ran that a French Catholic, dying upon the battlefield, saw a rabbi and mistook him for a priest, and asked that the rabbi should give him religious consolation in his dying moments. The rabbi sent for a crucifix and held the cross before the dying French soldier. Because no priest was at hand he administered religious consolation to him. His prejudices, if he had any, had been broken down. He would not perhaps have done that before, but under the stress of war and the feeling of a common humanity, he could not refuse the petition of this dying soldier of France, and though a Hebrew of the Hebrews, he held the crucifix before his dying French compatriot and administered the last rites. Surely such acts will make for sympathy among divergent religious interests. Surely they will make us feel that in many things we are brothers, even though about the fundamentals of religion we do not entirely agree.
What about the influence of the war, and of the soldiers and sailors through the community, upon the church, in the attitude of the soldier and sailor towards religion before he is in the thick of the conflict? I have had boys come to me, who I thought had never had a serious thought in their lives, and say: "Rabbi, we are glad we have been drafted. Won't you bless us? Won't you lay your hands on our heads and give us the three-fold Aaronic benediction?" For years and years I have been in the ministry and have never had a boy going for a journey come and ask for the priestly blessing of Aaron. I did not know the religious sentiment existed in those boys, but I have come to see that in every human soul there exists a religious longing that finds expression in the glowing words of the forty-second psalm: "As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams When Heated in the Chase, So Longs my Soul for Thee, O Lord, and Thy Reviving Grace." Our brave boys are not ashamed to feel that they want to go into the trenches, and into the battle line with God in their hearts, to slay and be slain, is work that fills them with loathing and horror, but they nerve themselves for whatever they may be called upon to do or suffer by resigning themselves, body and soul, to the mercy of God.
The fundamental craving of the human spirit for religion is displaying itself in the attitude of these boys. I bless them, with a lump in my throat, and then we shake hands, and I watch them go. I have no doubt this is the common experience of the ministers of other religions, but from me, as a rabbi, you want to hear the Jewish side. I have gone to the boys at Camp Funston and have had them write to me: "We have not been into the house of God for years, but since coming to camp, we have at least occasionally attended divine service." A social worker from Chicago said to me the other day, that his sister, a Red Cross helper in France, has met several Jewish boys over there in the ranks, and they have asked her when the rabbis are coming over. We have so few rabbis to go around that only two have so far been sent over. We hope the number will be increased, but the demand of these boys to have them shows how this great war has made deep speak unto deep, and the smothered song of the soul's music again sound forth in glorious anthems and paeans of praise and faith.
Americanism and the Church
Now, what about another aspect of the war in its influence upon my church? I am not much interested in the artful tricks and the wire pulling accidents of politics, either world politics or ward politics. I believe all of us ought to do our duty as citizens and vote intelligently and work against the bosses and the machine, but I know very little about the intrigues and the complexities of practical politics. I trust this war is going to make the duplicity of backstairs diplomacy and the machinations of the ward heeler more impossible than ever before. I am lifted up by the expectation that when America has won this war, petty chauvinistic politics, peanut politics, in the ward or in the world, will be utterly impossible. That encourages me and makes me hope that we will hold out until this sure victory that is coming to us will be conclusively achieved.
Political opportunism appeals to some people; it appeals strongly to the Zionists, it would seem. The Zionists are waiting and working for some political hide-and-go-seek scheme, some political scheme of give and take, whereby they may reintegrate a Jewish nation in Palestine. They exult in the British conquest of Jerusalem, because they indulge in the dream that England will turn the Holy Land over to them. I am not a Zionist. Their petty nationalism makes me sad. I am just an American of the Jewish faith. I take no great interest in the politician's bag of conjuring tricks, even in reference to Palestinian politics. I am not anxious to go there. I am not anxious for others to go there to build up for me and mine a Jewish state. It may be hard for some of you to realize that among the Jews there are many who do not want to go back to Palestine. The Zionists are so vociferous and have such a big working and publicity fund, and the element of romanticism in Zionism appeals so strongly to good people that they are on the front of the stage all the time, and we Jews who are just Americans, are in the background.
I never have believed in the union of church and state. I maintain the great thing America has taught the world is that we can get along better without an unholy alliance of church and state. You people who are not of my denomination, you all honor Palestine because it was the home of the founder of your religion; but you do not want to go there to make your home. No more do I. I shall feel sorry if the Zionists succeed, as it seems possible they may. I will have to be protesting all the time that my nation is not the Judean nation; I shall have to be protesting my Americanism all the time. For these reasons I am not a Zionist. All I want to see emanating out of this world war is peace guaranteed everywhere throughout the world, based upon the firm foundation of democracy. I hope for democracy in Palestine. I am glad the British have wrested Palestine from the bloody hand of the Turk. I believe democracy will be permitted to establish itself there and that is cause for gratification. Outside of that I have no interest in the politics of Palestine, or Timbuctoo, or any other place except the United States.
The war is making religion stronger than it has ever been. Religion in this terrific upheaval of the nations is not a failure, nor has institutional religion been entirely unsuccessful. I would not underestimate the fact that organized religion has, in this fearful crisis, had some failures. In my own denomination, I could criticize the delays that ought not to have occurred. I could criticize the lack of initiative in our synagogues, which have remained silent when they should have spoken, and inactive when they should have taken the lead. But I am not a person to examine the ledger account regularly every day to find out if there is a debit balance. I try to look for credit balances. Institutional Religion is recognizing what it can put on the credit side of the account, and is showing real eagerness to put it there. I have confidence that during this war, religion will not lose, but gain, in strength.
Religion will emerge from this war crowned with a diadem of glory, comparable to that which it had when men bowed before re-ligion as the mistress of their souls, the regulator of their lives, the controller and director of their emotions.
OPENING EXERCISES Address Of Welcome
O. J. Hill, Vice-Chairman, Committee on Arrangements, Kansas City, Missouri. On account of the illness of our chairman, Mr. Butler, it devolves upon me as vicepresident of the Committee on Arrangements to open this meeting. I shall not take much time because you are here to hear the distinguished gentlemen who are to speak. We of Kansas City want these friends who have come from all corners of the world almost to understand that Kansas City extends to them a most cordial welcome. We are glad you are here, not simply because it happens to be a convention, many of which we have had, but because we are in hearty accord with the work you are trying to do. We feel that Kansas City in a small way has attempted to carry out some of the great principles you are working upon. We point with pride to our Board of Public Welfare and its work, to our Municipal Farm, to our Boys' Farm, to our Boys' Hotel, and to many other institutions which we believe represent the spirit of this meeting. We want you to understand you have a sympathetic audience.
We are continually hearing about the efficiency of Germany. That is the one claim of autocracy, that it is efficient, that it cares for the citizens from the time they are infants in the cradle to the grave. I believe this great conference is a challenge that we meet these problems as a democracy and that we will do it in a more intelligent and efficient manner than can be done in any other country in the world.
Your President, Mr. Robert A. Woods, needs no introduction to the delegates who have come from a distance. The people of Kansas City would do well to observe the many important activities with which he is connected. To me it is a great pleasure and honor to officiate in touching off the processes of this great Forty-fifth National Conference, under the able leadership of Mr. Woods.
Response To Address Of Welcome
President Woods, in response to the welcoming address of Acting Chairman Hill, said:
It is a pleasure which many of us have eagerly anticipated to accept the hospitality of your truly beautiful city. We have looked forward to the time when we might learn at first hand something of the progress which we have known about and admired, and which we have in some degree emulated. We welcome particularly the opportunity to come to the gateway of the great Southwest. When I say that, as one representing those of us who have come from parts of the country where distances are not so great, I remind myself that it is difficult for us to understand that Kansas City is somewhere about the center of the United States. In the hope of getting a better measure of the nation as a whole, we have come.
We particularly welcome to our meetings not only the citizens of Kansas City, but those who have come from west and south of Kansas City. We hope this conference may be of some real value in encouraging and forwarding the marked progress that is being made throughout the Southwest. We earnestly trust that those who have never attended this Conference before will feel that this session is in a special sense theirs. We hope very earnestly that they will raise questions and enter into the discussions. The National Conference of Social Work, which for so many years was called the National Conference of Charities and Correction, and which is now coming to its forty-fifth anniversary r has always had a great tradition of freedom of expression. In this way, it has registered each year a new landmark of vital progress of the great field of social service and unofficial statesmanship which it represents.
The final feature of the Kansas City Conference was a membership luncheon. This occurred on Wednesday, May 22. The occasion was unique in the recent history of the Conference. In spite of inclement weather about three hundred delegates attended, almost entirely from out of town. A splendid spirit of fellowship was manifested.
^ The program that followed, with the exception of simple business transactions covered in the minutes, was entirely informal. After a brief introductory address, President Woods called upon various members to speak. The following transcription consists only of extracts intended to show the general trend of discussion.
1. Dr. Hastings H. Hart, New York: It has been my privilege for thirty-five years to be connected with the National Conference. I have seen its wonderful evolution from a little group of three or four hundred members. I remember when we went to Washington for our meeting in 1885 we had a membership of about four hundred. I have seen it encounter and overcome many difficulties. The original tradition of this Conference was not to elect as president anyone who was not a member or a secretary of a state board of charities. One of our leading members once said that when the Conference ceased to be controlled by the state boards of charities, its usefulness would be ended.
When the Conference decided to have a general secretary in 1894, it was twenty-one years old. I was selected as the first incumbent at the liberal salary of five hundred dollars per year, and I put in fifteen hundred dollars' worth of service each year for seven years. That was the transition period. The next year the tradition as to eligibility was broken and Robert Treat Paine, a charity organization society man, was put in as president, and there was a great deal of anxiety at the introduction of these foreign elements into the Conference, which were surely going to overthrow the whole tradition of the Conference,—these Charity Organization Society workers, and especially these settlement workers, were very dangerous, very radical, and as for this