The Hillcrest Center
As rabbi of the synagogue-center described
in the article ambitiously entitled "New Jew-
ish Community in Formation" by Morris Freed-
man (January 1955), I must state that the article proved to be a great disappointment ….
I expected a sober discussion and serious analy-
sis of the religious, educational, cultural, and
social aspects of ‘the synagogue-center program. Instead, I found Mr. Freedman bogged down in a multitude of irrelevant details about the
physical aspects of the building and surround- ing stores…. Do these form the essence of a "new Jewish community in formation"? Does Mr. Freedman feel that this is the best way in which to shed light on the "widely mooted ques- tions concerning American Jews today"? Would not a few paragraphs about the building have
sufficed so that more space could have been given to the generic ideological issues facing synagogue-centers? . . . Mr. Freedman dwells
on each one of the stores adjacent to the Center. He even jumps across the street with remarkable alacrity to describe the stores on the second block. Had he not stopped in the
middle of the next block he would have found
a police station which, no doubt, would have helped us understand the Hillcrest Jewish
Center better…. Hillcrest is not an exclusive-
ly Jewish community. Approximately 40 per cent of the residents are non-Jewish. They, too, buy in stores. Does Mr. Freedman imply
"guilt by association"?
,Mr. Freedman is guilty of some inaccuracies, not all of them of equal importance. I shall
merely point out a few. He speaks of "United
States Representative Samuel Rabin." Samuel Rabin is not a United States Representative but a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State
of New York. He quotes me as saying, in con- nection with the engaging of Mr. Refregier,
"We heard some silly business about him and some trouble in San Francisco, but that didn’t bother us." I could not possibly have said that for the records will show that the San Fran- cisco matter came up after Mr. Refregier had
been engaged and not before. Mr. Freedman
also implies that I, personally, and the Commit- tee knew about Mr. Refregier’s background and that when he pointed it out to me, I said,
"Does it make any difference?" What really occurred was that Mr. Freedman indicated some
suspicion of Mr. Refregier’s background and also informed me that he would proceed to in- vestigate it. I felt that this would not help with the analysis of synagogue-centers in Queens. I merely said, "The murals are already up. Does it make any difference now?"
I was amazed to find Mr. Freedman putting
quotation marks about statements attributed to me and to other members of our staff. The fact is that Mr. Freedman took no notes during the conversation he had with us. What he re-
ports are mere recollections….
Mr. Freedman was gracious enough to show me a portion of his article for comment…. I … indicated to him that I would reserve com-
ment until I could see the complete article. When I did receive it I was disturbed to see
myself and other members of the staff mis-
quoted in many instances…. I immediately telephoned Mr. Freedman requesting him to make some changes…. In fairness to Mr. Freedman, I must say that he regretted very much that COMMENTARY was going to press
and that it was too late to make any changes.
You will agree with me, however, that it is highly unfair to leave the impression of a verbatim, direct quotation when it simply isn’t so.
I FCUND the most objectionable feature of the article to be the mood and atmosphere
which pervades it. Mr. Freedman believes in citing details to illustrate larger principles. He
should therefore not object if I use the same technique in pointing out what I mean.
In discussing the mosaic panel on the doors of the Ark executed by the famous artist
Raymond Katz, I explained to Mr. Freedman that Mr. Katz faced the difficulty of presenting one theme on two doors that stood a little apart
from each other. I casually mentioned to him that Mr. Katz hit upon the idea of placing half of -the lion in the mosaic panel on one door and the other half of the lion on the other door so that ‘the figure of the lion would pull the
entire panel together. But Mr. Freedman does not speak of the two halves of the lion. He speaks rather of "rump and waving tail on one door and his mane on the other." The Rabbis, in commenting on the Biblical verse "the beasts
> U~~~~~~~~~~~~COMMENTARY
that are clean and the beasts that are not
clean," observed that the one word, tome,
would have sufficed for the expression "that
are not clean." The Rabbis therefore draw the
inference that the Bible, by using eight super-
fluous letters, ‘teaches us to avoid the use of
words with harsh and ugly connotations. The
Ark is the most sacred place in the Synagogue.
What prompted Mr. Freedman, in describing
it, to use "rump" and "tail"?
Let me cite another example. Mr. Freedman
speaks of the Eternal Light "hung in a sleek.
brass cage." I have the highest regard for Mr.
Freedman’s literary ability and I need not tell
him what the word "cage" connotes as opposed,
for example, to the word "enclosure." According
to Webster the word "sleek" "often signifies
something hypocritically smooth and unctuous."
I am sure Mr. Freedman knows how sacred the
Eternal Lamp is in Jewish tradition. Why,
then, the expression "sleek brass cage"?
MR. FREEDMAN makes bold to accuse Hill-
crest of concentrating on "grandeur in the ex-
ternals." Every paragraph of his article shows
clearly that this is merely a projection of his
own preoccupation with externals. Let me cite a few examples.
We have at Hillcrest two nursery school classes. Mr. Freedman devotes exactly one brief sentence to them…. Mr. Freedman told me
time and again that he had heard some very complimentary remarks about our Hebrew
school. Yet none of these are in his article. He
didn’t bother to visit any of our classes and didn’t take the trouble to see the school in ac-
tual operation. Is this not as important to an understanding of the synagogue-centers as, for example, his puzzling preoccupation with the art work which he discusses at such length? … My Youth Activities Director informs me that Mr. Freedman did not discuss the Youth
Program with him. Our entire Youth Program, which is quite extensive, is not given as much space as the bridal room with the toilet in the closet…. Is it not significant that we have, besides the adult service and two junior congre- gation services, also a regular Sabbath service for teen-agers? I know that all synagogues
would have been interested in an evaluation of this program.
Mr. Freedman even found the energy to climb down a few flights of stairs so that he might see our gymnasium and shower rooms and describe them in some detail, but he has not a single word about our Sisterhood. Is the posi- tion and role of the woman in the synagogue-
center unimportant? . .. I can go on to men- tion the Men’s Club and other groups which are essential to the rounded program of our
Center…. What grieves me and perplexes me more than anything else, however, is the fact that he did not attend a single service. It is disturbing that Mr. Freedman dis- cusses so many externals and does not find space for a brief paragraph on prayer and the spiritual aspect of synagogue-center life. Hun- dreds of people attend our services both on
Friday night and Sabbath morning. How are these services conducted? What draws people to them? Is this not as important as the de- scription of the kitchen, and the refrigerator with the trays of chopped liver? . . . Is he not aware of the fact that there are Jews who have spiritual needs and have them fulfilled through the synagogue?
I had hoped that Mr. Freedman would at- tempt to convey to the readers of COMMENTARY some of the ideological motivations which brought about this new institution in Jewish
life which we call "synagogue-center." I pointed out to him that the synagogue-center is dedi- cated to the philosophy that Judaism must en- compass the totality of human living. I stressed to him the traditional concept of the synagogue as not only a House of Prayer but also as a House of Study and a House of Assembly. I do not wish to reopen the discussion on cater- ing in synagogue-centers. Suffice it to state that if a member’s daughter is named in the synagogue and is Bas Mitzvah in the syna-
gogue, there is every reason why she should also be married in the synagogue; and if a wedding is to be held, catering is merely an accommodation to the members but by no means an essential or important part of the synagogiie-center program. We tolerate it as a service to our members, but I have all along
had a vague suspicion that financially it might not even pay….
MR. FREEDMAN conveys the impression that our Center is an exclusive club obsessed with but one idea-financial status. Is a membership of over thirteen hundred families a sign of ex- clusiveness or rather of mass appeal? I discussed
with Mr. Freedman the make-up of our Board, pointing out that our leadership includes many teachers and young professionals. Mr. Freed-
man should have told the readers that the leadership of Hillcrest is composed of dedicated workers interested in building Jewish life in our community-regardless of financial status.
I discussed at some length the very gratifying fact that our synagogue was built through a large number of small contributions. We did not receive any large amount from any one individual. I am proud of many things at Hill- crest, but most of all of its truly democratic structure….
I would like to conclude with the comment
that a "tongue-in-cheek" style may be ac-
ceptable or even desirable in a discussion of
some topics but not in a serious appraisal of a
community into the building of which had gone so much planning and labor, inspiration
and dedication. The Jew is bid by his tradition
to differentiate "ben kodesh l’chol," between
the sacred and the profane.
Hillcrest Jewish Center
Queens, New York
MR. FREEDMAN writes:
The object of my article on Hillcrest was to
describe closely a specific example, in the semi-
suburban metropolitan area, of the widespread
growth of Conservative "synagogue-centers"
throughout the country, a most important phe-
nomenon in American Jewish life. The exten-
siveness and rapidity of the development are
likely to make it inevitably less than perfect in
certain respects, and perhaps the greatest service
that can be done in behalf of genuine self-
appraisal is to consider the reality soberly, with-
out censoriousness or sentimentalized self-gratu-
lation. My aim in writing was neither to "ac-
cuse" nor to "praise," and Rabbi Mowshowitz
was apparently aware of my warm appreciation
of the problems and achievements of his Center.
Certainly, my showing him the typescript indi-
cates my concern to be accurate, not only in
detail but in emphasis.
Rabbi Mowshowitz feels that my article
placed too much emphasis on the physical as-
pects of his Center (although may I say that
architecture and art are scarcely "physical," un-
spiritual things). But this was his own emphasis
in our long discussions, as the full notes I took
while with him (and still possess) indicate
clearly, and was moreover the way in which
the Center impressed itself on me.
The rabbi read an early text of the article,
as he says (the typescript, which we went over
together, is extensively marked with his sug-
gested changes, every one of which was made).
With the exception of a few added paragraphs
which I read to him over the telephone, this
was the actual text of the final article. Only
one short sentence was not read to him over
the telephone; but this was so precise a quo-
tation that I do not feel derelict.
The Rabbi writes that "the San Francisco
matter came up after Mr. Refregier had been
engaged and not before." He was vague as to
when Mr. Refregier was first hired at the time
we discussed the matter. The fact is that the
murals were dedicated, according to a brochure
issued by the Center, on January 22, 1954, some
five years after Refregier had first been widely
criticized on political grounds for his work in
the Rincon Annex Post Office in San Francisco.
And a long article defending Refregier on this matter was published in the Nation of Septem-
ber 26, 1953, just a year earlier. Refregier’s
reputation was never hidden; his associations
and sentiments were well known and easily
ascertainable. The Rabbi seems to have been as
indifferent to Refregier’s specific background
and subject matter as he was to Justice Rabin’s
specific office, which he gave to me as indicated
in the article (of course I should have checked
the identification myself). His "What differ-
ence does it make)" referred not only to the
fait accompli, but to ithe content of the art
work itself.
The Rabbi’s objections to my choice of
words are part of his general attempt to substi-
tute the vague and abstract for the concretely
descriptive, although I happen to think that
"cage" is more felicitous in context than "en-
closure," which happens not only -to be in-
accurate but to suggest a pen for sheep. The
more common (and innocuous) meaning for
"sleek" precedes the Rabbi’s quotation from
Webster’s. As for the description of the lion’s
anatomy on the doors of the Ark, the Rabbi
should not forget that the lion itself happens
actually to be there in just that way. I do not,
myself, find anything "harsh and ugly" about
such words as "rump" and "tail."
The Rabbi probably forgot my telling him
that I observed daily services on three differ-
ent occasions, including a Sunday evening;
these were in no way of such a nature as to
affect anything I wrote. Friday night and Satur-
day morning services, being combined with the
elaborate Bar and Bas Mitzvah occasions, more
social than religious in character, do not give
an accurate picture of the specifically spiritual
activity of the Center. As it happens, at the
time I was visiting the Center, in the summer,
no classes were in session and youth activities
were suspended. But my interviews with mem-
bers of the community, including teen-agers,
persuaded me that my description of youth ac-
tivities (or of any of the social activities) would
not have been changed by actual observation;
the points the article made would merely have
been elaborated by more details. However am-
bitious and praiseworthy the youth program,
the fact is that the Center is not yet affiliated
with United Synagogue Youth, the official
organization which maintains standards. The
Rabbi has also apparently forgotten that the
youth director was not appointed until after
my article was completed.
There is nothing inherently invidious in the
descriptions-for example, the description of
the Center’s physical surroundings, which hap-
pen to be part of the reality. The true values of
the Center are certainly not to be found in
pious but non-existent idealizations, in a merely
verbalized religiosity. If the Rabbi were to look
closely and candidly at all the things we talked
about, and which I recorded, he would cer-
tainly find enough "ideas" to give him thought.
He would also find that the tone of my article
was in sum actually more sympathetic than
the attitude among a substantial portion of the
rabbis and leaders of the Conservative move-
ment who have expressed vigorous doubts about
the emerging pattern in such centers as Hill-
crest. It is perhaps not insignificant that only
one other Conservative rabbi has written to us
criticizing the article, and that we have indeed
been called to task for not attacking the
tendencies in Judaism and Jewish community
life that centers like Hillcrest represent for
many quite vocal critics, religious as well as
I am sorry that the article was not read in an open spirit by Rabbi Mowshowitz. He has,
among other things, overlooked its numer-
ous explicitly favorable comments (on the
high level of the school, in spite of the lack of
adequate library facilities and the absence of
official recognition; on the community enthusi-
asm for the new youth annex, in spite of the repeated postponements of the ground break-
ing; and so on). The "widely mooted ques-
tions concerning American Jews today," on
which it was hoped that this article might shed
some objective light, will never be discussed
fruitfully unless the community learns to look
at itself systematically, dispassionately, honest-
ly, without any institutional bias, however un-
comfortable this process may be.
The "Animal Farm" Mystery
Spencer Brown ("Strange Doings at ‘Animal
Farm,"’ February 1955) has written an excel-
lent account of the reluctance of New York’s
film critics to associate Animal Farm with the
Russian Revolution. His is the kind of article
that has for so long made COMMENTARY the
"must" magazine for anyone who still attaches
importance to that terribly old-fashioned con-
cept of intellectual honesty.
It may be taken for granted, I think, that
the Crowthers, the Guernseys, the Winstens,
and the other critics are good people who
would not lightly distort Orwell’s or anyone
else’s fable. They have on various occasions, in fact, and with varying degrees of eloquence
expressed themselves on the subject of falsifica- tion when films have been made of literary
works. … One need only reread their reviews
of such films as Romeo and Juliet, From Here
to Eternity, The Caine Mutiny, or Alice in
Wonderland to see in what high esteem "stick-
ing-to-the-original" is held. In this connection,
one might also note the recent distress of Mr.
Crowther in the Times and Mr. Winsten in
the Post over excisions made in Wages of Fear,
an indecent new film of anti-American and
anti-human sadism directed by a former col-
laborationist of the Nazis, H. G. Clouzot. Both
critics felt the picture would have benefited had
more of its original anti-American sequences
been allowed to remain.
Why, then, have these people, each of them
a serious student of the cinema, seen fit, all on
their own, to distort George Orwell during the
brief journey from the screen to their type-
writers? Why have they so unconscionably un-
dertaken to mislead their readers into believing
that Orwell wrote about some anonymous
"Power State" and not about Russia; about a
dictator and not about Stalin; about a secret
police and not about the NKVD; about totali-
tarianism and not Communism? Why did they
ignore the anti-Soviet point in the Orwell film
and then virtually beg for a restoration of the
anti-American point in Clouzot’s film?
ONE hears much these days about the fears
of the intelligentsia, the mantle of silence that
it is said has enveloped, for example, the
teachers and the writers of the nation. I am not
a teacher or a writer, but I have read speeches
and writings by such reliable observers as Dr.
Commager and Dr. Urey, and I have listened
to Dr. Oppenheimer. I have read them and
listened to them through the best and most ef-
fective means of communication anyone in
history has ever had-not off some hidden hand
press, or at a secret cellar meeting, or over
some Radio Free America, but in the mass-
circulation magazines, the metropolitan news-
papers, over the national television and radio
networks. A mantle of silence? An atmosphere
of fear? Permit me to make an unhappy joke:
I can’t hear the silence for the noise; I can’t
see the fear for the breast-beating.
Yet there is a fear, though not the fear that
Commager and Urey are talking about, among the intelligentsia today, and the reviews of
Animal Farm (along with the cleverly edited
quotes on the jacket of the new edition of the
book) are both ‘the result and the proof. It is,
simply put, a fear to be anti-Communist.
This fear to be anti-Communist is the off-
spring of interesting parents-the Communists and their supporters on the one hand, and Joe
McCarthy on the other. The Communists, of course, have a self-evident stake in the be-
getting of this unnatural child. By equating
anti-Communism with McCarthyism, they have
been able .to put a halter on anyone of the nice
intelligentsia who might boggle at their she-
nanigans on behalf of their Mother Country
across the sea. McCarthy’s stake in this union
has been the strengthening of his brag that
only McCarthy is truly anti-Communist.
And so the Crowthers and the Guernseys
and the Winstens and the others in the intelli-
gentsia, who would rather be dead than "non-
progressive," are caught in an unlovely squeeze.
· . . They have tossed away the historic privi-
lege of liberals to fight tyranny and oppression, resigned from it in favor of, heaven help us,
Joe McCarthy. To have called Animal Farm an anti-Com-
munist, anti-Soviet film would have been to
tell the truth about it. But the Crowthers, the
Guernseys, the Winstens and the others ap-
parently believe that it is better to be "pro-
gressive" than accurate. Let’s not red-bait, I can
imagine them telling themselves, for red-baiting
is "McCarthyism." And they sat down and
wrote what they did without stopping to con-
sider how they might be helping to shield the
Soviet Union.
Both the Communists and McCarthy have
reason to be satisfied. As they regard the timid-
ity and the fears of the intelligentsia, they
know that they are the happy parents of a big
bouncing baby monster. ALBERT MARGOLIES
New York City
Prophecy Not Without Honor
Paul Willen’s keenly analytical and prophetic
article "Can Stalin Have a Successor?" (July
1953) has been dramatically confirmed by
Malenkov’s sudden downfall from apparent
power. I suspect most readers of your magazine
didn’t appreciate the significance of Mr.
Willen’s contribution when they read it.
Willen pointed out that Malenkov’s speech
at the 19th Party Congress in the fall of 1952
was quite routine. If Stalin had really meant
Malenkov to be his successor, he wouldn’t have
given him so humiliating a role at that Congress.
Before Stalin’s death, Willen went on, the suc-
cession question was never alluded to in the
Communist press anywhere in the world. The
explanation? "The whole deification campaign
[of Stalin] presupposed everlastingness; how
can one allow even the suggestion of the death
of a god?" Malenkov may have represented the
wishes of the bureaucrats who wanted a vaca-
tion in which to enjoy the fruits of victories al-
ready won. He looked like the potential leader
of an opposition which might try to "liberal-
ize" the totalitarian structure of Soviet Russia.
Willen pointed out that the new leaders of
Soviet Russia, however, must restore "to the
throne . . . its initiative as the expander and
oppressor, the inaugurator of plans, and merci-
less persecutor of ‘enemies."’ This too-little
heeded article should be reprinted and re-read
today. It is representative of other penetrating
articles which have appeared in COMMENTARY.
Philadelphia, Pa.
[With what we hope is pardonable satisfac-
tion, we direct our readers’ attention further to
Boris Meissner’s "The Kremlin’s Terms to the
West" (June 1952), which pointed out, eight
months before Stalin’s death, that Beria, Malen-
kov, and Khrushchev already dominated the
party apparatus, and that a "shift in the balance
of power has permitted Marshal Bulganin, who
has the confidence of ‘the army as well as of
the state and economic bureaucracy, to come
forward." Mr. Meissner also wrote that Beria
and Malenkov had formed a common faction
against Zhdanov, and then against his surviving
supporters. Those mystified by references to
the "Leningrad case" in connection with the
recent announcement of the execution of
Abakumov, former Soviet Minister of State
Security, allegedly for his handling of that
case, would have learned from Mr. Meissner’s
article that "One group [in the old Politburo]
was Great Russian in national composition and
based on the party organization in the Russian
Federated Soviet. Leningrad was its center …
Zhdanov, Slicherbakov, Andreyev, and Vozne-
sensky were its members."
In May 1953 Franz Borkenau, in "Was
Malenkov Behind the Anti-Semitic Plot?" re-
ferred to Bulganin as "a close associate of Lazar
Kaganovich (who was opposed to both Zhdanov
and Malenkov)"; and mentioned Khrushchev
as "possibly the most up and coming of all
the Soviet bosses."-ED.]
Liberty and "Due Process"
In "Libertarian Precepts and Subversive
Realities" (January 1955), Mr. Alan F. Westin
says that he is making a criticism of the "ap-
plication" of civil liberties principles that he
does not question. But if that is really so, then
what was the point of his article? Surely Mr.
Westin does not believe that the injustices and
absurdities of the loyalty-security program
would have been any less if the imaginary lib-
eral he conjures up had not attacked Dies and
McCarthy or supported Hiss and Lattimore.
What success, for instance, did the Americanr
Civil Liberties Union (which never supported
Hiss, and only to a limited extent Lattimore)
have when, in 1947, it urged that this program
be restricted to really sensitive positions (as has
been all along the case in England)? And no
recognition of the right of an employer pri-
vately to question an employee (which has
not been challenged) would have mitigated the
effect of the "Fifth Amendment Communist"
slogan reiterated by the junior Senator from
The truth of the matter is that defeats in the field of civil liberties are inevitable in times
like these. And Mr. Westin in no way indi-
cates how they could have been averted. The
real issue is whether the true libertarian will
let his principles bow with the wind in the
vain hope of not so often seeming defeated….
It may be true, as Mr. Westin suggests, that
libertarians place too much reliance on the
courts. That has been so largely because they
have found more effective allies in the courts
than in other agencies of government and be-
cause a court fight is an effective organ for
public education. But to describe this "court-
seeking psychology" as a "Right from responsi-
bility" and as the cause of the "security-firsters"
taking over is a complete misreading of history.
Recourse to the courts has never been a first
step. It has always followed (and by many
years) the action already taken by those indif-
ferent or antagonistic to liberty.
Perhaps the true meaning of Mr. Westin’s
approach is to be seen in his criticism of the
libertarians’ concern with procedure, with "due
process." That is always the point of attack of
those impatient to get things done. In the long
run it will prove more important to preserve
fair procedures than to convict a dozen Coplons.
(As a matter of fact, reasonably decent police work would have insured her conviction any-
way.) And it is not lack of understanding of
the "revolutionary" character of our times that
underlies this attitude. The world has wit-
nessed countless revolutionary times. Always
attempts to restrict liberty have been justified
on the plea of the necessity of those times.
Always a few men have withstood those pres-
sures. They have been remembered: Lilburnm,
Voltaire, Peter Zenger, Tom Paine-in our
day an Arthur Garfield Hays….
New York City
Early Resort Discrimination
An example of discrimination at a vacation
resort antedating by a generation the one
given by Charles Abrams (". .. Only the Very
Best Christian Clientele," January 1955) is to
be found in Matthew Hale Smith’s Sunshine
and Shadow in New York (1868). A certain
Long Branch hotel attracted leading families
with the express understanding that Jews would
be excluded (pp. 452-53). Smith, who charac-
terizes lower-class Jews as "disagreeable," also
informs us that when any considerable number
of Jews moved into a neighborhood, the Gentile
populace would leave. New Yorkers of the
Civil War era, according to this source, in-
variably asked, before buying a house, whether
any Jews lived on the block. BENJAMIN J. KLEBANER
The City College of New York
New York City
"Judaism in Islam"
May I say that I read Rabbi Gerson D.
Cohen’s review of Professor A. I. Katsh’s Ju-
daism in Islam (February 1955) with a great
deal of pain. It reads not like an academic criti-
cism but a vendetta. The spirit as well as the
style is deplorable. I found Dr. Katsh’s book
to be sufficiently well written for the average
man; sufficiently learned to be appreciated by
the scholar. What the reviewer calls "swollen
notes" represents indeed the fruit of careful
study and a fine moral sensitiveness giving
credit to all his sources….
In my own thesis I used Geiger’s famous
opus as well as the Arabic commentaries cited
in Judaism in Islam. I would unhesitatingly
describe Dr. Katsh’s book as a real contribution
to Judeo-Islamnic learning and of great impor-
tance in the study of comparative religion. The
running commentary in particular deserves
much praise.
My objection is based not only on your re-
viewer’s ungracious failure to acknowledge the
solid value of the study, but on dikdukei aniyut
-the stressing of five-and-ten-cent items as if
they had basic significance … (Rabbi) LEO JUNG
New York City
I wish to correct the erroneous statement
made in my article "Storm Over the Investi-
gating Committees" (February 1955) that the
National Lawyers Guild is on the subversive
list and to express my regret for this unfortu-
nate error. JAMES RORTY
Flatbrookville, New Jersey

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