The worldly successes achieved by the Jewish people in the last few decades have carried with them a danger "greater . . . than Nazism," an elder statesman of world Jewry said here this week.
Dr. Nahum Goldman, 82, offered that warning in his annual report to a meeting of the general council of the World Jewish Congress, of which he is president.
According to Goldmann, the "external" strength and power which has come to world Jewry both in Israel and throughout the Western world has imperiled the "internal" life which, he said, sustained Jews as a "chosen people" through much of history.
Goldmann's analysis came in the context of his traditional annual examination of the state of the Jewish people. For centuries, he pointed out, Jews were "among the leaders of the 'have-nots', active in the fight against regimes which discriminated against classes or minorities."
But today, he said, Jews have "moved from one side of the barricades to the other. A majority of Jews support the stagus quo, sometimes are close to or in sympathy with conservative and reactionary regimes, thereby provoking anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attitudes among the leftist groups in various parts of the world who used to be our chief supporters, he said.
In addition, the "internal strength" that Jews derived from their strong sense of peoplehood - "religiously speaking, a chosen people" - is being eroded "as a consequence of our emancipation and the process of assimilation which set in," he declared.
"For centuries we were very weak externally and strong internally, said Goldmann. "Today the opposite is true. We have become externally more powerful than we ever were, but internally we are losing our strength."
The passionate theological debates in Jewish ghettoes of the past and the struggle of people to preserve their faith within a hostile, alien culture have been replaced in Jewish life today with "a struggle for positions, fund-raising, protests against all kinds of injustices," he said.
He maintained that "this weakening of the internal front, the disappearance of ideals and ideological discussion, the concenttation of our public life on organizational work" are in the long run "more destructive than pogroms and persecutions."
Goldmann's address here was the last he will give as president of the World Jewish Congress, which he helped to found 41 years ago to provide a worldwide focus for Hews, or, as he put it, "to creat an address for the Jewish people." He has announced his resignation from the presidency effective at the conclusion of the meeting here.
One result of the present situation, Goldman said, is "the elimination to a large degree of spiritual leadership in public Jewish life . . ."
He added that "the tragic contradiction is that at no time in Jewish life did we have so many intellectuals, scholars, professors, writers and artists as todap, but most of them have pabilities are not being utilized to insure our people's existence in the difficult circumstances of today."
An "even more disastrous consequence," Goldmann said, is "the growing indifference of the young generation towards the Jewish people. Complete ignorance of Jewish history, alienation from the Jewish community, mixed marriages, have brought about a situation where the majority of young Jews are practically outside the realm of Jewish creativity," he said.
To remedy the problem he called for "a vast system of Jewish schools" supported by as much money as now goes into armaments for Israel.
Goldman deplored what he said was the dwindling role of religion in Jewish life. "Nobody can deny that, if there is a Jewish people today, it owes its survival primarily to Jewish religion," he said. He called Judaism "not just a faith and an observance" but a force that dominated the life of Jews in nearly every waking moment.
"Whether one approves or regrets it, religion is no longer the dominant force in Jewish life today," he said. "The reality of Israel and of world Jewry today has not yet proven whether Zionism can have the same effectiveness in shaping Jewish existence everywhere as religion had in the past."