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Milwaukee’s Congregation Sinai and the ACJ

American Council For Judaism
Spring 1997

In a remembrance of Clarence L. Coleman, Jr. (ISSUES, Winter 1997), long time chairman of the board of the American Council for Judaism who died at the age of 93 on January 11, 1997, reference is made to Congregation Sinai of Milwaukee. Professor Thomas Kolsky, author of the book Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism 1942-1948, is quoted as stating that in the fall of 1952 three Council-sponsored "Schools for Judaism" opened, one of them in Milwaukee. "By the end of 1955," Kolsky wrote, "the parents of the students in the three original schools had actually founded religious congregations," one of which was Milwaukee’s Congregation Sinai. Rabbi Jay Brickman of Congregation Sinai reports that "this information is incorrect." He notes that, "Congregation Sinai, in its origin, leaned very much toward the Classical Reform position . . . There were members of the Council in the group which organized our congregation. But neither the congregation or its religious school had any formal relationship with the American Council for Judaism." Leonard Sussman, who served as Executive Director of the Council and was involved in its religious education program at the time Congregation Sinai was established, states that, "Rabbi Brickman is correct . . . that the original motivation for the temple was the Council’s orientation to ‘classic’ Reform Judaism. He is also correct in saying that there was never an organizational link between the Council and his congregation. There could not possibly have been. The Council was not in the business of running or even sponsoring congregations. We did, assuredly, play a major role in starting several . . . But even this relationship was based mainly on the presence of active Council members who formed the congregations on their own, with other parents but still with ACJ help in providing texts, teachers’ aides, etc." The Council did play an important role as the original inspiration for the creation of a number of religious schools which later evolved into congregations. We regret any misunderstanding with regard to Congregation Sinai and its connection with the Council.

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