22 • American Jewish Archives Journal
Four years beore the
, Kaplan had written his rst liturgical docu-ment,
e New Haggadah
Tat publication led the entire JS aculty to issuea unanimous letter to Kaplan, condemning him or liturgical blasphemy.
, a book that took the same “heretical” liberties as the
sent tidal waves through the Seminary.
JS President Louis Finkelsteinhad attempted to oster dialogue in the wider community o world Judaism andreligion.
Agudat HaRabbanim, by contrast, rejected any attempt to reconcilereligious and secular lie, and it oered only a sectarian sociology, a movemento sel-segregation in New York City.Even though Kaplan had already been a pariah on the aculty or much o his career at the Seminary, and the letter o condemnation about the
had served as a warning bell concerning his liturgical license while employedat the institution, Agudat HaRabbanim all but orced Finkelstein to deendKaplan against outside attack.
Finkelstein’s response to the
tangibly marked the Seminary as an institution that would mandate the representationo a plurality o belies, a undamental principle in the Conservative movement’semerging place o leadership in American Jewish lie during the 1950s.
Ancient Ritual in the Big Apple
Although the decision to issue a
grew rom Agudat HaRabbanim’svery traditional religious principles, the way in which it executed the
wasantithetical to the very abric o the organization. While ghting to secludeitsel rom secular society during the rst hal o the twentieth century, AgudatHaRabbanim nevertheless used modern tools to shape the public scope o theevent in 1945. Notably, rather than hold the ceremony at a synagogue, it washeld in one o New York’s largest hotels, located at 34
Street and Broadway,in the center o downtown.
Te Hotel McAlpin served a double purpose or Agudat HaRabbanim. Onthe one hand, the sheer size o the hotel and its prominent position compelledattention— when the hotel was built in 1912, it was the largest hotel in the world.
But the location also held particular resonance or the Yiddish-speakingpress and public, Agudat HaRabbanim’s principal constituents: From 1932 to1938 the hotel hosted the Yiddish radio station, WEVD, beore the station latermoved up to 46
Using a dash o its own irony, the Reconstructionist Foundation also hostedits annual meeting in October 1945 at the Hotel McAlpin. While the topicsor the conerence—“Unity and Diversity in Jewish Lie “ and “Necessary Changes in Jewish Religious Belies”—could have served the needs o any Jewishorganization that sought to integrate Judaism and modernity, these choices ortopics particularly resonated in the very location where a group o rabbis hadburned a
only our months beore.