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Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Leon Fram on 25 March 1935

https://opensiddur.org/?p=54988 Prayer of the Guest Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives: Rabbi Leon Fram on 25 March 1935 2024-03-23 11:20:31 The Opening Prayer given in the U.S. House of Representatives on 25 March 1935. Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Leon Fram the Congressional Record of the United States of America https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (transcription) https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ Opening Prayers for Legislative Bodies United States of America Prayers of Guest Chaplains 74th Congress Fascism in North America 20th century C.E. תחינות teḥinot 57th century A.M. English vernacular prayer U.S. House of Representatives
Guest Chaplain: Rabbi Leon Fram, Temple Beth-El, Detroit, Michigan
Sponsor: n/a
Date of Prayer: 25 March 1935


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Lord our God and God of our fathers,
guided by Thy spirit and calling upon Thy name,
our forefathers came to this New World
and proceeded to establish a new society.
Strengthened by their faith in Thee,
they resisted the intolerance of the Old World
and established a new society
based upon mutual understanding.
They defeated
the political tyranny of the Old World
and erected a new society
of self-government and freedom.
They emancipated themselves
from the social oppressions of the Old World
and built a new society
based upon justice and righteousness.
They repudiated
the militaristic tradition of the Old World
and constructed a new United States of peace,
whose military forces shall be subordinate
to the civil government.
And now in this hour of tempest and conflict,
we pray to Thee, O God,
who createst the world anew every day,[1] As expressed in the shaḥarit in the qedushah in the penultimate blessing “yotser hemeorot” before the Shema, “הַמְחַדֵּשׁ בְּטוּבוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית.” Similarly, the Talmud Bavli in Chagigah 12b expresses the cosmological idea of the Divine continually upholding creation. That existence is sustained by the Creator in the divine mind at every moment (as the genesis of time itself depends on divine thought) is found in medieval speculative thought, philosophy, and mysticism. Expressions of this belief are also found in Islam (via Ibn Arabi, 1165-1240) and in Christianity (via John van Ruysbroeck, 1283/4-1381). 
help us to keep this our society
forever new,
forever young.
Let us never relapse
from the attitude of mutual tolerance
which we have achieved
into the intolerance
which at the very founding of our country
we sought to uproot from our hearts.
Let us never surrender our democracy
to the tyrannies against which
we once successfully rebelled.
Let us never settle back into
the social injustices and inequities
out of which we had emerged.
Let us never embrace again
that Old World militarist tradition
which at the beginning of our career
we repudiated.
O Father,
lend of Thine infinite wisdom
and Thy creative energy
unto these Thy children who constitute
this great legislative body.
May they continuously recapture
that youthful enthusiasm and flexibility
which characterizes the spirit of this Nation,
and as our legislatures once pioneered
on the trail of democracy,
so may they now clear the road
for national righteousness
and world peace.
Amen.

This prayer of the guest chaplain was offered in the third month of the first session of the 74th US Congress in the House of Representatives, and published in the Congressional Record, vol. 79, part 4 (1935), page 4368.

Rabbi Fram’s outspoken warning against rising intolerance (read: fascism) in the United States in this prayer attests to his activity during this period to raise awareness and concern over antisemitism in Detroit. In an interview for Michigan Jewish History in 1970 for his 75th birthday “The Saga of Rabbi Leon Fram, Dean of the Michigan Rabbinate,” he said (pp. 15-17):

How would you characterize the Jewish community of Detroit as you found it in 1925?

Complacency is again the word which most accurately describes the attitude of the American Jew in 1925. The Jews of Detroit felt themselves living on a plateau of infinite prosperity with its concommitants of security and general good-will. There was an emotional attachment to the status quo in everyhing. This is why my advocacy of social security, and the unionization of the automobile workers met with so much resistance. This was why my preachment of Zionism was deplored. This was also why my advocacy of practical defensive measures against Nazism in Europe and anti-semitism in America was so powerfully resisted.

Detroit Jews refused to believe there could be such a thing as anti-semitism in America. They knew, of course, that they were excluded from membership in the leading city and country clubs, that many residential neighborhoods and vacation resorts were closed to Jews by contract or “gentlemen’s agreement.” In the city of the machine, there was no opportunity for Jews in the engineering profession. They were aware of the fact that the first question every employment agency asked of an applicant was “What is your religion?” All these disturbing facts were simply swept under the carpet. They were the fault of the “pushy” Jews who provoked hostility. So when I helped organize the first mass protest meeting against Nazism, a meeting which received lavish notice in the Detroit press, I was told I was aggravating the situation rather than helping.

When I engaged in a telephone campaign to alert the Jewish community of Detroit to listen to Father Coughlin’s broadcasts when they had begun to take on an anti-semitic character, I was asked why I was creating a needless panic in the community. When I started advocating a boycott of Nazi goods and services, even the brilliant and progressive editor of the Detroit Jewish News warned me that the boycott was a “two-edged sword” that could hurt the Jews as much as the Nazis. Finally, of course, the menace of Nazism and the reality of anti-semitism in America became too obvious to be any longer ignored.

Then it was that the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit invited me to serve as the head of a new agency, the League for Human Rights. Immediately I secured the leading Protestant clergyman of the city, Rev. Edgar deWitt Jones, and the most popular Catholic priest of Detroit, Father Edward Hickey, to serve with me as co-chairmen. We opened an office, engaged a staff and proceeded to conduct a vigorous and successful boycott of Nazi goods. We literally cleared the shelves of all German products in the stores of Detroit. We also replied effectively to all anti-semitic broadcasts, and published refutations to anti-semitic propaganda wherever it appeared.

The need for defense against the rising tide of anti-semitism was the primary motivation for the establishment of the Jewish Community Council, another new agency of the Jewish Welfare Federation. I was called upon to serve as Chairman of its Committee on Community Relations, a position from which I could carry on the struggle for the preservation and the expansion of civil rights not only of Jews but of all minorities. The American Jewish Congress and its Michigan Council, called on me to lead its battle for the Separation of Church and State. This time my work had the full support of the entire Jewish community. It was in the exercise of these functions that I became associated with Frank Murphy and G. Mennen Williams. Out of this new militant spirit of the Jewish community there came such legislative victories in Detroit and in Michigan as the Fair Employment Practices Commission, the Civil Rights Commission, and the Absentee Voters Act, a law permitting a Jewish citizen to vote by absentee ballot when an election occurs on a Jewish Holiday.

Source(s)

Congressional Record, vol. 79, part 4 (25 March 1935), p. 4368

 

Notes

Notes
1As expressed in the shaḥarit in the qedushah in the penultimate blessing “yotser hemeorot” before the Shema, “הַמְחַדֵּשׁ בְּטוּבוֹ בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית.” Similarly, the Talmud Bavli in Chagigah 12b expresses the cosmological idea of the Divine continually upholding creation. That existence is sustained by the Creator in the divine mind at every moment (as the genesis of time itself depends on divine thought) is found in medieval speculative thought, philosophy, and mysticism. Expressions of this belief are also found in Islam (via Ibn Arabi, 1165-1240) and in Christianity (via John van Ruysbroeck, 1283/4-1381).

 

 

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