“There are two words I should like to strike from our vocabulary: ‘surveys’ and ‘survival'”

There are two words I should like to strike from our vocabulary: “surveys” and “survival.”

Our community is in spiritual distress, and some of our organizations are often too concerned with digits. Our disease is loss of character and commitment, and the cure of our plight cannot be derived from charts and diagrams.

When surveys become an obsession, a sacred cow that eats up vast energies, they may yield confirmation of little more than what we know in advance. It is in such a spirit that undertaking surveys is an evasion of creative action, a splendid illusion.

To ascertain facts, one must employ a method appropriate to the facts. Some facts are subject to measurement, while others are immeasurable. The number of children receiving no Jewish education may be established by statistics, while the alarming inadequacy of most of Jewish education as well as the bankruptcy of understanding thus revealed – the two issues which ought to occupy us intensely – require a different perspective of thinking. The delusive clarity of detached facts has prevented us from engaging in seeking ways of dealing with the meaning of the facts.

Sociological descriptions are helpful in expanding awareness of the facts. They should not be expected to unlock the resources of creative imagination by which to modify the facts.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Existence and Celebration”, in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996), 29. Originally delivered as “Existence and Celebration” in Montreal to General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds (New York: Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, 1965).

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