The Battle for the Sabbath at Geneva

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The title of my paper is " The Battle for the Sabbath at Geneva." I ought to add the dates, " 1924-1931," to indicate that it was not one battle, but a series of battles ; that it was, in fact, a conflict extending over seven years. The scene of conflict, or the preparation for it, shifted from Geneva to Paris, Washington, Frankfort, London; return? ing for its culminating stage to Geneva. Nearly every Jewish com? munity in the world eventually participated in what they deemed to be a Holy War, and millions watched its outcome with the gravest anxiety. But its bearings went far beyond the Jewish camp. Nothing less than the question of the spiritual and human rights of all religious minorities was at stake. Such a conflict is of more than ephemeral interest. And as a coming generation may have to meet a similar and perhaps stronger assault on the Sabbath Day, it is the plain duty of those who fought this fight to record the story, on the one hand, of the far flung activities of the powerful forces in favour of a radical alteration of the Calendar ; and, on the other hand, of the efforts made by world Jewry to ward off the threatened catastrophe to Jewish religious life.

It was in 1923 that an autonomous section of the League of Nations ?the one dealing with Communications and Transit?called into existence a Special Committee of Enquiry into the Reform of the Calendar. WThy the Assembly of the League should have given its assent to such an undertaking remains a mystery even to some of the statesmen who are the architects of the League, like Viscount Cecil and General Smuts. Certainly, the time could not have been more ill-chosen. The Great War had been over only four years. In some lands it was followed by massacre, famine and plague ; in others, economic founda? tions were sinking and there was real danger of social disintegration, such as had overwhelmed Russia. And on the morrow of all this woe and disillusion, and on the brink of such threatened upheaval, the League of Nations could still think it worth while to embark on a quixotic enterprise like calendar tinkering. Furthermore, the Gregorian Calendar had, in the course of the twentieth century, become universal. China had adopted it in 1912, Turkey followed in 1917, Russia in 1918, and, finally, Greece in 1923. In that very year, then, when the whole civilised world had at long last acknowledged allegiance to one calendar, the League decided to start a new era of confusion for humanity. More important still, the demand for changing the Calendar, or any demonstration of its alleged need, did not come from the Universities ?from Oxford, Jena, the Sorbonne, Padua, or Johns Hopkins. Neither did it come from great learned societies like the Royal Society in London, or the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. The impetus to the whole venture was due solely to American commercial and finan? cial

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