ATLANTIC CITY (Sep. 8)
In one of the most dramatic moments in the last decade of American Jewish history the 10th plenary conference of the National Community Relations Advisory Council early today voted to accept a compromise plan of reorganization of community relations work previously rejected by two of its member agencies.
Immediately after the voting on this reorganization proposal spokesmen for the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee formally announced that the Council’s decision had made continued membership by the two agencies impossible and that they were recommending withdrawal from the advisory body.
At separate meetings last night the delegations of the two organizations voted to retire immediately from further participation in the conference deliberations. An ADL spokesman said today the delegation did not consider it proper to participate in the election and budget discussions of an organization from which it was withdrawing. The delegates of the two agencies did not participate in today’s deliberations. Officers of both organizations acted today to secure speedy ratification by their execu- tive bodies of the decision on withdrawal. The American Jewish Committee’s formal decision is expected in advance of the semi-annual meeting of its executive committee next month.
Irving Kane, chairman of NCRAC, who presided at the session, described the occasion as “the saddest moment of my life.” He received warm applause, however, when he declared firmly that the NCRAC would continue. He appealed to the delegates of the two dissenting agencies to reconsider before taking any irrevocable measures.
Opposition of the two organizations to the plan of reorganization proposed by the Special Evaluative Committee of NCRAC had been firm and uncompromising throughout a day of debate. Alternative proposals, which they described as their maximum concession were submitted by the two agencies, but found little or no support outside their ranks.
JWV TRIES TO BREAK DEADLOCK; OFFERS COMPROMISE
In a move to end the impasse and provide a basis for action which would permit the two dissenting agencies to remain within the NCRAC fold the Jewish War Veterans introduced a resolution which, while maintaining the principles of the Evaluative Committee’s report, nevertheless was considered to provide a basis on which the two organizations could remain within NCRAC.
The proposal, introduced by Joseph F. Barr of Washington, member of the JWV executive board, was accepted by the other four national organizations and by the community councils in caucuses last night, but was flatly rejected by the two dissenting agencies. It was adopted this morning by the plenary session with several amendments by a vote of 54 to 17, with six abstentions. Ten of the opposition votes were cast by the American Jewish Committee and the ADL and seven came from four communities.
The Barr resolution, as amended, provides for complete sharing of program plans among all NCRAC member agencies. NCRAC committees, in which the communities would be represented along with the national agencies, would continue to formulate policy and program.
In regard to division of labor, the resolution scrapped the assignment proposed by the NCRAC Special Evaluative Committee and set up a new procedure under which all agencies in the field would submit their recommendations to the appropriate NCRAC committee which would determine the division of labor within its field by a majority vote. Decisions would be subject to review by the NCRAC executive committee.
For the concept of “exclusive responsibility” contained in the Evaluative Committee report, the Barr resolution substituted “primary responsibility” and did not rule out activity by other organizations. The resolution, as amended, gave the American Jewish Committee and the ADL primary responsibility in the areas of intercultural education, and investigation and counter-action, but otherwise provided for division of labor within areas rather than assignment of areas as a whole as in the Evaluative Committee plan.
To provide further time for negotiations, the effective date for the new program was fixed as December L.
Late last night, after hours of fruitless negotiation and discussion, it became clear that the two dissenting agencies would not budge from their positions and would not go beyond their own proposals. It became equally clear that the Barr resolution would bring the showdown and several pleas were made to the assembly to avoid any action that would bring about a split. Just before the rollcall on the reso- tion, Jacob Blaustein and Ben Herzberg for the American Jewish Committee sounded their final warning against its adoption and Philip Klutznick for the ADL warned that adoption of the resolution would transform the NCRAC from its present status as an advisory body into a new agency.
Following the vote, Mr. Klutznick, visibly moved, told the session that the B’nai B’rith would have to take action to withdraw from membership in the NCRAC-an act he called “a tragedy.” Mr. Elaustein announced similarly that the officers of the American Jewish Committee would recommend to their executive committee withdrawal from the NCRAC.
DELEGATES ASK A J C, A DL TO REMAIN
In a supplementary resolution adopted by a voice vote the conference appealed to the two agencies to remain within the NCRAC fold. Dr. Israel Goldstein, president of the American Jewish Congress, and Mendel Silberberg of Los Angeles, in speeches, to the assembly urged the two organizations to remain in the NCRAC.
In a statement which at times brought tears to the eyes of many delegates and moved most of the assemblage, Irving Kane, NCRAC chairman, declared firmly that “through a thoroughly democratic process today, this morning, this plenum has met up to its obligations and has taken action and acted maturely.” He assured the plenum that if the two agencies have to withdraw from NCRAC “it will not be a withdrawal in response to action taken here on the question of division of labor. It would constitute a rejection of the aims and objectives of the NCRAC. Let no one be misled what the real issue is.”
Turning to the two dissenting organizations he urged them to “consider what it is you are escaping from and where it is you are escaping to. You are escaping from the only instrument which the American Jewish community has ever forged which has some possibility of bringing about some degree of common sense in this field of work, the only instrument we have which provides some degree of fellowship in this field of work, and the only instrument which preserves and, yes, protects your autonomy, and you would be escaping to islands of loneliness and isolation from the American Jewish community.”
A resolution reaffirming belief in the United Nations as an instrument of progress toward “a just and peaceful world” was adopted at the closing session of the conference. It memorialized the U.S. Senate to ratify the genocide convention and called on the U.S. mission to the U.N. to speed completion of the Covenant on Human Rights.
On the national scene the delegates commended the political parties for condemning injection of racial and religious bigotry in the election. Another resolution commended President Truman for naming a committee to study the immigration and naturalization laws.
The conference called on all agencies of the government for legislation to insure the civil rights of all Americans and urged the Senate to revise its rules so as to end filibusters. Another resolution reaffirmed faith in the concept of public education, commended the public schools for initiating programs of inter-cultural education and denounced “indiscriminate and baseless attacks” on the public schools by “various anti-democratic groups and individuals.”
The officers of NCRAC were re-elected to serve another year. Irving Kane of Cleveland was re-elected chairman; Sidney Hollander of Baltimore and Bernard H. Trager of Bridgeport, vice-chairmen; Julian A. Kiser of Indianapolis, secretary; David L. Ullman of Philadelphia, treasurer; Isaiah M. Minkoff of New York, executive director.