PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 23)
“Panic proposals” to combat vandalism and hate literature were attacked today by the American Jewish Congress as ineffective and a threat to civil liberties. Concluding a two-day meeting here the national administrative committee of the AJC warned in a resolution against attempts to curb bigotry and bombings by group libel legislation, postal censorship or Congressional investigations.
Such proposals, the resolution said, were dangerous because: 1. They treat the symptoms rather than the causes of recent violence and defamation; 2. They engender fear and hysteria; and 3. They threaten basic American freedoms.
The resolution said that recent anti-Semitic outbreaks must be considered as part of the general breakdown of respect for law in the South following the 1954 Supreme Court decision on school segregation. Responsibility for this lawlessness, the resolution stated, rests with Governors, Senators and other public officials who have expressed defiance of the Constitution.
The resolution emphasized that anti-Jewish defamation, vandalism and terror constitute a serious problem that should not be underestimated, but it scored exaggerations of the extent of the problem as tending to incite panic or hysteria. Hate mongering and anti-Jewish vandalism operate in cycles, the AJC statement declared. While the volume is high today, there is no reason to believe it will not again fall to lower levels. It urged that anti-Semitic attacks be placed in their proper perspective.
One of the most regrettable consequences of the fear rising out of exaggerated accounts of race hate publications and anti-Semitic violence, the AJC resolution stated, is that in the effort to suppress lawlessness, lawless measures should be urged. “We oppose the enactment of legislation that would make it a penal offense to defame racial or religious groups, the resolution said. “The same group libel statute that might be used to jail or silence hate mongers today can be used tomorrow to silence unpopular minorities whose views merit great public consideration. Freedom to express unpopular opinions is essential to our democratic tradition.” Another threat to civil liberties was seen in proposals that would give postal authorities the power to exclude from the mails publications libeling racial or religious groups.
The American Jewish Congress statement proposed: 1. A Federal law to make the transportation of explosives across state lines with the intent to use them against communal buildings business places or dwellings a Federal offense; 2. Vigorous enforcement by the Department of Justice of present laws making it a Federal offense to conspire to deprive persons of federally secured rights; 3. A probe by the Department of Justice and the Federal Commission on Civil Rights of the denial of voting rights in the South; and 4. Acceptance of “full responsibility” by the Executive and Legislative Branches to implement the mandate of equality of education laid down by the Supreme Court.
DR. GOLDMANN, FABBI PRINZ CALL FOR CONSOLIDATION OF JEWISH FORCES
Addressing the 300 leaders of the American Jewish Congress from all parts of the country, Dr. Joachim Prinz, national president of the American Jewish Congress, called for consolidation of all forces in American Jewish life committed to preserving Jewish peoplehood, strengthening Jewish identity and building a partnership with the people of Israel. Dr. Prinz urged a realignment of Zionist and other bodies in the United States that share a belief in the unity of the Jewish people around the world and in a common Jewish destiny.
He urged that these forces reorganize to meet the following main tasks: 1. Fulfillment of the American dream of full equality in a free society; 2. Acceptance of the concept of Jewish identification and Jewish peoplehood; 3. Creation of a meaningful, two-way relationship with the people of Israel.
Recalling that the American Jewish Congress was established 40 years ago as the representative and central organization of American Jewry, Dr. Prinz asked if it is not now appropriate to re-group those like-minded forces in American Jewish life for the achievement of common objectives. He said the AJC is the natural gathering place for the process of realignment and consolidation necessary to offer a “total program” for the contemporary American Jew who is determined to work toward a fuller democracy in America and yet who will not permit himself to deny or dilute his identity with the Jewish people both here and in the world.
Included in this identity with the Jewish people, Dr. Prinz said, must be the establishment of a “firm and free partnership with the people of Israel.” He warned that the concept of Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood is “by no means” accepted by the majority of American Jewry. Much missionary and educational work will have to be done in order to re-educate the new generation, he cautioned.
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress and of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told the audience that “the lack of a common platform where the great problems and policies of the American Jewish community could be aired is
preventing American Jewry from effectively playing its leading role in world Jewish affairs.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Dr. Israel Goldstein, former president of the American Jewish Congress. He said that there was a need for the American Jewish community to have “one representative, democratically constituted” organization to act as its spokesman.
A plaque was presented to Samuel Daroff of Philadelphia in recognition of his work as a member of the AJC and as a leader of the Jewish community here. The plaque signified that a room in his honor had been dedicated at the Stephen Wise Congress House, congress national headquarters in New York.