Katz Calls on B’nai B’rith to Rally Behind Jewish ‘bill of Rights’

Delegates to B’nai B’rith’s triennial convention were urged here last night to rally behind a-three-point bill of rights for world Jewry. Addressing the opening session of the organization’s five-day convention, B’nai B’rith president Label A. Katz, of New Orleans, said implementation of his proposals would serve as an important step in carrying out what he called the organization’s most important objective– “the continuity of Jewish peoplehood.” He listed the three principles as:

1. The right of Jews, wherever they live, “to physical security, spiritual freedom and equality of opportunity”; 2. The right of Jews “as the right of all men”–to emigrate “to any land that welcomes them”; 3. The right of Jews, “wherever they live,” to be Jewish on their own terms.

“The whittling down of space has narrowed the geography of Jewish life,” Mr. Katz asserted. “The built-in seismograph of the Jewish community has become so sensitive that, when there are tremors in any part of the Jewish world, the reverberations touch us all. This world-wide Jewish community could not, even if it wanted to, isolate itself in a political ghetto.”

In terms of specifics, the B’nai B’rith president said “there is need for a deepening relationship “between Israel and the rest of the world Jewish community. In addition, he said there is need: “To expose and protest the cruel impeachments of Jewish life in the Soviet Union”; “for rescue and rehabilitation in some areas, and closer cultural ties in other areas, of the Jewish world”; “for a mature and realistic understanding” of the distinctions and ethnic diversities among the Jews of the world.

With respect to Soviet Jewry, Mr. Katz said that, although “there is reason to suspect that the Kremlin’s discriminatory behavior toward its Jewish citizens has created the embar rassing dilemman for the Kremlin,” there is still cause for great concern for the three million Jews in Russia.

He said one consequence of the Soviet anti-Jewish campaign has been the development of “a persistent group consciousness among Soviet Jews.” The B’nai B’rith president, who visited the Soviet Union on an unofficial tour last summer, said “many young Jews, whom Soviet leaders hoped to rush into total assimilation; now cling as best they can, yet more desperately, to their Jewish heritage.” He described the Kremlin campaign against Jews as a “two-pronged” effort designed to deny Jews the right to “live as Jews in their homeland” and to “leave voluntarily for a land more hospitable to Jewish life.”

YOUTH ACTIVITIES IN U. S. A. SEEN OFFERING ‘SEVERE CHALLENGE’

On internal matters, Mr. Katz reported that B’nai B’rith “had budgeted and spent” $20 million on its programs and activities during the past three years, and predicted that the organization’s continuing growth in membership and its “unmet backlog of demands” would cause the figure to rise to $40 million within ten years.

Mr. Katz described B’nai B’rith’s youth services as “the most severe challenge” facing the organization, “notwithstanding the fact that we have added another $270,000 for youth activities this year.” He attributed the growing demands for B’nai B’rith’s youth-serving agencies to the postwar baby boom and to the fact that “thousands upon thousands of our youth, in sharp contradistinction to the hollow and escapist attitude for Judaism of their parents’ generation, are today intellectually and spiritually in search of their heritage and future as Jews. They are eager and proud to be Jewish. They are also unsure of how to be Jewish in a meaningful way. The dilemma is more ours than theirs. It is an admission of our own adult delinquencies.”

NEXT STORY