WASHINGTON (May. 16)
The B’nai B’rith concluded its five-day, triennial convention here today by adopting resolutions criticizing the Soviet Union for its treatment of Jews, and “deploring” the recent United Nations Security Council censure of Israel.
The convention also elected its top officers. Label A. Katz, of New Orleans, 43, youngest leader ever to head the organization in its 119-year-old history, was re-elected President by acclamation. He will serve for the next three years.
The resolution concerning the situation of the Jews in the USSR called upon the Soviet Union’s Government to end its “discriminatory practices toward the Jewish religion and Jewish culture.” Noting that, since 1948, the Soviet authorities have eliminated “all Jewish cultural activities, except for a recently established, bi-monthly magazine of limited circulation,” the resolution requested the Soviet Government “to fulfill its own constitutional provisions concerning freedom of worship and the rights of nationalities.”
In regard to the UN, the other major resolution described the anti-Israeli censure measure of last month as “less than even-handed,” in that it failed to condemn Syria “for the provocations to which Israel had responded.” The effect of the Security Council action, B’nai B’rith held, was “to weaken the United Nations in its ability to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli situation.” The resolution requested both the United States Government and the United Nations “to use their good offices to bring about direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab states.”
SPECIAL PROJECT TO AID SEPHARDI EDUCATION IN ISRAEL; PRAISED BY BEN-GURION
In another development at today’s wind-up session, the 1,200 convention delegates adopted a scholarship aid program for expanded opportunities for secondary education among Israeli youth. The project is designed “to encourage high school study, particularly among Sephardi youth, and to assist the amalgamation of Israel’s disparate population.” Israel currently provides free, compulsory education only through the primary grades. The scholarships will be for $300 a year each, about equal to tuition and other costs in Israeli secondary schools. The number of scholarships to be awarded annually will be determined by the amount of funds raised by the organization beyond its present fund-raising programs.
In an appeal to the convention for support of the program, Morris Alexander, of Chicago, chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Israel Commission, said that Israel’s financial burdens, caused by heavy expenditures for defense, immigration and economic development, “mean there is no prospect for free public secondary schools for at least another generation.” Joining that appeal, Mr. Katz told the convention that “the lack of secondary education is particularly acute among children of Sephardi families, a result of the radical adjustment the Sephardi immigrant must make to acclimate to his new life in a modern western civilization.”
Mr. Katz read a letter from Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion condemning B’nai B’rith for considering the scholarship program. Mr. Ben-Gurion stated that, because the Sephardi “generally lacks the training and technical skills that fit into an industrialized society, he is restricted to unskilled employment and generally unable to finance the cost of secondary education for his children. The Israel leader declared that Israel school attendance figures show that 55 percent of the primary grade enrollment is Sephardi, but that Sephardi enrollment falls to 27 percent in general and technical secondary schools, and to about seven percent in institutions of higher learning. The Israeli Premier said that, “apart from the physical security of our state, Israel has no problem more urgent or critical” than that “of widening the possibilities of secondary education.”