Waterbury Federation Backs Opponent of Religious Teaching in Schools

The Jewish Federation of Waterbury came today to the defense of a former Federation president, Howard R. Matzkin, who has been attacked here for allegedly advancing a “Jewish viewpoint” in his capacity as a member of the Waterbury School Board.

Mr. Matzkin, who has been a member of the School Board for three years, has consistently voted in the Board against permitting Catholics to use public schools for religious instruction. In one case, according to the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, a Catholic parish sought to use a public school for masses and confessions. The Board has consistently outvoted Mr. Matzkin, by margins of 8 to 1 and 9 to I, In recent weeks he has received “threatening telephone calls and vile letters,” the newspaper reported.

Mr. Matzkin was also criticized in the local morning newspaper which stated that his opposition to the use of public schools for religious purposes “will not promote overall community feelings.” On the other hand, the local evening newspaper, published by the same corporation, expressed its opinion editorially that Mr. Matzkin “is entirely sincere in his protests, and believes a principle is at stake.”

The Federation’s board of directors today voted a resolution supporting Mr. Matzkin’s stand and rejecting the editorial view “that any individual or group must remain silent in order to be tolerated, or that ‘good community feelings’ must be paid for by repression of differences.”

Mr. Matzkin declared today that, in his actions on the School Board, he was speaking as a citizen, not as a Jew. He declared that the moves proposed in the School Board “are not only morally wrong, they are legally wrong,” citing a clause in the State Constitution which declares that “no person shall be compelled to join or support any religious organization.”

Mr. Matzkin, who is a member of the Federation’s Community Relations Committee, was also supported by Peter Marcuse, secretary of the Connecticut Jewish Community Relations Council, Mr. Marcuse congratulated the Federation board for handling the issue “in a mature, sensible fashion.”

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