NEW YORK (Mar. 5)
A group of major American Jewish organizations Thursday cabled Israel Prime Minister Levi Eshkol urging him to resist pressure by “extremist religious groups” in the United States supporting legislation that would abridge religious freedom in Israel.
The organizations charged that the extremist groups sought “by coercion” to deprive Jews in Israel of full religious freedom. The message was signed by: Morris B. Abram, president, American Jewish Committee; Dr. Joachim Prinz, president, American Jewish Congress; Label Katz, president, B’nai B’rith; Rabbi Leon I. Feuer, president, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Theodore Friedman, president, Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and George Maislen, president, United Synagogue of America.
Noting that the “overwhelming majority” of American Jews support “the basic Jewish position of separation of church and state and freedom of religious belief, practice and instruction for all,” the organizations cited the support they had given to the Draft Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Religious Intolerance adopted last January by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities.
“We cannot allow the actions of one segment of American Jewry to convey the impression that the Jewish community is prepared to endorse positions directly contrary to the spirit of that declaration,” the organizations stated.
“We reject the attempt of the extremist religious elements to polarize the American Jewish community into two opposing groups — religious and secularist — and their claim that they and they alone represent the Jewish religious community,” the cable added. “The truth is that in the American Jewish community there are several recognized and acknowledged religious constituencies.”
“We abhor any attempt by governmental authority — in the United States, in Israel, in the Soviet Union or anywhere else in the world — to interfere with the expression of religion in all its aspects,” the message concluded. “We know, Mr. Prime Minister, that you as well as the majority of your government and of the people of Israel who seek to establish a genuine democracy fully agree with our position. We express the hope that Israel will resist the attacks of the religious extremists and assure full religious freedom for all.”