MIAMI BEACH (Apr. 14)
American Jews have a distinct right to speak out on Israeli issues of concern to Jews as a whole-without intervening in any phase of Israel’s political life-Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, declared here tonight.
Dr. Prinz made that statement in addressing the opening session of the organization’s five day, biennial convention. More than 500 delegates were in attendance, and cheered a message from President Johnson which lauded the AJC’s “dedication to the cause of democracy at home and freedom abroad. ” “Your role on behalf of civil rights for all Americans,” the President stated in his message to the convention, “your commitments to civil liberties, and your search for harmonious interreligious relations in the American society, are in keeping with the basic elements of freedom and liberty upon which our nation’s growth and development has been based.”
Dr. Prinz in his presidential address, linked the AJC’s well-known participation in the current American fight for civil rights for Negroes with the right of liberal groups participating in any campaign to criticize certain “gimmicks and demonstrations for the sake of demonstrating.” Such a right, he maintained, applied also to American Jewish groups in their attitude toward Israel.
“As Jews who shared the prophetic dream that led to the creation of the Jewish State, and who have demonstrated a love ot Israel and support of its goals, ” he declared, “we have the right to speak as friends and partners with the people of Israel on issues of justice, peace, equality and spiritual life.”
WARNS AGAINST POLITICAL INTERFERENCE, INSISTS ON ‘PARTNERSHIP’
Dr. Prinz said that American Jews “do not have the right to interfere with Israel’s political life. “But he drew a distinction between Israel as a sovereign state and as “the land of our ancient history, land of refuge for our persecuted brothers, land of hope for our new Jewish creativity.” “These links, and not our monetary contributions to the upbuilding of Israel, entitle us to a fully recognized partnership with the people of Israel in the fulfilment of their and our age-old dreams” he said.
“What we think is right and just in our own country,” he told the delegates, “must be just and right in Israel. What we find wanting in America-the imperfections of democracy we recognize and seek to correct-must also be considered faulty and in need of correction in Israel. This is particularly true in the areas of moral and ethical concern, without which no state can hope to endure: Equality of rights, social justice and religious freedom.
“If Israel is to play a role in the cultural survival of world Jewry, we shall and must claim our rights to a cultural and spiritual partnership with its people. Even our most critical voices must be understood and heard as the voices of a friend.
“Such an opportunity arose recently when we in the American Jewish Congress spoke together with other major Jewish organizations in this country on behalf of religious freedom in Israel. Although we have been harshly criticized for this by the defenders of the status quo, many important groups in Israel have expressed a cordial and sympathetic interest in our concern, welcomed our intervention and indicated they share our point of view. I hope that this will prove to be but the first step toward the establishment of a genuine partnership of mutual concern that American Jewry and the people of Israel must forge together.”
KANE SAYS AMERICAN JEWRY MUST ACT BOLDLY; SEES HOPE IN YOUTH
Irving Kane, former president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, and chairman of the convention, told the delegates that the “unfinished business of American Jewry, to make sure our children will want to be Jews,” required that the Jewish community act boldly on current issues.
“Our young people will find little reason to identify themselves with a Jewish community that acts with fear or timidity on the issues of our times,” he declared. “On the contrary, we will attract and hold our best young people by continuing to fight the good fight as Jews, with the courage and compass on our prophets enjoined upon us.”
Mr. Kane rejected the notion that “we need a little bit of anti-Semitism as a kind of cement to hold Jewry together. ” He said that prejudice against Jews still existed in the United States but added: “I do not underestimate them, but neither do I permit myself to be frightened by them. I believe the question posed so frequently: ‘Will Jewish life continue under conditions of freedom?’ has been answered decisively for our generation at least. Jews want to remain Jews.”