ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (Jun. 27)
The National Community Relations Advisory Council–coordinating body of eight national Jewish organizations and 76 local community relation agencies–completed its annual plenary session here today with a warning to the American Jewish Community that it must exercise unremitting vigilance to insure that the principle of separation of church and state is not breached in the implementing of the federal aid to education program and the war on poverty.
At the same time it adopted a resolution appealing to all federal, state and local officials involved in expenditure of federal funds for elementary and secondary school education under the new federal aid program to take adequate measures to “assure that state constitutional prohibitions against aid to religious institutions are not violated.” It also urged them to “exercise scrupulous care against involvement of religious groups in curriculum planning or administration of public school programs.”
The resolution–on a subject which has created a great deal of friction between Orthodox and other Jewish groups which welcome federal aid to religious schools, and Jewish agencies which had feared the breaching of the separation of church-state principle–was acted on here with a remarkable degree of unanimity. It expressed recognition of the need for federal aid to education but stressed the need for alertness to “any steps which would impair the principle of separation of church and state, promote religious divisiveness and strengthen sectarian education at the expense of improving education equally available to all children.”
At the same time the conference reminded American Jewry that its entire community relations program for the coming year must be envisioned within the framework of the struggle for racial equality. Deliberations at the conference reflected the shift in emphasis from the struggle for civil rights to the broader arena of equality of opportunity.
President Johnson, in a message to the conference, said “America is today meeting a challenge much broader than that of the civil rights of man. Citizens are striving to eliminate the curse of poverty to improve educational possibilities for youth and to reduce unemployment. We are meeting the challenge of human rights and we are working progressively to create a good life.” He praised the NCRAC for its role in this activity and appealed “to all of you to sustain and deepen your commitment as we work together in this great task.”
In a recommendation dealing with the problem of prayer and Bible reading in the public schools the guide lines urged a survey to establish the extent to which the Supreme Court ruling outlawing prayer in the public schools was being observed and to establish the nature of non-compliance and evasion in order to eliminate unconstitutional practices.
ASKS FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION FOR SOVIET JEWS
After protracted discussion of the condition of Soviet Jewry the conference adopted a resolution calling on “men of good faith in all lands to join with us in a concerted demand upon the Soviet Government to put an end to its religious and cultural persecution of Soviet Jewry.” The resolution urged the United States Government to “pursue this matter vigorously through various diplomatic channels and within the United Nations.”
The resolution also expressed confidence that men of good will everywhere will join with us in calling on the Soviet authorities to end the restrictions and deprivations that deny to Soviet Jewry the rights that are granted to other nationalities and other major religious bodies in the USSR.”
The resolution cited recent developments in the Soviet Union which it said suggested an amelioration of the situation of Soviet Jewry. It concluded, however, that “these changes have not affected any fundamental changes in the tragic situation of Soviet Jewry nor do they in and of themselves justify the hope that the new Soviet leadership are removing the barriers of discrimination that apply to Jews.”
The conference also adopted a resolution calling on Congress to “complete the unfinished business it began in 1949” and ratify the United Nations Genocide Convention. It urged President Johnson and the U.S. State Department “to express more affirmative leadership” in pressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to schedule early hearings on the Human Rights treaties on forced labor, slavery and the political rights of women and to report the Genocide convention out of committee without delay.
The conference also urged the 89th Congress to “play the historic role of eliminating the shameful national origins quota system” by passage of the administration sponsored Hart-Celler immigration bill.
URGES U.S. GOVERNMENT TO EXTEND DIRECT ARMS AID TO ISRAEL
In a resolution on the Middle East adopted with little discussion and virtual unanimity the conference declared that Egyptian President Nasser’s campaign for hegemony in the Arab world and his hostility to Israel as well as Arab water diversion activities threatened the peace of the world.
After describing these Arab activities, the resolution affirmed that “under these circumstances it is clear that Israel must be provided the necessary military strength to effectively deter aggression by the Arab states.” It therefore called on the United States Government to extend direct arms aid to Israel instead of through other countries “to assure Israel of the capacity to maintain a convincing and effective deterrent to Arab aggression and thus to reinforce America’s commitment to Israel’s security.”
The resolution condemned “the criminal waste of the area’s most precious resource–water–to which the Arab states have committed themselves and it called on the American Government to “condemn destructive acts of water diversion and to make it clear to the Arab countries that such acts constitute aggression which they cannot pursue with impunity.”
The resolution also endorsed amendment of the Export Control Act of 1949 to strengthen resistance to the Arab boycott and urged the Administration to issue regulations to curb and eliminate boycott procedures. It concluded by proposing that “bringing the Arab states to the peace table with Israel be the unequivocal policy goal of our Government.”
OPPOSES FREE TRANSPORTATION FOR PUPILS OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS
The conference concluded with a recommendation to the Jewish community to continue efforts to find means for court tests of the constitutionality of the controversial church-state provisions of the law. It advised the Jewish agencies to seek inclusion of representatives sensitive to these viewpoints and broadly representative of the Jewish community in such advisory committees as may be set up to implement the school aid program. It also recommended opposition to legislation to provide free bus transportation for pupils attending non-public schools. Aaron Goldman of Washington was re-elected NCRAC chairman.
Bayard Rustin, the Negro civil rights leader, addressing the conference, appealed to the Jewish community to take the lead in creating a wide coalition of all liberal forces to wage the war for economic equality. He deplored the fact that many Negroes were unaware of the role of the Jews in the Negro struggle and proposed that the story of the late Julius Rosenwald and his contributions to Negro education be written for young Negroes.