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International B’nai B’rith President Outlines Stand on Tel Aviv Ban

Dr. William A. Wexler, international president of B’nai B’rith, said today in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the decision to deny use of the B’nai B’rith building in Tel Aviv for Jewish Reform worship was a local decision that required careful study by the international organization, and would be reviewed at a meeting of the B’nai B’rith International executive committee in New York, on March 6.

Dr. Wexler said the B’nai B’rith International Council’s recommendations would be submitted to the organization’s board of governors for a final determination and course of action. “It appears that B’nai B’rith has become a sudden and innocent focus of the otherwise drawn-out controversy over the status of religion in Israel, “he declared.” We regret this deeply.

“The basic purpose of B’nai B’rith is to encourage Jewish life in all its options. Our programs are specifically designed to respect and embrace all religious ideologies of Judaism with partisanship toward none. This has been, and persists as, our philosophy and practice.

“There is another fundamental aspect of B’nai B’rith: As a mass membership movement with an international constituency in 44 free nations, we respect the fact that diversities in policies and practices will arise out of local cultures and customs. Therefore, B’nai B’rith traditionally has operated with a large measure of local autonomy among its nationality groups.

“The decision affecting the B’nai B’rith building in Tel Aviv was a local one. We believe, on the basis of preliminary reports, that the B’nai B’rith leadership in Israel acted in good faith and without hostility toward any form of Judaism. But the reports also point up the fact that the issue was complicated by many factors, some of them contradictory, as well as by legal issues. These need to be studied carefully, not hastily.

“We are still gathering pertinent information, and the matter will be reviewed at the executive committee meeting of the B’nai B’rith International Council, next month, in New York. The Council’s recommendations will then be submitted to B’nai B’rith’s board of governors for a final determination and course of action,” Dr. Wexler concluded.