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Rabbis and Jewish Lay Leaders Discuss Viet Nam Issue at Conference

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A consensus for a military stalemate in Viet Nam allowing intensive effort for peace emerged here today as rabbis and lay leaders of the three religious movements in American Judaism — Orthodox, Conservative and Reform –held an all-day study conference on Judaism and world peace. The conference, held at Columbia University under the auspices of the Synagogue Council of America, the national coordinating agency for the rabbinic and congregational organizations of the three religious, groups, was called to air the issue and not to offer or adopt any resolutions on it.

Dr. Irving Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi and Associate Professor of History at Yeshiva University, called on religious groups to campaign to prevent “political reprisal if the administration explores the possibilities” of recognizing the Viet Cong or “a neutralist or Titoist solution. ” Pointing to the right under Jewish law to “conscientious objection to a specific war, ” Dr. Greenberg added: “Religious groups should evaluate and challenge the adequacy of the Administration’s efforts.”

Dr. Seymour Siegel, a Conservative rabbi and Associate Professor of Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, called for “holding the conflict within controllable bounds and actively and sacrificially seeking means to terminate the conflict” –a position, he said, which is similar in essence to that taken recently by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Dr. Siegel, who is also secretary of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, declared that “Even in the midst of a war, we are bidden always to seek the ways of peace and to preserve the dignity of our adversary. “

Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, a Reform rabbi and the chairman of the Committee on Justice and Peace of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform group, called on the United States to “desist” in Viet Nam, declaring that when Washington talks of “our commitments to the government of South Viet Nam, ” it means “our own propped up puppet of Saigon. ” He added that: “The majority of the population of South Viet Nam support the National Liberation Front and almost all the territory of the South is willingly under “Viet Cong’s control. “

Other discussants included Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Max J. Routtenberg, president of the Rabbinical Assembly; Moses I. Feurstein, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, director of the Commission on Interfaith Activities, Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rabbi Harry Halpern of United Synagogue of America; Rabbi Samuel D, Soskin, CCAR; and George Maislen, past president of the United Synagogue of America.

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