Convention of Jewish Social Workers Discusses ‘great Society’ Problems
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Convention of Jewish Social Workers Discusses ‘great Society’ Problems

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The question whether President Johnson’s “Great Society” programs are on a “collision course” with non-government welfare agencies — Jewish and non-Jewish — was raised here today at the opening session of the 68th annual meeting of the National Conference of Jewish Communal Service. The five-day parley, which is attended by more than 1, 000 Jewish communal workers, is devoted to the subject of how the Jewish community is to face the Great Society.

Dr. Benjamin B. Rosenberg, executive director of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, who delivered the keynote address, told the Jewish professional workers in the fields of Jewish welfare, health and communal services gathered from all parts of the country that, “in ever-increasing measure, Jewish communal services may need to focus on quality and intensity rather than on quantitative coverage of all segments of the Jewish community and all areas of need.”

Pointing out that, while the Great Society has been described as “an unprecedented series of legislative triumphs in all areas of social and economic welfare,” and “a massive attack on poverty and other forms of deprivation supported by massive funds,” Dr. Rosenberg stated that it has also been labeled as “a maze of national, regional and local conflicts and irritations with the inevitable political road blocks, putting more emphasis on quantity father than quality of services.” He outlined a number of issues “which are already keenly felt or which will inevitably and profoundly affect Jewish communal services.” These include:

1. The bandwagon psychology — with a tendency for institutions and practitioners to rush to find a niche for themselves in the program of the Great Society — the possible detriment of ongoing programs.

2. The extent of planning which can realistically be achieved in the face of the increasing flow of government funds.

3. The increasing acuteness of the manpower problems with the exciting and challenging vistas of the Great Society threatening an exodus of trained personnel from the field which already is suffering from shortages.

4. The meaning of the Great Society to middle-class structures and values which have been the focus of Jewish communal services.

5. The increase in church-state infractions and the rationalization for accepting them.

6. The gap between the principles and programs of the Great Society and the readiness of the Jewish community leadership to move towards their implementation.

Calling “comprehensiveness, continuity and community” as key concepts underlying the major legislative acts of the Great Society, Dr. Rosenberg stated that “a significant aspect of communal service is the development of a Jewish community leadership corps — both lay and professional.”


Associate Professor Arnold Gurin, of Brandeis University, reviewed various approaches to defining a rationale for Jewish sectarian services in the new climate of the Great Society. His theme was “Sectarianism — A Value Dilemma.” A large number of position papers was offered by leading practitioners in various fields of Jewish communal service on the current status of their particular areas of practice. These papers described how Jewish communal services have organized to meet the developing needs of the American Jewish community. As it exists today, against the background of the Great Society era.

They also presented unresolved problems facing the Jewish community, including questions of Jewish identification, continuity, and issues like anti-Semitism and Jewish education. A main question asked was whether access to jobs, affluence and status, with accompanying freer social associations, will undermine the sense of belonging to a distinct and unique Jewish community.

Resolutions adopted today emphasized the need for peaceful settlement of world disputes. One measure stated: “We favor policies of the U.S. Government which are rooted in the goals of peace and world order, since these are basic conditions for the well-being of Jews and of all humanity.” Other resolutions urged American ratification of the United Nations convention on genocide, and other U.N. human rights treaties.

Efforts to relieve discrimination against Soviet Jewry were endorsed. Concern was voiced about the security of Israel and efforts were asked for new American steps to promote regional peace.

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