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Presidents’ Conference Rejects Criticism of Program on Soviet Jewry

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations today rejected the criticism voiced against the organization’s program on behalf of Soviet Jewry by Professor Abraham J. Heschel who, addressing the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, said that American Jews had failed to make the condition of Soviet Jews a matter of primary concern. He criticized particularly the Presidents’ Conference.

In a statement issued today, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, chairman of the Presidents’ Conference said: “We are saddened at the irresponsible and intemperate statement of Dr. Abraham Heschel on the efforts of American Jewry to alleviate the desperate plight of Soviet Jews. Indeed, the effect of his remarks can serve only to damage the cause of securing full religious and cultural freedom for the Jews of the Soviet Union, a cause to which all of the 21 organizations in the Presidents’ Conference are profoundly committed.”

Pointing out that the organizations represented in the Presidents’ Conference “have made unequivocally clear their determination and their commitment in behalf of Soviet Jewry,” Rabbi Prinz stated: “We regret that Dr. Heschel has seen fit to ignore that determination and that commitment. We regret that he has seen fit to describe as ‘marginal’ and ‘non-vital’ such programs of the Presidents’ Conference as its activities on behalf of Israel for peace in the Middle East. We regret that he has overlooked the fact that only four weeks ago, in Philadelphia, American Jewry met in a great national demonstration of support of Soviet Jewry and drew plans for continuing action to focus American and world attention on their plight.”

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