Katz Says Jewish Centers Must Retain Sectarian Character

Jewish community centers should maintain their sectarian character “in order to achieve the stated aim of developing a positive attitude toward our Judaism and a commitment to the meaningful continuity of Jewish life in our community,” Label A. Katz, former international president of B’nai B’rith, affirmed here last night.

Mr. Katz called for an end to the policy of some Jewish community centers in providing for admission of a limited proportion of non-Jews as members. He charged that this constituted a “silent quota system.” Jewish centers, he declared, should declare their membership policies openly.

Mr. Katz told the executive committee of B’nai B’rith District Grand Lodge No. 7 that the Jewish Community Center in New Orleans had “deviated from its original purpose and is being converted from a Jewish sectarian agency into a non-sectarian institution.” He accused the center of “substituting pseudo-liberalism for their Judaism” and pointed out that, according to its charter, the center had been founded “to assist our Jewish citizens to develop a positive identification with Jewish life.”

Mr. Katz recalled that he had been one of 140 members of the New Orleans Jewish Community Center who had protested the admission of 18 non-Jewish families to center membership. The center has since halted admission to non-Jewish families pending the report of a study committee, but present non-Jewish members may retain their membership “at their option.” This was, said Mr. Katz, “a silent and subtle quota system which is violative of our Judaic heritage and of our democratic legacy.” If the center is to adopt an open membership policy, he said, “then it must be a true open-membership policy. That is, admit all applications irrespective of race, color or creed, without limitation.”

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