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Reform Leaders Decry Cut in Anti-poverty Funds; Forum Discusses Jewish ‘ecumenism’

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Prompt passage of an effective anti-poverty bill with funding of at least $2 billion and no “weakening and crippling amendments” was urged in a telegram today to President Johnson and 11 key members of the House of Representatives, sent on behalf of the 3,000 delegates attending the 49th Biennial General Assembly here of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the congregational movement of Reform Jewry in the United States and Canada.

The telegram, which also went to Vice-President Humphrey and Sargent Shriver, director of the Office of Economic Opportunity was the result of a UAHC resolution adopted here, opposing a proposed slash in funds for the war on poverty, now under consideration by Congress.

In another action, the delegates overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for the liberalization of existing abortion laws in the United States and Canada. It urged “humane legislation” to permit abortion “in such circumstances as rape and incest, threatened disease or deformity of the embryo or fetus, the physical and mental health of the mother, and social, economic and psychological factors that might warrant therapeutic termination of pregnancy.”

Earlier, at the UAHC conclave, three rabbis representing the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox branches of Jewry explored the reasons for the existence of creedal differences among Jews in an age of ecumenism which has seen the narrowing of such differences among Christians. Comprising the forum were Rabbi Walter Wurtzburger, member of the faculty of Yeshiva University in New York, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg. Conservative rabbi and a member of the Columbia University faculty; and Rabbi Joseph Klein, Reform rabbi of Temple Emanuel, Worcester, Mass.

Rabbi Hertzberg suggested that adult education, education of children and the furthering of synagogue membership among non-affiliated Jews were areas in which the three branches of Judaism could cooperate rather than compete. Rabbi Wurtzburger held, however, that these matters are fundamentally religious and must be pursued by each of the three branches separately in the context of Jewish pluralism. According to Rabbi Klein, there is an “amazing” degree of unity within the secular stream of Jewish life, but “real and growing differences among the three branches of the rabbinate, especially in the area of intermarriage and divorce.” Rabbi Hertzberg suggested that there was no such thing as a secular Jew. He said “we are all part of the mystic body of Israel regardless of affiliation.”

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