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Reform Parley Urges Congregations to Train Laymen for Christian Dialogues

A resolution committing American Reform Judaism to equip its lay members with the knowledge to undertake “sustained dialogue” with Christians was approved for the first time in the history of the movement today by delegates to the 49th biennial convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The resolution urged the 680 affiliated Reform congregations in the United States and Canada “to institute continuing special adult education courses in basic Judaism which will prepare laymen for interreligious dialogue, to introduce courses in comparative religion by which to better understand the differences in theology and history which distinguish Judaism from other religions, and to initiate continuing, on-going interreligious adult education programs.”

The resolution asserted that such dialogue “demands knowledgeable Jewish laymen. Thus prepared, we are not fearful that such interreligious confrontation will weaken the faith of those who participate in it. To the contrary,” the resolution asserted, “experience has shown that the dialogue process is a vehicle for strengthening Jewish self-knowledge, self-respect and even personal faith.”

MILD RESOLUTION ON VIETNAM WAR CONTRASTED WITH EISENDRATH ADVICE

The 3,000 delegates also approved a mild resolution on the American participation in the Vietnam war in which they urged “an early initiative” to halt the bombing of North Vietnam and called on the Government of North Vietnam “to respond favorably “on United States initiatives for negotiations to end the war.”

The resolution also said that the delegates “deplored” the “ugly campaign of calumny and vilification that seeks to place major responsibility on the United States for the war in Vietnam” and that “equally do we reject the counsel of those calling for intensified military engagement.”

The resolution contrasted with the repeated demands by the UAHC president, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, that the United States get out of Vietnam immediately. In his opening address to the convention, Rabbi Eisendrath called the war “a bloody carnage” and “a deep burn in the American soul.”

The delegates apparently also differed with Rabbi Eisendrath on his call for a resolution which would urge a law to accord conscientious objector rights to those who oppose only “a particular war.” meaning the Vietnam conflict. After a heated floor debate, the delegates rejected a resolution calling for “selective conscientious objection” by prospective draftees for the Vietnam war. The delegates approved a proposal calling for expansion of opportunities for non-combat military and non-military service for all conscientious objectors, calling for “utmost care” in preventing the use of the selective service law “as punishment” against opponents of the war.

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