Charge Discrimination Against Jews in New York City Poverty Programs

The principles and procedures governing Jewish a ethnic representation on poverty boards in New York City and the allocation of anti-poverty funds threaten to bring on severe ethnic conflicts in the city, a rabbinical expert on the program declared here.

Rabbi Bernard Weinberger, a member of the New York City Council Against Poverty and president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, made the charge at a press conference at which the New York chapter of the American Jewish Committee challenged New York City anti-poverty officials to look into revamping the entire local poverty program “in the interests of all the poor, no matter from what area or what group.”

Rabbi Weinberger criticized the Council Against Poverty decision to allocate anti-poverty funds on the bases of poverty indices which he said were based on “life styles” different from those of Jews and other groups. The indices include Juvenile delinquency, venereal disease, welfare roll membership and narcotics addiction, problems from which Jews are largely free.

Theodore Ellenoff, president of the New York AJC chapter, declared that attempts by Jews to gain help from poverty corporations through duly prescribed democratic methods have been frustrated by a stubborn refusal to consider the problems of poor Jews.

Rabbi Weinberger also charged that the exercising of full control over poverty funds by local autonomous organizations had on occasion resulted in one group’s domination of a corporation, in effect freezing out the poor of all other groups. He noted that Jews have representation on only one of the community corporations through which anti-poverty funds are programmed, that in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. An election last October 30 in Crown Heights, in which Jews took part, for a planning committee to name such a corporation is in dispute.

Rabbi Weinberger said that the emphasis on local funding through community action programs revealed an “insensitivity” to the problems of poor Jews because their need is less for community organizations than it is for Job training and jab opportunities. Such emphasis, he asserted, reflects a widespread misapprehension” that the anti-poverty program is simply a riot-preventing stopgap measure” rather than “a long overdue national effort to provide vocational and educational training so that the productive capacities of the deprived within society can be developed.”

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