American Council for Judaism Charged with Failing to Aid Jews in Communist, Arab Lands

The recently resigned executive director of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism charged today that the organization has deliberately refused to concern itself with the plight of Jews in Communist and Arab countries. Dr. Norton Mezvinsky said that the Council’s Philanthropic Fund, which distributes over $100,000 annually, might have been used to help alleviate the plight of Jews in Arab states following the Arab abuse vented against them after the Six-Day War. Such a possibility, he said, existed because of the measure of influence which the American Council has with the Arabs. But the Fund’s executives blocked such assistance because it might have had “political overtones,” he asserted.

Dr. Mezvinsky, of New York, also told a press conference here that Rabbi Elmer Berger, the American Council’s executive vice president, has “freely given speech writing assistance to Arab representatives at the United Nations, notably George Tomeh of Syria.” Dr. Mezvinsky said that Rabbi Berger had provided material to Tomeh on the philosophy and workings of Zionism and that the envoy had included the material in a televised speech which he had delivered last June at the UN.

During the press conference, in which he explained why he quit the Council, Dr. Mezvinsky, who joined the organization 14 months ago, said it was “bigoted” against Negroes and that its leadership had “vied with some of the more bigoted circles in this country in its approach to the race problem.” He charged that the National Executive Committee had refused to allow any Negro to attend the Council’s annual conference, set for late May but now called off. He said that he was then obliged to “disinvite” author Louis Lomax and Dr. James E. Cheek of Shaw University who had already accepted his personal invitation to attend.

Dr. Mezvinsky said that the Council for Judaism claimed to have over 20,000 members, that was the total number of dues-paying members it has had since 1943. As of last year the actual dues-paying membership was 5,000 to 6,000, he declared. He revealed that there were severe internal conflicts within the American Council, with the forces against Rabbi Berger led by two former presidents of the Council.

Dr. Mezvinsky declared that the idea of inviting Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of Moscow to the United States was originally conceived by himself and the American Council’s public relations director, Bill Gottlieb. The invitation, he said, was extended through official Soviet organs, though Richard Korn, the Council’s president, denied such a connection when the Soviet Embassy in Washington announced the visit April 16. Dr. Mezvinsky asserted that Gottfried Neuberger, a Council member and U.S. representative of the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect of Jerusalem, sought to displace the Council as visit sponsor by charging in a letter to Rabbi Levin that the Council was comprised of non-Sabbath observing Jews. He said that when Neuberger’s effort failed the latter arranged with the Council and the Neturei Karta’s American link, known as the “Friends of Jerusalem,” to co-sponsor the visit. Dr. Mezvinsky said that the American Council had planned only a single meeting for the delegation, one to be held June 13 at Town Hall here.

Dr. Mezvinsky said that he had originally agreed to accept the executive directorship in the hopes, among others, that the American Council could challenge the “monolithic organizational consensus in American Jewish life” and that an organization offering “alternatives to Zionist nationalism” should exist. He said he had also hoped to broaden the organization’s “Jewish perspectives.” He resigned after it revealed “itself as even more reactionary, dogmatic and untrue to the essences and purposes of Judaism than those whom it accused of these selfsame failings.”

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