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Campus Group Seeks to Prevent Dismissal of Columbia Jewish Student Adviser

A student and faculty group on the Columbia campus is circulating petitions accusing the University’s administration of complicity in the firings of the Jewish chaplain. Rabbi A. Bruce Goldman, and Rev. William Starr, the Protestant student counsellor, because they opposed the administration’s actions in last spring’s Columbia students’ uprising. Rabbi Goldman, a 33-year-old graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, was dismissed by the Jewish Advisory Board, a body of Jewish alumni who engaged him for the campus post two years ago. Rev. Starr was dismissed by the Ecumenical Foundation, a group that selects Protestant chaplains for college campuses.

The campus group, which calls itself the New University Conference, charged in its petition that “it is well-documented that the University actively collaborated with the Ecumenical Foundation, the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the Jewish Advisory Board to effect these firings.” They said they based their charge in part on correspondence between University Vice President David Truman and Gerard Oestreicher, chairman of the Jewish Advisory Board, copies of which they obtained by undisclosed means.

The New University Conference quoted from an alleged letter from Mr. Oestreicher to Mr. Truman, dated July 12, 1968. In it the writer said that the Jewish Advisory Board “did not want to be responsible for not rehiring Rabbi Goldman in a frame of reference in which he would be the only University appointee…who was refused re-appointment for the forthcoming academic year.” The statement also quoted from a letter of July 22, 1968, in which Mr. Truman severely criticized Rev. Starr for statements he allegedly made during campus rally. Rev. Starr and Rabbi Goldman received their dismissal notices last month.

Rabbi Goldman said his dismissal was without explanation and that the Jewish Advisory Board gave no official reason for their action. He said he was fired because his sympathy with student protestors damaged the “Jewish image” which the Jewish Advisory Board wanted to maintain before the “Wasp (Protestant) establishment.”

At least two other unrelated campus groups are supporting Rabbi Goldman and Rev. Starr. The Ad Hoc Committee for Freedom for University Clergy was formed last month. Its chairman, Keith Karnofsky, a Columbia graduate now attending Hebrew Union College, said the group planned “to research the issue”, distribute leaflets and hold campus demonstrations. The Earl Hall Student Governing Board issued a statement last month warning that the dismissal of Rabbi Goldman and Rev. Starr “raises serious questions as to the appointment of campus ministers and the safeguarding of their freedom in that ministry.”

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