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Rabbinical Council Proposes Program to Halt Flight from Changing Neighborhoods

The Rabbinical Council of America proposed today a three-point program to halt the flight of Jews from changing neighborhoods–a national conference of all Orthodox leaders on the subject, to be followed by a meeting with leaders of all faith communities, and additional meetings with Negro and Puerto Rican leaders both on a national and street-to-street level.

The proposal was made by Rabbi Zev Segal of Newark, N.J., president. The Orthodox rabbinical group, and Rabbi Bernard L. Berzon, first vice-president, at the organizations 33rd annual convention. Both rabbinical leaders said that halting the deterioration of neighborhoods “is not only a religious but a moral imperative.” They deplored the demand of black militant, for “reparations” from churches and synagogues for injustices suffered by the Negro.

Rabbi Segal pointed to a recent survey by a committee of the Rabbinical Council which showed that Jewish neighborhoods are the most likely to be those into which Negroes and Puerto Ricans move and that the tendency of Jews is to abandon their homes and move elsewhere. The study also showed that the greatest resistance to abandonment comes from the Orthodox Jews of the neighborhood.

Rabbi Berzon added that one of the most important dimensions of the problem resulting from changing neighborhoods has been that because “Orthodox residents are the last to leave, they, therefore, are exposed more than others to the conflicts which seem to result inevitably from change.” The two officials also said that from the Jewish religious viewpoint, “the problem is very great. It is a fact that in our large metropolitan centers it has been the Jewish neighborhoods which have changed primarily into black ghettoes.”

They added this has meant the abandonment of countless Jewish religious and educational institutions. The Orthodox Jew is forced by the nature of his religious commitment to live close to his synagogue so he can walk to worship on the Sabbath, they said. Moving from one neighborhood to another, or to the suburbs, has resulted in the expenditure of millions of dollars for new institutions–money that could be used for other essential purposes, including the betterment of urban areas, they noted. The purpose of the national conference he proposed, Rabbi Segal told the parley, is to “devise means whereby we can mitigate the effects of neighborhood changes as well as preserve our institutions.”

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