American Jewish Committee Withdraws from Foundation over Forman ‘reparations’ Issue

The American Jewish Committee, the only Jewish member of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), has quit the foundation over its association with a Negro militant group demanding “reparations” from synagogues and churches. In its letter of resignation, the AJ Committee indicated it was seeking new means to mobilize Jewish support to meet the needs of urban and rural poor.

IFCO serves as a clearing house for contributions from religious groups to organizations representing the poor. Its membership includes 11 Protestant denominations and some Catholic representation. Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs of the AJ Committee, who served as president since IFCO was formed two years ago, and who resigned recently, said the main reason for the Jewish group’s withdrawal was the “incapacity” of IFCO to take “a clear-cut position on the revolutionary ideology and racist rhetoric” of the National Black Economic Development Corp., headed by James Forman, which has issued a “Black Manifesto” demanding $300,000,000 in “reparations” for white mistreatment of Negro Americans. The preamble of the “manifesto” postulates an “armed conflict” and “long years of guerrilla warfare” by blacks to win their demands.

The IFCO board refused to take a position on the preamble and called on member organizations to make contributions to Mr. Forman’s organization to carry out programs centered on control of industries by Negroes. Rabbi Tanenbaum said that the board’s silence left the impression of AJ Committee assent to the ideology of the “manifesto” and that “we had no alternative but to withdraw.”

In discussing plans for other Jewish approaches to aiding the poor, Rabbi Tanenbaum said that consultations were taking place among AJ Committee staff members involved in race relations and urban affairs on proposals to organize a national Jewish ad hoc group modeled on the successful experience of the American Jewish Emergency Relief Effort to aid starving victims of the Nigeria-Biafra war. The AJ Committee took the initiative in organizing the ad hoc committee of 23 major Jewish organizations after Rabbi Tanenbaum met with relief officials in Biafra in July, 1968.

He said AJ Committee officials had been conducting talks with leaders of major Jewish organizations aimed at developing a similar ad hoc Jewish coordinating group to act for the poor in recognition of the “urgency and magnitude” of the urban crisis.

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