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Njcrac Convention Probes City-suburb Apartheid, Jewish-catholic Relations, Israel

An official of the National Council of Churches said last night that his organization’s recent policy statement opposing American sale of jets to Israel did not reflect any fundamental change in Protestant attitudes toward the Jewish state. The Rev. Dr. David R. Hunter, Deputy Secretary General of the National Council, attributed the resolution adopted by the National Council’s General Board last week to concern over a rising Middle East arms race. Dr. Hunter, who addressed the annual plenary meeting of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, expressed hope for “a more realistic and fair resolution” when the National Council’s board reconsiders the issue in September. NJCRAC concluded its four day parlay today with the adoption of a series of “policy guidelines” for its constituent agencies and the election of Albert E. Arent of Washington, D.C., a tax attorney and member of Georgetown University’s graduate faculty, chairman for the coming year. Arent succeeded Jordan C. Band of Cleveland. The church group’s controversial resolution had asked that the United States withhold planes for Israel and “seek progressive reduction of arms as part of a Middle East peace settlement.” Speaking at the same symposium, on Christian-Jewish relationships, Philip Scharper, editor of a Catholic publishing house and member of the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s Secretariat on Relations Between Catholic and Jews, said that the “thrust toward participatory democracy” was accelerating a decentralization in church authority with “collegiality” on the local level opening ways for greater Catholic-Jewish dialogue and cooperation.

Mr. Scharper cited the statement of the American Bishops “affirming the central importance” of the state of Israel to the Jewish people.” An action he noted taken “without waiting for Vatican initiative or encouragement” as an instance of Catholic response “to the needs of American Jews who had been disillusioned by the comparative silence of Christian leaders” just prior to the Six-Day War. NJCRAC urged that its constituent agencies initiate programs to interpret to Jews in suburbia the “self-defeating” nature of government housing and highway policies that are reinforcing racial separations between the inner city and its surrounding suburbs. Describing such programs as a “major responsibility” of Jewish community relations agencies, a “policy guideline” adopted at NJCRAC’s annual plenary meeting here stressed a need for Jewish suburban dwellers to recognize “the interdependence of city and suburb” and to work to reverse government policies creating “apartheid” in the nation. The Council’s statement challenged an administration view that de facto discrimination is beyond federal control and warned that continuing the pattern of “two societies”–blacks and the poor in the inner city and affluent whites in the suburbs–would mean “economic death” for the cities and doom for the cause of racial equality.

At an earlier session during the NJCRAC’s weekend convention, delegates were told that American Jewry has a special responsibility for re-enlisting the “substantial number of Jews” in “Middle America who have “grown hostile to the blacks and the young,” Mr. Band said that “If we cannot convince our own constituents of the relevance of Jewish religious tradition to the struggle to end racism and want, we can hardly expect to convince others. Mr. Band recommended, in this connection, the restoration of the “liberal coalition” of the early 1960’s–Jews, blacks, labor. intellectuals, religious groups and ethnic minority groups–that proved effective in instigating civil rights progress. That coalition “eroded at its base-where the backlashes occurred,” Mr. Band contended, and the NJCRAC’s task is to reunite those forces so that each “can be made to understand the indivisibility of its problems.” The alternative, he said, was continued polarisation.

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