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Njcrac Examines Inner-city Problems, Liberal Coalition, Church-state School Relations

Theodore R. Mann, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, told the plenary meeting here of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council that the Jewish community has an “overriding obligation” to assist in the relocation of Jewish residents and businessmen who are harassed in high crime and blighted areas and want to leave. This would require Jewish community funds along with government and foundation subsidies, Mr. Mann said. He reported that most of the 400 Jewish merchants located in such districts in Philadelphia–about half the number of six years ago–do not regard the danger to their physical security as arising out of black anti-Semitism. “They are,” he said, unfortunate victims of society’s ills.” A more hopeful outlook on the future of the central city was outlined by Philip M. Klutznick, former president of B’nai B’rith. Citing a new study by the Committee for Economic Development, a business-sponsored group of 200 industry and university leaders, Mr. Klutznick, co-chairman of its Research and Policy Committee, disclosed a “substantial increase” in the movement of black and poverty-income families to the suburbs–more than ten times that of the early 1960s–and a corresponding decline in the population density in central poverty areas. Paralleling these trends has been an increase in the proportion of high-income families returning to the central city, he said. Mr. Klutznick described these trends as offering “some hopeful signs” for revitalizing the nation’s central cities. “The decay of the inner city and racial polarization between city and suburb may not be as widespread or irreversible as some have claimed,” he said.

A plea for Jewish communal efforts to help restore the “liberal coalition” of the early 1960’s was made at another session of the NJCRAC meeting which concluded yesterday by Jordan C. Band of Cleveland. NJCRAC’s retiring chairman. He urged efforts to reestablish the once formidable bloc that united Jewish, black, labor, intellectual, religious and white ethnic minority groups that worked successfully for civil rights legislation in the early 1960’s. The Jewish groups, he added, had a particular responsibility for reenlisting the “substantial number of Jews” that are part of “middle America” and have “grown hostile to the blacks and the young.” “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 said. Restoring the liberal coalition “won’t be easy,” he acknowledged, because the old partners are now “for the most part suspicious of and hostile toward one another.” But the alternative, he warned, was a threat of continued polarization and a weakening of liberal efforts to “reorder our national priorities.”

An NJCRAC policy statement adopted yesterday warned that a “well-organized drive” for government funds to assist church-operated schools has become a “growing threat” to the public school system. It particularly criticized the use of public funds to “purchase secular services” from religious schools. This practice, initiated in a number of states in recent years, generally provides state funds to pay part of the salaries of parochial school instructors who teach secular subjects. NJCRAC called the practice “indistinguishable in fact and effect from state financing of religious education.” It contended that this and other new methods of seeking state aid–such as the system in which parents of school children are free to select a public or private school for their children, paying for it with a state “voucher”–were adding to a “growing infringement” on the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America dissented from the majority view. Its statement endorsed the use of public funds for free lunches, medical and dental services, and similar health and welfare aids for sectarian schools. It also approved public financing of “auxiliary educational services” such as remedial reading and speech therapy for parochial school students “in facilities under public control.” But it opposed, as “indirect” aid, public funds for bus transportation or textbooks.

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