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Agudath Israel Accuses Pearl of Die-hard Opposition to Jewish Religious Education

A charge that the ten Jewish groups which have joined the Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty (PEARL) are “die-hard opponents of Jewish all-day religious education” was levelled by Agudath Israel of America, national Orthodox Jewish movement which advocates government support of non-public schools. This accusation was made by the executive president of Agudath Israel, Rabbi Morris Sherer, after the announcement that PEARL had filed a suit on Thursday morning against Governor Nelson Rockefeller and other New York State officials challenging the constitutionality of the law recently enacted by the State Legislature providing for the reimbursement to non-public schools of their expenses for certain State-mandated services. Agudath Israel has estimated that the Jewish all-day schools (Yeshivos) in New York State will receive $11/2 million from this mandated services act. In a statement issued by Rabbi Sherer after the suit was filed by PEARL, the Orthodox Jewish leader declared:

“For years, certain Jewish organizations spearheaded by the American Jewish Congress have brought disgrace to the Jewish name by their highly-publicized harassment of the non-public religious schools in their efforts to obtain government support for their secular studies programs. The court trials which they have initiated against local and federal governments, as well as their widely-publicized denunciations of the efforts of the religious schools of all faiths to obtain their fair share of the tax dollar, have created a false image of the American Jew fighting for secularism versus religion.” Noting that these Jewish groups refuse to place Jewish educational interests above the “outworn and extreme application of the church-state separation dogma.” Rabbi Sherer charged that PEARL and “its Jewish partners are not in tune with the changing climate in America, which now has recognized that the government does indeed have specific responsibilities to the non-public schools.” Expressing confidence that the courts will uphold the constitutionality of the Mandated Services Law. Rabbi Sherer declared: “The American public must know that these groups do not speak for the Jewish citizens of our land on this subject.”

Meanwhile, the AJ Congress released this weekend a survey of 60 additional cases affecting separation of church and state or religious freedom that were pending in State and Federal courts as of June 30. According to the survey. 27 cases involve public aid to church-related educational institutions, two of which will be heard this fall by the United States Supreme Court. Joseph B. Robinson, general counsel of the AJ Congress. noted that the court will have a “clear opportunity to deal broadly in the coming term with the constitutionality of public aid to church-affiliated schools.” Mr. Robinson added that while the court has not hastened to write any new law in this area it has “frequently disposed of cases on narrow or even technical grounds.”

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