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Lelyveld Defends Right of American Jews to Disagree with Official Israeli Policies

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The right of American Jews to disagree with official policies of the Israel government was upheld today by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, president of the American Jewish Congress. He delivered the opening address at the eighth annual Israel-American Dialogue at the Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot, attended by 40 American and Israeli scholars. Rabbi Lelyveld maintained that American Jews have “both the right and the responsibility to make their views known and their opinions felt.” He stressed that an American Jewish leadership that consistently acted only as an instrument of Israeli policy would soon be without a following–“and deservedly so.” As American Jews, Rabbi Lelyveld said. “Our primary responsibility is to provide the financial and political aid that Israel requires for her very survival. Only second to that is the responsibility to be neither uncritical nor silent on Israel’s domestic as well as foreign affairs.” Dr. Robert Gordis, professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, urged Israel to adopt the American principle of separation of church and state. Prof. Yehuda Blum, of the Hebrew University, took issue with him. He claimed that Dr. Gordis “misinterpreted” the image of religion in Israel. Some participants in the dialogue noted the absence of youth representatives from both the American and Israeli sides. One speaker remarked, “somewhere on the way we lost the New Left.”

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