Rabbi Contends Jews Have Ethical Mandate to Speak out on Controversial Issues

Warning that the “silent synagogue destroys its future and alienates its youth,” the vice president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations has called upon constituent congregations to respond forcibly to “Judaism’s ethical mandate” to speak out on issues of social concern. Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler told more than 300 delegates to the 3-day biennial convention of the Union’s Pennsylvania Council which ended here yesterday, that Jews, “as so frequently before in our history,” have become “pawns in the conflict of forces.” Rabbi Schindler said that it is wrong to accept “the counsel of timidity,” which advocates silence on controversial issues.” He cited American Jewish concern for the State of Israel as a case in point. “Many American Jews fear “that Jewish involvement in the peace movement alienates the administration, that if we want governmental aid for Israel, we had better be silent on Vietnam. These fears are odious on the grounds of principle.” Rabbi Schindler said. In the final analysis, Rabbi Schindler stated, America’s foreign policy “is dictated by America’s need, and not by what the Jews of America say or fall to say on the subject of Vietnam.” He added that “We can speak up for Israel and against Vietnam without any sense of conflicting purpose or clashing convictions.” Referring to the fact that anti-Semitism “continues to pose a real threat today,” Rabbi Schindler said: “We are foolish to think that our silence on issues of social concern will somehow purchase our safety. It never has, in all our troubled history, for this is its unfailing lesson–the bigot hates us, no matter what we say, no matter what we do or fail to do, whatever be our stand. Then, why not do what we must and what is right?”

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