Am Committee Unveils New Efforts to Defuse Polarization; Aid Jewish Poor in Cities

The American Jewish Committee is intensifying its depolarization programs aimed at “defusing tensions between blacks and whites, students and workers, leaders and masses, government and citizens” in the United States while at the same time moving to aid the Jewish poor and harassed Jewish merchants in inner-city neighborhoods. This disclosure was made here by Bertram H. Gold, the executive head of the AM Committee, in a report prepared for delivery tomorrow night at the annual meeting of the AJC’s National Executive Council. “Our nation faces some of the most serious divisions of groups that have occurred in many years.” Mr. Gold stated, “and we must learn how to deal more creatively with group conflict, group interest and group identity.” He explained that AJC’s Department of Intergroup Relations and Social Action, under the direction of Seymour Samet, would concentrate its efforts through a number of new mechanisms it had organized in the last year, including its National Project on Ethnic America and the National Alliance for Shaping Safer Cities. The project, under the leadership of Irving M. Levine, AJC’s Director of Urban Projects, is a pilot attempt to work with white ethnic groups to gain support for their real problems and to find leaders within the indigenous group who will be able to create black-white unity on issues of mutual concern.

The Alliance, headed by Harry Fleischman, AJC’s race relations coordinator, has brought together 50 mainstream American organizations to fight crime by involving citizens in neighborhood crime control and reducing crime as a polarizing force by taking the issue away from the ultra-right that calls for repression and the ultra-left that calls for violent confrontation. Mr. Gold added that three new efforts by the AJC would help energize the moderate forces in the nation to fight political violence without having to resort to anti-democratic repression. These include: Much more active support of public policies and welfare legislation that relieve the plight of the Jewish poor and near-poor in urban neighborhoods, and that deal creatively and helpfully with the problems they are having with other minority groups that are competing for services; a Jewish Urban Institute, already launched by AJC with the assistance of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, to help aid local Jewish communities and individuals to deal more effectively with urban problem-solving.

The Institute, essentially a technical aid apparatus, among other purposes, will lend assistance in project development to young Jewish graduate students seeking to enter the urban field. It will also try to encourage key Jewish urbanologists to give more of their time and efforts to Jewish community projects aimed at dealing with the plight of urban minorities. Explaining the rationale behind this major attack on crime, poverty, and intergroup conflict, Mr. Gold stated: “American Jews are among the most urban of all Americans. The overwhelming majority live and work in and around the nation’s large metropolitan centers. They are directly affected by explosive racial antagonisms, group polarization, the deterioration of essential services, and the widespread decay that has eroded the quality of life in all our cities over the post decade. While the search for effective programs and strategies to meet pressing urban problems is of great interest to all thoughtful citizens, it is of particular concern to American Jews, whose personal future and security are so intimately related to the future and security of the cities.”

NEXT STORY