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American Rabbi Accuses Israeli Leaders of Indifference to Plight of Poor

An American rabbi has accused “Israeli leaders, rabbis and intellectuals” of “indifference” to the plight of 20 percent of the families in Israel who live below the poverty level, most of them of Oriental origin. Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg of Temple Emanuel in Englewood, N.J., a member of the Jewish Agency Executive, made the accusation in a lecture at the American Culture Center here. He is currently teaching at the Hebrew University. The Conservative rabbi said he was disappointed by the Israeli society’s reaction to the appearance of the Black Panthers, a group of Jerusalem slum youths of North African and Asian origin, who have been demonstrating against inadequate housing and lack of jobs. He said the reaction was the same as the American reaction to the original Black Panthers, a Negro militant organization whose name and style the Israeli youths have adopted. “Here, like in the United States, everybody says that the whole thing was overplayed by Leftists and that the leaders of the Panthers care only about themselves,” Rabbi Hertzberg said. “Even if there is some truth in these assumptions, they are of no practical meaning.” He observed that according to government statistics, 20 percent of the families in Israel live below the poverty line. “It is difficult to understand the indifference of Israeli leaders, rabbis and intellectuals,” he said, and warned Israel against repeating the mistakes of the U.S. “Solving the poverty problem is no less important than the defense of Israel,” Rabbi Hertzberg declared.

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