CCAR Leaders Charge Presidents Conference is Cowardly, Servile
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CCAR Leaders Charge Presidents Conference is Cowardly, Servile

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The leadership of the Reform movement blasted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last night as cowardly and servile, and called instead for “a structure in which decision-making would be shared by the Presidents with communities from which the richest resources from our academic disciplines, from our communal leaders, from our youth would be drawn.” In a “Joint Message” to the 82nd annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, president Roland B. Gittelsohn and vice-president David Polish declared that such a new structure would be “expanded beyond the consultation of Presidents alone, and the calling of emergency meetings in Washington,” and would also “emancipate itself from the discredited postures of galut

The first reference was to a Washington meeting last December at which Dr. William A. Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith and chairman of the Conference of Presidents: Max M. Fisher, chairman of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, and Rabbi Herschel Schacter chairman of the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, advised high administration officials that they dissociated themselves from JDL activities. The second reference was to President Nixon’s personal apology early last year to Pompidou after peaceful Jewish demonstrators in American cities protested Pompidou’s embargo on Mirage jets already paid for by Israel. Rabbis Gittelsohn and Polish commented: “No American Bishops have been constrained to apologize to the White House for the Berrigans (anti-war activists), nor has the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People apologized for Eldridge Cleaver (expatriate Black Panther official), and therein lies the surest proof that American Jewry, which has presumably made it, feels more insecure than does the alienated black community.” Summing up, the CCAR leaders wrote that while the Presidents Conference “has striven to expand its scope and its influence” it “must yet realize its full potential” and “measure up to the rapidly escalating demands which history imposes on us…It has not achieved the influence it deserves to exercise.”


The solution they said, is for the Presidents Conference to “undertake a program aimed at reinforcing its work and stimulating the involvement of communities and qualified individuals in its activities”; to “achieve an equilibrium between responding to official voices from Israel and making the deepest soundings of Jewish opinion in America,” and to “achieve equilibrium between making unilateral policy and encouraging participatory democracy in Jewish life.” Rabbis Gittelsohn and Polish recommended that the convention approve CCAR affiliation with the World Jewish Congress, “whose constitution guarantees the autonomy of all of its respective member organizations.” The “Joint Message” by the CCAR president and vice-president also declared that “Israel stands on a precipice, driven there by the intransigence of Arab enemies, the enigmatic mischievousness of the Soviet Union…, and the unpredictable policies of the American government which is committed not to the preservation of Israel but to the protection of its own global interests.”

Stating that “(Israel’s) peril is our peril,” the Reform leaders pointed out that Israel herself “does very little not only to reach Jewish youth and college students but to encourage a climate of openness on the moral issues confronting the State of Israel.” They warned that “If Jewish youth cannot encounter dissent in a free environment made possible by Israel, they will seek it out under the auspices of Israel’s avowed enemies.” The CCAR leaders also levied a charge at the American Jewish community, “reinforced by its Israel-oriented establishments,” as “the greatest culprit in suppressing dissent.” That community “has amply demonstrated its impassioned concern for Israel,” they wrote, “but this concern rarely rises above the adulation of Israel’s power.” The two rabbis declared: “Misguided dependence upon that alone, essential as it is to Israel’s survival, can result in a Jewry which is dangerously self-deceived, arrogant, desensitized, and ultimately a danger to Israel itself. When Zionist bodies openly and officially embrace America’s most reactionary politicians who would betray Israel overnight if it suited their purposes, and when organized American Jewry does not demur, there is peril to all of us and to our spirit.” The rabbis concluded: “American Jewry must come of age. It must be no less zealous in fighting for the survival of its soul than is the Jewry of Israel.”

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