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Student Network Too ‘leftist’ Dissidents Plan Rival Organization

Ideological and procedural differences have led to a split in the North American Jewish Students’ Network, the dissidents’ “last straw” being the Network convention’s rejection this past weekend of their more “activist,” less “leftist” proposals, a spokesman for the dissidents charged today. The Network calls itself the “unifying force of the Jewish student movement” and a “dynamic force within the Jewish community.” The dissidents–members of the Jewish Defense League, Betar and other militant factions–claim the Network “does almost nothing” for Soviet and Arab Jewry, Jewish education, the Jewish poor, Israel and aliya.

The dissidents walked out of the convention in Indian Orchard, Pa., when the majority rejected their professedly “radical” approach. “It appeared that the Jewish student leaders at this conference were more interested in California lettuce-pickers than Soviet Jews,” Neil Rothenberg, national chairman of the JDL’s youth group told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He put his support at 35 delegates of a floor attendance of under 200.

Rothenberg said his supporters plan to organize an American Union of Jewish Students with a strongly nationalistic orientation which would “look inwardly to their Jewishness rather than outwardly to the non-Jewish world.” He said the new group would seek an annual $75,000 subvention from the Jewish Agency and other sources.

Martin Salowitz, secretary general of Network, told the JTA that the dissidents’ plan was JDL-inspired and “would simply destroy Network,” which he called an “apolitical communications link.” He said there were only 15 walkouts of a floor attendance of 250 and a total attendance of 300.

The dissidents’ charge of Network “Marxism” is “a very stupid claim,” Salowitz said. He said that of the nine steering committee members only two are outright leftists, three “religious,” at least three “clearly in the middle” and one “clearly on the right.” Noting Network’s own weekend agenda, he remarked: “What kind of leftist organization invites (JDL chairman) Meir Kahane to come and speak at its annual convention?”

On the activity front, he cited such Network projects as a conference on the Jewish urban poor, “followed up with actual action”; publicity and support for demonstrations by the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry; provision of speakers and mailing lists in the campaign to aid Jews in Arab lands, and attempts to obtain funds for Jewish education from the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. A pre-convention Network statement scored “the adult Jewish establishment organizations” for “impotence” and “blatant neglect and disregard” of Jewish needs.

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