CCAR Approves Civil Disobedience to Protest Viet War

The Central Conference of American Rabbis announced today that it would withhold payment of the Federal excise tax on its telephone bills in protest against the continuing Vietnam war. The measure was adopted by voice vote at the CCAR’s 83rd annual convention here. The Reform rabbinical body thus became the first major Jewish organization to approve an act of civil disobedience against the war.

The delegates directed the CCAR’s executive vice-president to communicate the decision to the Bureau of Internal Revenue after consulting with legal counsel. The telephone excise tax was adopted by the Nixon administration specifically to raise additional revenue to support the Vietnam war, according to the CCAR.

The resolution called on the CCAR’s 1100 members, as individuals, to withhold payment of the tax and asked the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to take similar action. The HUC-JIR is the Reform rabbinical seminary. The UAHC is the Reform movement’s congregational branch.

In another development here today, a grass roots movement was launched by Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut of Toronto aimed at returning the Reform movement to a disciplined set of halachic (Jewish religious law) rules for daily living and religious practices. Rabbi Plaut, chairman of the CCAR’s Sabbath Committee, described the development of a series of standards in such areas as codes for the Sabbath, conversion, marriage ceremonies, religious divorces and marriage counselling. He also envisaged the establishment of religious courts which have not existed in the Reform movement for a generation.

He said he felt this new thrust “will give Reform Judaism a new sense of purpose” and “hopefully, will provide the impetus whereby in time, the entire movement will turn back to a sense of law, albeit progressive law.”

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