BOCA RATON, Fla. (Nov. 23)
Recent evidence that the organized Jewish community has neglected its poor and that government agencies to aid the poor have deprived Jewish poor of basic services has “galvanized” grass roots Jewish leadership to act “to create immediate relief” for these long neglected Jews. This was stated here today by Jack Simcha Cohen, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty.
Addressing a seminar of the 74th anniversary biennial convention of the Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America where some 1000 delegates are holding a five-day convention which ends Sunday, the director of the newly-created Council described as a “scandal” reports about Jews “living on the dregs of human existence” and the proliferation of pockets of Jewish poor estranged from Jewish affluence “waiting to die in slums.”
In coming at last to grips with the problem, Cohen said, the leadership of Jewish organizational life recognized that Jews had “a wealth of organizational resources” available but that because of “ideological differences, personal sentiments and past experience, the power of these resources had been diffused into a multiplicity of organizational activities,” each agency “going its own way without coordination with others.”
JEWS MUST UNITE TO FIGHT POVERTY
Moreover, he said, it became evident that the Jews, as a community, “had to effectively relate to key governmental agencies to insure services” to the Jewish poor. Without identifying anyone by name, Cohen asserted that “individual power brokers were parceling out services and funds on the bases of personal political considerations,” with effective grass roots involvement “minimal” and with “vast numbers of Jews” neglected.
Cohen said that, if there was to be an effective Jewish response to meeting the needs of the Jewish poor, all segments of Jewish leadership had to understand the need to “speak not as Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, secular or freethinker but as Jews.” He added that the appropriate message of a unified Jewish approach to government was “we Jews want action–action for our poor, services for our needy, programs and funds for our aged; not in the never-ending tomorrow of the future but today, now.”
He noted, as an example, that the recent grant of $250,000 by the New York City administration to the Council “to start developing programs to aid the Jewish poor” was a good beginning “but only a beginning”. To succeed, Cohen said, the Council “needs the constant cooperation of all Jews” and the support of all Jewish organizations, including the synagogues. He warned that unless synagogues functioned as an integral part of local grass root Jewish community councils, they would be left behind as communal life moved on, with the ultimate risk of losing their institutional identity and possibly even their constituencies.