Aj Committee Defends Jewish Loyalty to Civil Rights

The American Jewish Committee has taken strong issue with a recent charge by Joseph Rauh Jr., a prominent civil libertarian, that American Jews are swinging to the right and that Jews and Jewish organizations “are largely on the wrong side of the great civil rights issues of the day.” That contention and others by Rauh that Jews were retreating from their traditional liberal stance, were challenged by Hyman Bookbinder, the AJ Committee’s Washington representative who is himself a long time civil rights advocate.

“Even the most cursory review of the civil rights scene would reassure any objective observer that the Jewish community is, proportionately, significantly better represented than others in legislative, financial, personal, legal and political support of civil rights struggles.” Bookbinder said in a “Dear Joe” letter to Rauh, a copy of which was made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. The letter was in response to a speech Rauh made to the Jewish Community Council of Milwaukee, Wisc. June 26.

Rauh, who is Jewish and is general counsel of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights with which many Jewish organizations are affiliated, was the recipient of the AJ Committee’s Isaiah Award last year “for a lifetime of service to civil rights.”

DID NOT OPPOSE QUOTAS

Bookbinder described as “particularly intemperate language” Rauh’s charge that a “brigade of wealthy Jews” foresook “their long allegiance to the Democratic Party last fall” and gave “vast sums” to defeat a candidate “whose crime was to propose some modicum of redistribution of wealth.” Bookbinder claimed that “for every ‘wealthy Jew’ who made a substantial contribution to the Nixon campaign there must have been three or four who gave perhaps even larger sums to the McGovern campaign.”

Discussing “your general indictment of Jewish withdrawal from civil rights commitments largely on the troublesome issue of quotas.” Bookbinder wrote to Rauh that while “very few” now believe in quotas, “a year ago, when the quota issue was devised, there were many who did support quotas in the practice.” With few exceptions, Bookbinder continued, “Jewish agencies and Jewish activists do favor strong affirmative action, including the use of goals and timetables as you define them.” While the problem remains of “occasional distortion of ‘goals and timetables’ into defacto systems, it is a bum rap to argue that Jewish concern about quotas makes them anti-civil rights,” Bookbinder said.

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