2500 Jewish Communal Leaders Attend CJF 43rd General Assembly Epstein: Basic Needs Must Include All

Priority measures to strengthen the quality of Jewish life in North America and to relate it to the manifold concerns of American cities as well as to that of Israel and world Jewry highlighted the deliberations and actions by the 2500 Jewish communal leaders from the U.S. and Canada at the 43rd General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds meeting here for five days ending Sunday.

This theme was underscored by Raymond Epstein, CJF president, in his keynote address when he said: “There was a time when our key-noting might have concentrated almost exclusively on the domestic scene and the basic welfare needs of the American Jewish community. Today the winds that sweep through our cities are laden with foreign concerns–and our definition of basic needs has been expanded to include all that enriches our life as Jews.”

He observed that in the resurgence of Jewish life “which we are experiencing there is a growing awareness and acceptance that Israel, in spite of its compelling importance, is not the sole focus, nor is the diaspora simply a dependent and derivative phenomenon.” Rather, he added, “the Jewishpeoplehood requires the nurturing of Jewish communities in every country wherever they may be and for so long as they are viable.”

Epstein noted that the “interdependence of Israel, American Jewry, West European Jewry, the isolated communities of Eastern Europe, the 800,000 Jews in South America, the vital Jewish community of South Africa, other overseas communities and of course the Jews of Russia is the concept on which our future activity–cultural, political, religious, financial–must plan and build. We shall continue to draw sustenance from Israel in even greater measure, but the nourishment we give to Israel makes it an integral part of our programming.”

FUNDAMENTALS OF JEWISH SCENE

Epstein defined the “fundamentals” of the contemporary Jewish scene as “an enthusiastic search for meaningful Jewish identity/ the “enhancement of our life as Jews,” a “oneness with our past, with Israel, with our traditions and with each other and to “continue the traditions creatively, to add to our heritage and to perpetuate it through our children.”

MONSTROUS PERVERSION AT UN

The CJF leader denounced the “unbelievable spectacle of the monstrous perversion taking place at our United Nations” where the murderers of women and children, the killers of an American Ambassador and the indiscriminate destroyers of public transport “are accorded a seat of honor and a voice among the nations of the world to reiterate their call for the destruction of Israel.”

Epstein also denounced the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements by Gen. George S. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Tremendous ovation greeted Epstein when he read the telegram he sent to President Ford urging him to demand “an immediate retraction and apology from Brown.

Epstein noted that “We are Americans. We have not made aliya and most of us have no thought of doing so. What more natural than that we should turn to our own government which has always recognized a special interest in the lone democracy of the Middle East and urge an intensification of its support. What pride we take as Americans in the positive response of our government at a time when narrow and short-sighted apparent self-interest might have dictated a slackening of support and a turning away from Israel.”

Epstein said that “strong as our reliance may be on our government, when trouble strikes us we have but one reaction and we saw it everywhere the instantaneous drawing together with our families, our communities and our fellow Jews. Remember, back to Munich, to the war, to Maalot, how we sought comfort, strength and determination from one another, how pride and defiance flared within us and withstood despair.”

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