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Rabbis Hold Prayer Ceremony on Steps of Nation’s Capitol

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Representatives of boards of rabbis from a dozen Eastern cities, wearing yarmulkas and talisim and from time to time embracing a Torah, invoked blessings today on American governmental leaders and urged them to maintain America’s “historic commitments to support the democratic State of Israel.”

Standing on the Capitol’s west steps, facing the Washington and Lincoln Memorials, and under a broiling midday sun in Washington’s high humidity, the rabbis, many of them aged, read psalms and sounded the shofar in what was described as an unprecedented ceremony.

Rabbi Harold H. Gordon, executive vice-president of the New York Board of Rabbis, which had organized the rabbinic mission to Washington, said he was “quite sure” that this was the first time such a Jewish prayer vigil was held at the Capitol. The New York Board said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned over the mounting pressures directed by our government at the State of Israel.”

“The basis for these concerns,” it said, is the U.S. reassessment of its Mideast policy, granting of arms to Jordan during this period “even while Israelis denied the opportunity for discussions relative to new arms shipments, the labeling of Israel as intransigent and the simultaneous characterization of Egypt as moderate although it was Egypt that refused any meaningful political concessions in return for the enormous concessions that Israel offered.”

A score of members of Congress visited the rabbis during the vigil. Rabbi Jacob Goldberg of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center in Manhattan and head of the New York Board’s Israel Committee, presided over the vigil. Following it the rabbis visited members of both Houses of Congress.

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