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At the Democrats’ Convention: a Season for All Issues

Jewish delegates to the Democratic National Convention which opened last night at Madison Square Garden appear to feel that their party will emerge with an election platform that is strong on issues of concern to American Jews, especially support of Israel.

And while most Jewish delegates were pledged to candidates other than Jimmy Carter, most appeared ready to go along with the expected approval of the former Georgia Governor as the Democrats’ candidate for the Presidency. “We don’t have much choice,” one delegate quipped. In this, the Jewish-delegates echo the position of non-Jews who supported other candidates. Can- didates like Sen. Henry M. Jackson of Washington, Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota and Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, who had strong Jewish support, have all announced their endorsement of Carter.

Rep. James H. Scheuer, who represents a district in Brooklyn and Queens, said that Carter appears to be strong on Israel. But he said that the Jewish community will want to know how he feels about domestic issues of concern to Jews, especially the issue of quotas. He said Jews are very concerned about the use of quotas in employment and education since they feel it is discriminatory. Scheuer noted that the Jewish delegates do not have a caucus such as Blacks or women.

Scheuer said he did not believe that the reported Jewish concern over Carter’s evangelistic religious beliefs will play an important part in whether Jews vote for him. He said he saw Carter interviewed on television and has come to the conclusion that he is a “tough” politician in the mold of the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson and will make decisions on a pragmatic basis rather than on his religious views.

One atypical Jewish delegate was Rabbi Israel Friedman, a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect who was elected as a Jackson delegate from New York. He was non-committal on both the platform and Carter, saying he had to know more about both. There are several other Hasids in the New York delegation and several Hasids are among the 10,000 members of the press covering the convention.

CARTER MAKING A SPECIAL EFFORT

Carter has been making a special effort to win support of Jews because of his poor showing among Jewish voters during the primary campaigns. He only received about four percent of the Jewish vote in the New York primary. Carter has held several meetings with Jewish groups in various parts of the country in recent weeks and is expected to intensify his efforts after this week’s convention.

During the primary campaigns, Carter appeared publicly before a group of invited Jewish leaders in New York City and at a synagogue in Elizabeth, N.J., and made strong statements of support for Israel. He has repeated this support at several press conferences.

MANY ISSUES AT STAKE

The convention is expected tonight to adopt the Democratic Party’s campaign platform which includes strong support for Israel, opposition to an imposed settlement in the Middle East or negotiations with terrorists and urges the United States to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But Jewish delegates to the convention, like most American Jews, are concerned not only with the issue of Israel but with the whole gamut of problems that face the United States. This includes economics, civil rights, women’s rights the problems of cities, housing, foreign and defense policy, in fact all the issues that the convention will deal with.

This is demonstrated by the fact that several Jews will be presenting parts of the platform tonight that do not deal with specific Jewish issues.

Gloria Schaffer, Connecticut’s Secretary of State, will deal with employment policies; Bess Myerson, former New York City Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, will discuss business accountability; Jerry Wurf, who heads the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will discuss the Hatch Act; and Rep. Gladys N. Spellman of Maryland will deal with energy. Reps. Bella Abzug and Elizabeth Holtzman, both of New York, have been leading the fight for women’s rights at the convention, especially the demand that 50 percent of the delegates at the 1980 convention be women.

Jews are also participating in every position on the convention, from Democratic National Chairman Robert S. Strauss on down. Last night, the benediction was given by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman of Atlanta, Ga.

Many of the non-Jewish delegates have been experiencing in New York their first taste of Jewish delicacies such as bagels and lox, knishes and blintzes. One Southern woman was overheard at a Jewish delicatessen near the Garden as saying “I just can’t swallow corned beef.”

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