Tanenbaum Criticizes Lack of Rabbi at Carter Inaugural
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Tanenbaum Criticizes Lack of Rabbi at Carter Inaugural

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The decision of planners of the Inauguration of President-elect Carter and Vice-President elect Walter Mondale not to include a rabbi and an Orthodox priest in the ceremony’s religious segment was criticized today by Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, inter-religious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee.

Inauguration officials announced last week that United Methodist Bishop William Cannon of Atlanta, a personal friend of Carter, would give the invocation and Catholic Archbishop John Roach of Minneapolis, a personal friend of Mondale, would offer the benediction. The plan broke with a 20-year tradition of having rabbis and Orthodox priests included, which began in 1949, when a rabbi participated for the first time.

Cantor Isaac Goodfriend of Atlanta, will sing the Star Spangled Banner to close the ceremony. Tanenbaum said a cantor singing the national anthem “is not exactly an expression of Judaism nor does it take seriously the Jewish presence in America.”

Tanenbaum said that “given the fact that over the past five inaugurations it became an established American institution that the four major religious communities were part and parcel of the mainstream of-American society,” the decision “to exclude representatives of Judaism and Greek Orthodoxy cannot but lead to misunderstanding and in many cases even to resentment.”

A similar protest was made by the Rev. John Tavlarides, pastor of the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, who had sought to induce inauguration officials to place Archbishop Iakovos, head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, on the program. The Archbishop has prayed during the last four inaugurations.


Tanebaum noted that there was “much suspicion” during the Presidential primary campaign that Carter’s evangelical Christianity might contribute to an effort to “evangelize America,” and that he felt that Carter and his advisors “had an obligation to bend over back-wards not to give substance to that suspicion. I am afraid that having only two Christians praying is going to have exactly that effect.”

Tanenbaum said he had discussed the issue with Hyman Bookbinder, the AJ Committee’s representative in Washington and that Book-binder had discussed the matter with Carter’s representatives yesterday and this morning.

Tanenbaum noted there would be a separate Sunrise Service the day after the inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial which will be led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. in which representatives of the major religious communities, including a rabbi, would participate. While calling this “a good idea.” Tanenbaum said it was “an inadequate substitute for the active involvement of the four faiths at the central moment of the inauguration during which the eyes of the nation will be focused on the President and all persons around him.”

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