Leading Reform Rabbi Says Carter Exploits Jews for Political Reasons

Rabbi Alexander Schindler accused the Carter Administration here last night of exploiting the American Jewish community for political reasons and declared that he will not work for the re-election of President Carter whose handling of the Andrew Young resignation, he claimed, was a form of “political anti-Semitism.”

Schindler, a leader of Reform Judaism who is president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and a past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, participated in a dialogue before 2000 delegates to the biennial convention of the United Synagogue of America, the congregational arm of Conservative Judaism. He said he believed he was the first Reform leader ever invited to a United Synagogue convention.

His fellow panelist was Theodore Mann, chairman of the Presidents Conference. and the moderator was another past Conference chairman, Jacob Stein.

Schindler contended that the Carter Administration had long wanted to drop Young and that the former UN envoy’s talk with the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy was a perfect opportunity to force his resignation and deflect Black anger against American Jews.

He said “I see a hell of a lot of people that would be better than this Administration,” adding that “If Carter and (John) Connally (a declared Republican Presidential candidate) confront each other (in the 1980 elections) I’ll commit suicide.” Connally angered Jews in a recent speech linking Middle East oil supplies to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

THE ISSUE OF DISSENT

Mann and Schindler agreed that American Jews should dissent if they do not agree with Israeli positions but that they should express themselves privately to Israel and not publicly in the U.S. Nevertheless, both panelists discussed the issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Schindler said he favored “any and all settlements necessary for the defense of Israel provided that they don’t involve expropriation of land.” He said he rejected the notion that the settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. “I hear more complaints about it in Washington than I do in Cairo,” he said. He claimed that Israel’s right to sovereignty on the West Bank is “at least as good as anyone else’s.”

Mann noted, however, that the reorganized Cabinet of Premier Menachem Begin is considerably to the right of what it was three weeks ago and suggested that Moshe Dayan may have resigned as Foreign Minister because he felt the Cabinet was annexationist. Expressing “deep concern,” he said he was speaking from the viewpoint of whether annexation was good for the Jewish people religiously and morally, not whether the U.S. would like it.

The convention was addressed yesterday afternoon by Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, who reiterated his view that Soviet Jewish dropouts — those who opt not to go to Israel after reaching Vienna — should receive no help in immigrating to the U.S. He also urged increased aliya by American Jews. (See related story P.4.)

“Begin hasn’t suggested that aid here (in the U.S.) be changed,” Mann said. “The question is whether HIAS will provide services while in transit from Vienna or Rome to the U.S. unless there are first degree relatives here.” He said he was looking for a compromise that would increase the percentage of Soviet Jews who go to Israel.

Mann suggested that Israel has the power to change the direction of flow since it issues the letters of invitation to Soviet Jews, but he stressed that Israel would never do so. He said Israel could choose to direct those invitations only to people from those areas, such as Soviet Georgia, where the percentage of immigration to Israel is high. He said it was a “mitzvah” to help all Jews leave the USSR but a “double mitzvah” if they serve the security and future of Israel.

Schindler agreed with Mann that any Soviet Jew who wants to leave should be helped. He added that “in America we are providing for the immigrants’ physical needs but we are not doing enough to integrate them into our religious communities. If we are saving Jews, we have to save them as Jews here in America.”

URGES CHANGE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM’S IMAGE

Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman, the executive director of the United Synagogue, in his keynote address Sunday, called upon the Conservative Judaism movement to rid itself of a “terrible religious inferiority complex.” He said that Conservative Jewry must “desperately change” its self image if it is to thrive and grow in the 1980s.

“We have an image of ourselves as being ‘minimalists’ because we compromise our religious observances to meet what we consider some of the exigencies of the day and, wherever possible, we make concessions to the weakness of the flesh,” Kreitman said.

“With ambivalent feelings, we believe minimalism gives us greater access to those in the Jewish community who wish to be free from some of the heavy obligations that normative Jewish practice demands. But these ambivalent feelings about ourselves have produced a terrible religious inferiority complex and the so called ‘maximalists’ take on in our minds the aura of authenticity.”

If Conservative Judaism is to survive, Kreitman said, “we — rabbis and laymen alike — must stop thinking of ourselves as a minimalist denomination …. We are rooted in rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism … (which) expanded the law, related Jewish religious law to the needs of the day and even abrogated and suspended Torah laws and radically reinterpreted others and never looked upon itself as a minimalist movement.”

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