Menu JTA Search

U.S. Jews Facing Bleak Future According to Aj Committee Leader

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Bertram Gold, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, declared today that the American Jewish community must be prepared to meet new realities in the future, a future that will be beset “by conflict, confusion and contradiction.”

Delivering the keynote address to the 74th annual meeting of the AJ Committee which opened here today at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Gold said, however, that despite the prospects for a bleak future “we must retain a vision of a hopeful future. For without such a vision, there can be no meaning to the Holocaust that destroyed six million of us, nor the Jewish State which arose out of the ashes.”

Noting that the future of the American Jewish community is closely related and intertwined with the international situation as well as the internal American scene, Gold said American Jews should speak out on foreign policy issues. He stated: “I am not advocating that we become involved in every American foreign policy issue. There are some matters, however, such as the nature of our defense budget, which, whether we like it or not, will have to become a subject of our concern.”

Gold, underscoring the priority of Israel’s survival on the American Jewish agenda, pointed out that “we have always known that this survival depended on America’s unstinting support. But what good is such support if the United States has neither the power nor resolve to commit itself?” He added: “How then, we must ask ourselves, can the American Jewish community avoid coming to grips with the larger issues of American foreign policy? How can we not be concerned with America’s credibility and strength?”

Gold stressed that the recent developments In Iron and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan “made many people realize that, contrary to what our State Department has been saying, the Arab-Israeli conflict, important as it is, is not the central issue in the Middle East, nor would the creation of a Palestinian state make possible an ‘Islamic Alliance’ that will keep the Soviets out of the Persian Gulf.” A strong, dependable Israel is vital to American efforts to keep the Persian Gulf from becoming “a Soviet lake,” Gold claimed, adding: “It is this reality that we must continue to stress to every American Administration.”

NEW REALITIES FACING U.S. JEWS

The new realities facing American society in the 80s will have a profound affect on the Jewish community, Gold said. Demographic changes, new social and economic developments in America will create new realities and force changes in the life of American Jews, the AJ Committee official predicted.

He said that “with a larger working population, an increase in minorities, and possibly a diminishing economy, we are bound to see increased competition for jobs and a resultant increase in intergroup tensions.”

Gold noted that the trend among the well educated and prosperous to return to live in the cities will create a situation in which cities will be occupied by two classes–the affluent whites, of which many are Jews, and the poor, mostly Black and Hispanic. This situation raises the question whether the cities can offer peace and stability, Gold said. “The answer to this question is vitally important to us,” he stressed.

FIVE DEMOGRAPHIC FACTORS

He pointed to five demographic factors which “are fraught with implications” for the Jewish community: “fertility, intermarriage, dispersion, the age-bulge, and immigration.” Focusing on these factors, Gold declared:

“If we want the Jewish community to continue, we must strengthen the Jewish family and advocate social policies that encourage childbirth in families in which both parents work. More day care centers and experimentation with flex time and job sharing arrangements which would make it possible for working men and women to share the responsibilities of parenting are social policies of special importance to us.”

Other challenges facing the Jewish community are the needs of the aged and newly arrived immigrants in the United States, Gold said. “We will need to think in terms of outreach programs to the new Jewish immigrants–Russian, Israeli, Iranian — now in this country,” he stated.

ISSUE OF JEWISH UNITY

Gold concluded his remarks on the issue of the “plea for Jewish ‘unity'” which he said “is heard most often in the attempt to discourage public criticism of Israeli policies.” He declared:

“It is one thing for an individual or Jewish organization to refrain from public criticism of one or another Israeli policy in the belief that it might be harmful to Israel, or because of an understanding of the internal constraints that have resulted in the formulation of a particular policy. I can understand and commend such responsible behavior and restraint. It is quite another matter, however, to refrain from taking positions for the sake of so-called ‘Jewish unity.’ A unity that cannot tolerate difference is a unity not worth maintaining.”

WISHNER NEW AJ COMMITTEE PRESIDENT

Richard Mass, AJ Committee president, concluded his three-year term as head of the organization. He was elected today honorary president of the AJ Committee. Maynard Wishner of Chicago, an attorney and financial expert and the immediate past chairman of the AJ Committee’s Board of Governors, succeeded Mass as president. Wishner has served the organization in a variety of top leadership posts over the course of many years, including, chairman of the National Executive Council, chairman of the Jewish Communal Affairs Commission, a national vice chairman, and chairman of the Chicago chapter.

NEXT STORY