GROSSINGER, N.Y., (Nov. 9)
The leader of the American Zionist Federation said here that he sees a new mood in America which will make the period ahead uniquely different for Zionists and friends of Israel. The new mood, according to Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president of the AZF, was underscored by what he termed the remarkable political swing to the right in last week’s Presidential election and the political, international and economic forces which contributed to the results.
Sternstein, in on address prepared for delivery before 300 delegates of the opening session tonight of the AZF’s sixth biennial convention at Grossinger’s said that “Zionists and friends of Israel must immediately came to grips with this new ideological climate from the perspective of American relationships with Israel and the average American’s understanding of Zionism.”
This is “of particular urgency,” he said, “because in recent years the American Jew has became more parochial. His concern with domestic Jewish affairs has been on a rapid increase. However, there is also on evident decrease in his concern for Israel.”
Sternstein pointed to a “lock of education” as the primary cause of this decline, a situation which has forced Zionism, as a revolutionary movement, to take a bock seat to domestic concerns. “The discomforting truth,” Sternstein said, is that “too many American Jews have the feeling that Zionism is irrelevant and some even consider it a handicap.”
It is “of paramount importance that the Zionist movement in America move forward with resolve and vigor in the area of education,” Sternstein said.
CITES SPECIFIC CHALLENGES
He said that “politically, it is clear that in Congress there lies a specific challenge for Zionists and friends of Israel. For, as always, Congress has been the arena for basic, final and the fundamental decisions and climate for our concerns.”
Because “new faces” are moving to the forefront of political leadership in America, “they are unaware of the fundamental meaning and import of Zionism and its significance as a majestic movement for the Jewish people and humanity throughout the world,” Sternstein said. “We shall be summoned to undertake extraordinarily vigorous measures to meet with, educate and undertake a systematic dialogue with these new political leaders throughout the country, inculcate respect for and understanding of Zionism and Israel, “Rabbi Sternstein said.
Sternstein said he will call for a special meeting of American Zionist leadership to explore the relevance of these new political changes and said he will suggest the launching of a national American conference or commission made up of Americans of “all faiths, political and economic persuasions, and molders of American public opinion, whose purpose will be the dissemination of the true meaning of Zionism and the importance of Israel as interwoven with the future of America’s own concerns and interests.”
Outlining what he considers the Zionist objectives for the next decode, Sternstein said the task in this country is to enhance the image of the Zionists as a constructive force in local American Jewish life; to fight against attempts to isolate the Zionists and “even to elbow Israel and the Jewish people off the international agenda; and that Zionists must become more assertive in local Jewish community life by generating more active involvement in local Jewish activities and achievements.