WASHINGTON (Dec. 28)
A New Jewish Agenda (NJA), a new national Jewish organization dedicated to addressing the social economic and political issues of the times through Jewish experience and teaching, was founded this morning by the overwhelming majority of more than 500 voting participants who attended a conference here over the weekend.
According to the Unity Statement adopted by the delegates, the NJA “Must be determined by our ethics, not our enemies.” The new group affirmed “the validity and vitality of progressive Jewish values at a time when many have last faith that the goals of justice and peace are attainable.”
The new organization will include Jews from “a wide variety of backgrounds, affiliations and personal outlook who share a vision of the meaning and purpose of Jewish life,” the Unity Statement said. The Jewish mandate of “Tikun Olam” — the repair and moral improvement of the world was the statement’s central theme.
“It is time for a New Jewish Agenda, a new understanding of Jewish responsibilities and possibilities in the 1980s, a new effort to apply Jewish values, traditions and insights to our problems and needs,” the statement declared.
Calling for a translation of commitment into “concrete action,” the Unity Statement also said: “it is not an easy time. American Jewry is fragmented lacking leadership, eroded by assimilation. Anti-Semitism is everywhere on the rise. America remains a deeply troubled nation with inequalities and confusion. Its new Administration seemingly is preparing for another era of repression, unlimited arms race and destruction of the environment…”
The statement continued: “We are committed to Jewish survival. Jews must have the rights to which every people is entitled … We believe that society can be improved, that human cooperation can be achieved and that we not only reflect Jewish ideals but enhance Jewish security by working for social progress.”
The NJA “welcomes to our cause any Jew who shares our vision, whether already involved in the Jewish community or alienated from it,” the statement said. “To those whose Jewish goals differ from our own, we say; Let us join in dialogue. Authentic Jewish unity grows not from forced unanimity, intolerance, or the stifling of dissent, but from respect and understanding for diversity.”
An interim National Council was elected to serve for one year. The NJA will be a dues-paying membership organization with chapters and affiliates.
JEWISH COMMUNITY ASSESSED
In earlier plenary sessions of the conference “American Jewry and Our Visions of the Future” and “Israel: Peace, Security and a Just Society were among the topics discussed. Sam Narich, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, who was one of the speakers, said “We have to hold our leadership accountable as the leadership of a community that is a kehila. People who are not now affiliated have to make their views known within the Jewish community.”
Aviva Cantor, editor of Lilith magazine and a founding member of the Jewish Liberation Project, spoke of American Jewry from a feminist perspective. “It is no accident that American Jewry is dominated by a small group of wealthy, assimilationist men, aided by their hired male hocks,” she said. “They speak and act in our name without our having selected either them or their policies … The majority of American Jews, men and women, are disenfranchised.”
Inge Leader Gibel, a freelance writer on Israeli affairs and a member of the editorial board of Israel Horizons, said that “Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish people. I don’t understand any American Jew in 1980 who doesn’t know that anti-Semitism is rampant and that anti-Zionism is a screen for anti-Semitism,” she said. “As Jewish progressives, we have to love ourselves as much as we love the rest of the world.”