San Diego (Jan. 15)
– The dedication American Jews give to the struggle for the security of Israel and Soviet Jews “must be given also to the struggle for conditions that will assure domestic tranquility in this country,” Albert Chernin, executive vice chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), told 400 delegates to that organization’s plenum, its highest policy-making body.
Chernin asserted that “the Bill of Rights is alive and well,” and added that “we in the Jewish community relations field can justifiably claim our share of the credit for contributing to this unfolding expression of American liberalism.” But he admitted that there are “chilling elements of truth” in the views of groups who see the Bill of Rights as “destroying the American family, sapping American values and leading to the disintegration of American society.”
He warned the audience, however, that an understanding of these views “should not lead us to disregard the liberal agenda — the basic protection that every American is entitled to by the Constitution.”
Regarding the progressive programs supported by American Jews in past decades, Chernin said: “We see boldness, brilliance, compassion and wisdom in them. Where would we have been without social security, welfare, SSI, aid to dependent children, food stamps? But none of these programs came from Sinai nor were they intended for eternity.”
MANDATE FOR THE 1980S
He recommended “massive governmental action” as a cure for the present ills afflicting the United States and reminded the group that previous liberal goals took years to achieve. “So, let’s brace ourselves for the long struggle,” he urged.
Chernin named the rising level of violence in America as one issue calling for imbuing in the American people — those who live in the ghettos, those who live in the suburbs, those who are Black and those who are white — a sense that their fate is intertwined and that we share a common destiny.
He concluded: “Our earlier vision of our need for a strong, vital, open society has not changed. What has changed is our dedication to the realization of this vision. What is required of us is the same kind of vigor that characterized Jewish community relations in the 1940s and ’50s. That struggle for social equality and economic justice should be the mandate for the Jewish community relations field in the 1980s.”