Reform Rabbis Back Israel’s Operation in Lebanon, Deplore Loss of Lives on Both Sides

Delegates to the 93rd annual conference of the Central Conference of American Rabbis endorsed unanimously yesterday Israel’s incursion into Lebanon against terrorism and the Palestine Liberation Organization, simultaneously expressing their “deep concern” at the loss of life on both sides.

The 525 Reform rabbinical delegates called on the Reform movement’s 1.2 million congregants to join in efforts under Jewish and non-Jewish auspices to raise funds to provide food, medical supplies and shelter for the people of Lebanon who are the victims of the war. The four-day conclave ended today.

The delegates rejected an attempt by a CCAR member, Rabbi Israel Dresner, who is also president of the Association of Reform Rabbis of Greater New York, to condemn the Israeli military action. The delegates rejected an effort by some delegates to introduce a resolution that would have criticized the Israeli action in Lebanon.

Dresner, stressing he was speaking for himself and not for the association he heads, said he was a lifelong Zionist “dedicated to a democratic and just Israel” but that “what is happening in Lebanon today has nothing to do with that kind of Israel.” He made his statement at a news conference sponsored at the United Nations Church center here by a newly-formed National Emergency Committee on Lebanon. A CCAR spokesman said Rabbi Dresner’s views were “most definitely” in the minority in American Reform Judaism.

DEFER RULE ON JEWISH FATHER

The delegates, after three hours at debate, deferred for further study a proposal for acceptance of children of a mixed marriage as Jewish if either the father or mother is Jewish. Rabbinic law holds that progeny is Jewish only if the mother is Jewish.

The proposal emerged from a two-year study by a CCAR Committee on Potrilineal Descent. Presented to the delegates as a motion, the proposal was that “where only one of the parents is Jewish, the Jewishness of a child is derivable from the Jewish parent, and is expressed by participation in Jewish life.”

Rabbi Herman Schoolman at Chicago, who was elected to a second one-year term as CCAR president, said he believed that 179-168 vote which referred the issue back to committee, was partly due to the fact that for many Reform rabbis this was the first exposure “to a discussion of the many facets of this problem.” He said many of the delegates felt uncomfortable to bring such a complex issue to a quick conclusion.

Rabbi Joseph Glaser, CCAR executive vice-president, said, after the vote, that “a general feeling existed that there should be equalization between maternal and paternal descent. However, at this time, many of the CCAR members do not want a flat equalization between the two because of the weight of tradition and the general break that such a dramatic action would mean to the rest of the Jewish world.”

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, who recommended the move to the CCAR in 1979 said that the vote demonstrated that the Reform movement had accepted “overwhelmingly,” the idea that Jewish fathers “are no less equal than Jewish mothers in determining the Jewishness of their offspring. There are however, strong differences” on the criteria “for accepting a child into the Jewish faith,” he said.

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