WASHINGTON (Sep. 20)
Rabbi Mordechai Waxman, president of the Synagogue Council of America declared here today that because of the Biblical commandment to “choose life”. Jews support the move for an immediate, mutual and verifiable freeze of nuclear weapons.
The Torah concludes with a declaration to “choose life that you and your children may live,” Waxman said at a Capitol Hill press conference “It is not merely a bit of good advice. Jews understand it to be a commandment.”
Waxman said that the SCA, as representative of the Jewish religious community, supports the freeze resolution in the Senate, sponsored by Senators Mark Hatfield (R. Ore.) and Edward Kennedy (D. Mass.)
The rabbi joined the Rev. James Armstrong, president of the National Council of Churches; Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, chairman of Pax Christi, a Catholic peace group; and representatives of physicians, lawyers and other professions at the press conference just prior to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of the freeze resolution. Earlier, some 20 Jewish religious and secular leaders from across the country lobbied Senators for the freeze.
Waxman seemed to be referring to the Soviet downing of the Korean airliner when he noted that “the threat of universal destruction which yesterday seemed to be remote, becomes ever more real in the atmosphere of international violence and lawlessness which surrounds us.” He noted that Jews recently prayed on Yom Kippur for life but, “the responsibility to choose life is not God’s, it is ours, ” he said.
KENNEDY CITES URGENCY OF HALTING ARMS RACE
Kennedy, at the press conference, rejected the view that the freeze resolution should be delayed “because of the brutal attack against the Korean airliner. That tragedy makes it all the more urgent to do all we possibly can to reach a realistic agreement with the Soviet Union to halt the nuclear arms race.”
He noted that 10 months after his late brother, President John Kennedy, “stood up to the Soviet Union over the Cuban missile crisis in 1962”, he signed the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty with the USSR.
Hatfield urged the American public to make their views in favor of the freeze known to their representatives and senators. Waxman also stressed that Americans have the right to change public opinion and while conceding that the Soviet people do not have that right, he added, “We can hope the word will spread and voices will be raised there too.”
Waxman, whose organization represents the synagogueal and rabbinical organizations of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism in America, stressed that “if we can direct the money, the imagination and the effort involved (in making nuclear weapons) to the real battle against hunger, disease and suffering, then we will have made the choice for life rather than death.”