Menu JTA Search

At the CJF General Assembly: Cardin: Greatest Threat to Jewish Community is ‘disaffiliation and Non-

Shoshana Cardin, president of the Council of Jewish Federations, declared last night that with Jews moving increasingly to new locales in North America the Federations in the United States and Canada must reach out to them to involve them in the local Jewish community in order to foster a “sense of a national community with national commitments.

“The single greatest threat to our Jewish community is disaffiliation and non-affiliation,” she told the opening plenary meeting of the CJF’s 54th General Assembly at the Kennedy Center.

More than 3000 delegates, representing 200 Federations from 800 North American communities, are attending the four-day Assembly with the theme “the coming of age of North American Jewry.”

“History has proven that Jews need fraternity with other Jews.–To assure their continuity, the active, creative affiliation of Jews is, therefore, a value which we must foster with ever increasing enthusiasm,” Cardin said. “Affiliation with Jewish organizational life is a Jewish value in and of itself.”

Cardin of Baltimore said Federations “have to encourage Jews to join and participate in Jewish community centers, synagogues, Jewish communal organizations, Jewish women’s and men’s groups, youth and young adult organizations, Jewish educational environments, formal and informal.” She stressed this was a major “responsibility to Jewish continuity” since “unaffiliated Jews rarely transmit the value of continuity to those who follow them.”

In order to demonstrate an openness to the unaffiliated, Cardin said those in the Federation movement must “pay increasing and serious attention to our constituents.”

In addition, “we ought not to fear diversity, we ought not fear pluralism,” Cardin stressed. “Jewish life was never monolithic. Diverse opinions, different points of view and diverse ideologies must feel a sense of comfort and security in our Federations provided, of course, that these do not compel us, Federations and CJF, to become instruments of divisiveness in Jewish life. We must and we do stand firm and together on matters that threaten our security and continuity.”

Cardin added, “The Federation movement must foster Jewish continuity as the most serious dimension of our Israel-diaspora agenda. Israel is a ‘magical’ ingredient in motivating Jews to want to maintain and enhance their Jewishness.

“We must, therefore, seek broader, deeper, more personal and more meaningful experiences for Federations, for CJF, our constituencies and, of course, ourselves, the leadership, volunteer and professional, in an Israel connection.”

SOVIETS URGED ‘TO LET OUR PEOPLE GO’

In her address, Cardin noted that the General Assembly was meeting on the eve of next week’s summit in Geneva between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “The plight of Soviet Jewry is always uppermost in our minds,” and during the CJF meeting here delegates will be delivering a stream of letters to the Soviet Embassy “beseeching Soviet leadership to let our people go,” Cardin said.

She announced that she has sent a telegram to Reagan declaring that the delegates to the General Assembly “send you our blessings and best wishes for successful deliberations at your for thcoming historic summit with Secretary General Gorbachev.”

The telegram urged Reagan “to demand of the Secretary General that the Soviet Union permit the well over 400,000 Soviet Jews wishing to emigrate from the Soviet Union to do so. The credibility of the Soviet Union’s agreements is at stake and their commitment to universal human rights, which they have signed, is under serious question.”

REAGAN PRAISED FOR STAND ON UN RESOLUTION

Cardin praised Reagan for his pledge this week to work for the removal of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution equating Zionism with racism. “For us Zionism represents one of the most noble movements in the history of our people and all of mankind,” she said. “We pledge ourselves to the abhorence of racism wherever it may be found including among our own.”

Cardin noted that this year is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the first two Federations, in Boston and Cincinnati. She said that the Federations and the CJF have always been devoted to philanthropy and rescue.

“Essentially, our hallmark is caring,” Cardin said. But she stressed it was not limited to the Jewish community. “We cannot achieve maximally if the broader community in which we live falls behind,” she stressed. “It is our responsibility to participate in our general community in a giving way, in a caring manner and through responsible leadership.”

Washington Mayor Marion Barry welcomed the CJF not only as the city’s mayor but as a representative of another minority who had suffered discrimination and oppression. He urged the CJF to continue its battle against racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry including the “evil of apartheid” in South Africa.

NEXT STORY