UAHC Steps Up Anti-apartheid Campaign

A “Prisoner of Apartheid” project modeled after the Prisoner of Conscience campaign for Soviet Jewry has been launched by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) through its 800 synagogues to intensify programs by the Reform Jewish movement in the national campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, it was announced here.

The project will provide moral and material support for South African political prisoners and their families, according to Albert Vorspan, senior vice president of the UAHC and director of its Commission on Social Action.

Synagogues participating in the project, which has been adopted by the Free South Africa Movement, will adopt individual prisoners and lobby for their release. Supporters will write regularly to their adopted political prisoners and families and publicize their efforts to bring national and international pressure on their behalf.

The UAHC’s anti-apartheid campaign is being carried out in cooperation with other religious groups, including the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and Clergy and Laity Concerned.

Among these efforts in which the UAHC is cooperating are anti-apartheid strategies that seek to put economic pressure on American corporations to withdraw from South Africa such as “no-buy” campaigns to boycott stores that sell South African merchandise, the targeting of corporations and banks with substantial investment in South Africa and support of divestment programs on the local, state and federal level.

A major tool in the UAHC anti-apartheid drive is a manual for individual and congregational action, written by Dr. Rita Kaunitz and Rabbi David Saperstein, that will be issued next month. Saperstein is the director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, which has worked to mobilize coalitions aimed at persuading corporations, universities, pension funds and other groups to sever their economic ties to South Africa.

The UAHC will also provide films, publications and speakers to Reform congregations participating in the anti-apartheid movement, according to Harris Gilbert, chairman of the Commission on Social Action.

PARALLEL WITH NUREMBERG LAWS CITED

The UAHC has been among the first Jewish organizations to campaign against apartheid as well as to adopt resolutions and issue statements on the issue. Addressing the organization’s biennial general assembly last year, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, UAHC president, called apartheid “a first cousin to the infamous Nuremberg laws.” Racism, he declared, “cannot be countenanced in this world of ours, for any reason whatsoever, and never by Jews.”

At the same convention, attended by some 3,000 leaders of Reform Jewish congregations, the UAHC adopted a resolution calling on the Reagan Administration to ban new business investments in and bank loans to South Africa, and opposing all sales of U.S. and Canadian equipment that might be used for military and police purposes by the South African government.

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