BALTIMORE (Dec. 1)
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJC) unanimously adopted a resolution at the close of its national convention here Friday calling on “all Jewish institutions, our member congregations and their congregants to divest from their portfolios all investments in companies that do business with South Africa and do not comply with the ‘Sullivan Principles’.”
Sidney Kwestel, president of the UOJC which represents 1,500 Orthodox congregations in the U.S. and Canada with a membership of 1.2 million, called the move “not just a statement, but a call to action.” He noted that the UOJC has spoken out against apartheid in the past but had not previously taken a position on divestment.
The resolution noted that “Racial discrimination is anathema to the Jewish tradition … As Jews we are particularly sensitive to the tragic consequences of racial and religious prejudice and are committed to speak out against such practices wherever they appear, whether it be against the Bahai in Iran or our fellow Jews in the Soviet Union or Syria.”
The resolution said the UOJC “remains sensitive to the interests of our Jewish brethren living in South Africa” and took note of “the courageous statements made by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies rejecting apartheid and renewing its commitment to justice, equal opportunity and the removal of all provisions in the laws of South Africa which discriminate on the grounds of color and race.”
The UOJC affirmed in its resolution that the Sullivan Principles “have become a standard guiding many institutions that are contemplating divestment of holdings in American corporations doing business with South Africa.”
The Sullivan Principles were developed by Rev. Leon Sullivan, a Philadelphia Baptist minister They call on American corporations doing business in South Africa to voluntarily comply with specified standards regarding equal and fair employment practices, training programs to prepare Blacks and other non-whites for supervisory and administrative positions, programs to promote more Blacks and non-whites in these jobs and efforts to promote a higher quality of life outside the white environment.
UOJC officials said they believe the UOJC resolution is the first time a major national Jewish organization has called on its individual members to divest themselves of interests in South Africa.
Other Jewish groups which have either called for or have divested interests in South Africa include the Council of Jewish Federations; Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles; Jewish Federations of Baltimore, Boston, New York and Rhode Island; Union of American Hebrew Congregations; National Council of Jewish Women; and Brandeis University.