Pursue All Peace Avenues, UAHC Adyises Israel

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations urged Israel’s government Monday to "pursue all possible avenues" to peace "whether through direct talks or with appropriate international participation."

In a resolution adopted at the closing session of its national biennial convention here, the Reform Jewish congregational organization warned that the status quo in Judaea, Samaria and Gaza was "damaging to Israel’s essential character and moral security."

The UAHC resolution said that: "We know that all Jews share in the destiny of the Jewish state and in the responsibility of maintaining her survival and security. As family, we do not serve Israel’s cause when we censor, sanitize or stifle our views, or submit to the attempts of others to censor them … Any opportunity for advancing the peace process, whether through direct talks or with appropriate international participation, should be enthusiastically embraced.

In September, the American Jewish Congress called for an international conference for Middle East peace and a compromise solution for Israel’s administered territories.

That was quickly followed by a letter to Israeli leaders from Morris Abram, chairman of the conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saying the conference had a "tradition" of "restraint in giving public advice to Israel on matters of security," although constituent organizations may take their own positions. UAHC is a constituent organization.

On Saturday, UAHC President Rabbi Alexander Schindler told the convention that U.S. Jews have "the right and responsibility to participate in Israel’s peace debate."

In other resolutions, the more than 4,000 UAHC delegates:

Voiced "gratification at Israel’s announcement that it will not enter into new military or civilian contracts with South Africa," commended Israel’s government "for undertaking an expanded program of training black labor leaders from South Africa" and called for termination of the "twinning of Israeli and South African cities, such as Haifa and Cape Town, so that these arrangements do not provide a means of circumventing sanctions against South Africa."

Called on the prime minister of Israel "to instruct his Interior Ministry to register immediately as citizens all Reform and Conservative converts who have immigrated to Israel, as required by the Law of Return (which grants Israeli citizenship to all Jewish immigrants who request it) and by recent decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court."

Declared it was "deeply troubled … about the increasing fanaticism of Israel’s Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox political parties … and about the willingness of some leading secular politicians to accommodate this trend for political gain." The resolution also protested "continuing efforts to amend the Law of Return, including the commitments given earlier this year by Likud to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party."

Urged the congregations to "encourage lesbian and gay Jews to share and participate in worship, leadership, and general synagogue life" and to "continue to develop educational programs that promote understanding and respect" for them.

Urged that AIDS victims "be protected from all forms of discrimination" including housing bias, and that Reform synagogues "reach out to individuals infected with the AIDS virus, their families and their friends, by providing food, clothing, legal assistance, transportation and empathetic listening."

Called on the member synagogues to "ban smoking entirely" at all of their "meetings, functions, and work places." The resolution called on the United States and Canada "to phase out subsidies to the tobacco industry … and establish educational activities in religious schools and youth programs that discourage the use of smoking and nonsmoking tobacco products."

On Monday, nearly 1,000 members of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods unanimously condemned the "growing use of negative stereotyping and prejudice that demeans Jewish women."

In a resolution adopted at its national biennial convention here, the 100,000-member Reform Jewish women’s group said that "what began as an object of sexist humor has now become a tool of the anti-Semite."

The resolution called on member sisterhoods to discontinue the sale of JAP items in their Judaica shops and be sensitive to the image and quality of their entire stock; to educate their congregations and communities about the "JAP stereotype"; and to "work to raise the consciousness of their congregations and communities to the subtleties of discrimination in our everyday lives.’

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