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Jewish Groups Split over Passage of Congressional Child Care Bill

Most Jewish groups strongly oppose a child care bill approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday that allows federally funded vouchers to pay for sectarian child care.

The $27 billion measure, similar to one the Senate adopted last year, passed by 265-145, despite a threatened veto by President Bush, who cited its high cost.

Among the few Jewish organizations supporting the measure were the Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and the Council of Reform Jewish Day Schools.

Both had warm praise for the House action, although Reform and Orthodox groups usually are fiercely at odds over state-church issues.

Abba Cohen, Washington representative of Agudath Israel, praised the House vote, and argued that “the entire Jewish community will greatly benefit from this landmark legislation and ought to applaud the House action.”

The Reform movement, however, is sharply split on this child care bill.

Irwin Shlachter, president of the 15-member day school council, said he supported the measure because as headmaster of the Rodeph Shalom School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he was concerned about “escalating” tuition costs, while parents had “less and less (tax) deductions” available to them.

But Rabbi David Saperstein, Washington representative of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, warned, “The precedent of cracking the wall of separation between church and state is too dangerous a principle to legitimize in a bill such as this.”

The UAHC, the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women and other organizations also opposed the Senate bill, which had almost identical church-state language.

Only four of the 31 Jewish House members voted for the bill. They are Reps. Gary Ackerman and Ted Weiss, both New York Democrats, Anthony Beilinson (D-Calif.) and Willis Gradison (R-Ohio).

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