Jewish Groups Come out in Support of Clinton Pick for Surgeon General

Jewish groups are actively supporting Joycelyn Elders, President Clinton’s nominee for surgeon general, in contrast to the ambivalence they displayed about Lani Guinier, his choice to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Both Elders and Guinier are African-American women who have spoken out on controversial topics, leading some here to compare the two.

After the fiasco over Guinier, whose nomination was withdrawn when she ran into problems over her writings on voting rights and other issues, the administration is under pressure to stand by Elders.

Elders, who stepped down this past weekend as director of public health in Arkansas, has garnered support from a number of Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Congress, the National Council of Jewish Women and the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Known as an outspoken advocate of abortion rights and frank education about sex and contraception, Elders has met opposition from the religious right.

The Jewish groups have written to key members of Congress, and some Jewish organizational officials have attended meetings with the administration as part of a pro-Elders coalition.

Mark Pelavin, Washington representative for AJCongress, one of the groups that had initial concerns about the Guinier nomination, said the current situation is entirely different.

AJCongress, he said, is “excited” about the Elders nomination, whereas it was concerned about Guinier.

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