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Colin Powell apologizes to Jews as he encourages new volunteerism

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WASHINGTON, May 27 (JTA) — Gen. Colin Powell invited representatives of Jewish organizations to a private meeting last week to personally apologize for holding last month’s summit on volunteerism on the Passover holiday. While the scheduling conflict prevented Jewish groups from participating in the highly publicized event in Philadelphia, it has not kept them from supporting Powell’s efforts. President Clinton tapped Powell to lead an initiative aimed at recruiting American volunteers from all walks of life. He has found an attentive ear among Jewish activists. “A number of factors have come together during the past year to facilitate volunteer efforts,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “There is more of a willingness of people to volunteer,” stemming in part from the recent spate of church burnings and changes in the welfare and immigration laws, said Saperstein, who also serves as a religious co-chair of Powell’s campaign, known as Promise America. At a meeting last Friday with five Jewish leaders, Powell said he “was especially embarrassed and troubled” that the summit was held during the last days of Passover, which are celebrated as Jewish holidays, Saperstein said. But now, the Jewish community is concentrating on how to move forward with their own volunteer efforts. Hadassah has joined up with the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations in an effort to recruit 100,000 reading tutors for an initiative spearheaded by the Department of Education. “We’re all going to work together to get these 100,000 volunteers,” said Marlene Post, Hadassah president.

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