Z.O.A. Annual Convention Adopts Basic Revisions in Its Constitution
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Z.O.A. Annual Convention Adopts Basic Revisions in Its Constitution

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The 68th annual convention of the Zionist Organization of America concluded here yesterday with the election of Jacques Torczyner as president and the adoption of a number of resolutions dealing with the Middle East and world Jewry. Dr. Emanuel Neumann was reelected honorary president and Herman L. Weisman, chairman of the ZOA national executive committee, the ruling body of the organization between conventions.

The convention for the first time in 25 years discussed and voted upon basic revisions in the constitution of the ZOA. The revisions adopted dealt with a set-up of the governing bodies of the organization, the methods of choosing their membership, the number of elective national officers and also brought up to cute the objectives of the organization.

Among the resolutions adopted was one calling upon the U.S. Government to maintain its economic aid to Israel without denying similar aid to other countries in the Middle East who do not employ or threaten to use such aid for aggression against Israel. The U.S. Government was also urged to strengthen Israel’s security and deterrent capacity by directly supplying her with the arms necessary to prevent military imbalance in the Middle East.

Another resolution exhorted the U.S. Government to make clear to the Arab states that it will not countenance the spiteful diversion of Israel’s water resources. The convention welcomed the recent action of the U.S. Congress opposing the Arab boycott of U.S. businessmen and firms. The U.S. Government was also urged to encourage every manifestation of peaceful intent in the Middle East and to insist upon Arab-Israel negotiations to translate armistice agreements into treaties of peace.

In a resolution on Soviet Jewry, the convention reiterated its grave concern with the religious and cultural oppression of the Russian Jewish community numbering close to three million. Members of the organization were urged to continue and intensify their efforts to enlighten public opinion concerning anti-Jewish cultural discrimination which is being practiced in contravention to the Constitution of the Soviet Union.


Dr. Neumann, addressing the convention, said that he favors the merger of the Zionist movement and the World Jewish Congress. “Whatever organizational and political considerations may appear to stand in the way, they are outweighed by the great beneficial results which may be anticipated,” he stated. He urged that “a joint committee be constituted by these two world bodies, to initiate exploratory studies of the possibility and a basis for a united framework.”

Dealing with the recent paper submitted to the Rabbinical Assembly by a committee of five Conservative rabbis criticizing the structure of the World Zionist Organization, Dr. Neumann pointed out that this report has not been approved, much less adopted, by the Rabbinical Assembly.

The Zionist leader emphasized that “historically, the Conservative movement and its rabbinate in particular have been among the architects and supporters of American Zionism; and the great majority of them remain loyal and steadfast supporters of our cause, If they criticize the Zionist movement or its structure, they do so as friends, not as adversaries.”

Dr. Neumann indicated that “the World Zionist Organization will certainly be prepared to explore every possibility through joint discussions, even to the point of considering further revisions in the structure of the World Zionist Organization.” He added that indeed a special commission to study structural revision has already been set up, following a decision at the last Zionist Congress.”

Yoseph Saphir, member of the Israel Parliament and chairman of the Liberal Party of Israel, stressed “with the utmost emphasis that any attempt to bring about talks with the Arab states on the basis of any territorial concessions on our part or through the settlement of Arab refugees in Israel, will be formally rejected by the vast majority of the Israeli people.” He further emphasized that “such claims made by the Arabs have no basis whatsoever as far as the needs of the nations surrounding us or the welfare of the refugees themselves are concerned.


Dr. Judah J. Shapiro, secretary of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and author of numerous works on the American Jewish community, told the delegates at the convention that Zionism in the United States should be recognized as the advocate of Jewish survival and ties with Israel, which is the will of the majority.

“The debate about the vanishing Jew in American is no longer confined to Jews themselves but increasingly attracts the attention of the public press and the leading figures in government, religious and cultural affairs,” Dr. Shapiro said. “The general society is becoming troubled about the diminishing strength of the Jewish value system, but it will take courageous Jewish leadership and mass support to redirect the attention of Jews to their own cultural worth. The test of Zionism in this country is to provide such leadership develop such support.”


Abraham Goodman, president of the ZOA Foundation, reported at the convention that the Foundation is making preparations for an adequate form of perpetuation of the activities and achievements of the first Zionist Societies in the United States, the first Zionist cells out of which the Zionist Organization of America grew into its leading position in the struggle for the establishment of the Jewish State. Additional $101,500 have been subscribed for the Foundation at the breakfast held at the convention thus bringing the sum total of subscriptions to the ZOA Foundation to $1,601,500.

Leon Ilutovich, national secretary of the ZOA, reported at the convention that the American Zionist Fund, the fund-raising arm of the organization which finances educational activities on the American scene and two major ZOA projects in Israel, had an increase in income during the past year. He said that the ZOA has now 105,000 members.

Religion in Israel was the subject of an animated symposium at the convention with representatives of all branches of American Judaism as principal discussants. The speakers were Professor Mordecai Kaplan, founder of the Reconstructinist movement; Dr. Samuel K. Mirsky, Professor of Rabbinics at Yeshiva University, Orthodox; Dr. Judah Nadich, Conservative; and Dr. Louis I. Newman, Reform. Mortimer May of Nashville, Tenn., former ZOA president, presided.

While the present jurisdiction of the rabbinate in Israel was staunchly defended by Mr. Mirsky as spokesman for the Orthodox, criticism was voiced by the other three speakers ranging from mile stricture to a categorical demand for the achievement of “the complete separation of church and state in the State of Israel without any further delay” by the spokesman for the Reform movement.

President Johnson, in a message of greeting to the convention, said: “As one of the foremost bodies of creative Jewry in the United States, your organization has performed an honorable role in our country’s long search for world peace.” Messages were also received from Vice President Humphrey and numerous U.S. Senators. Congressman Ogden R. Reid, New York Republican and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, was honored at a breakfast session at the convention devoted to the ZOA Foundation. The convention concluded with a dinner honoring Rabbi Max Nussbaum, outgoing ZOA president who completed a three-year term.

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