NEW YORK (Apr. 8)
Forty-one student activists were arrested this afternoon at the executive offices of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies after refusing to give up their protest against alleged Federation insensitivity to Jewish educational and cultural needs. The sit-in and sing-in began an 8 a.m. with 100 members of the ad hoc Community for a Jewish Federation taking over the switchboard and blocking entrances. By 2 p.m. around half of them had left. There was no violence and secretaries continued their work, but Federation executives were pre-occupied with the demonstration. The protest group comprised members of such organizations as Habonim, Havurah, Jewish Liberation Project, Jewish Peace Fellowship and Students Struggle for Soviet Jewry, as well as rabbinical students. The ultra-militant Jewish Defense League was not involved.
The protesters called on Federation to guarantee quality Jewish education in the city, finance a foundation to aid youth projects underwrite Jewish cultural endeavors, and contribute $10,000 to the April 26 Exodus March for Soviet Jewry. A leader of the group said the latter figure was determined on the basis of the Exodus planners’ $11,000 deficit. The group charged that “the select circle who run the Federation and formulate its policies have remained stubborn in their determination to deny a major commitment of Jewish community funds” for the recommended projects. The FJP, which has exchanged letters with the group over their demands, suggested a meeting with president George H. Heyman Jr., executive vice president Sanford Solender and other “key” board members to consider the demands if the sit-inners dispersed. But the protest group insisted that the executives commit themselves in advance to general endorsement of their recommendations. The executives stated that only the 400-member board could take formal action. As the impasse continued, the executives called the police, who made the arrests when the students decided not to leave the premises. They did not, however, resist arrest. The demonstrators were taken to police headquarters and charged with criminal trespass. If convicted it would mean up to three months in prison and up to $500 fine. They were released on their own recognizance.
The protesters’ major point centered on Federation’s alleged short-changing of Jewish educational needs. They quoted audit figures indicating Federation outplayed $840,000 for religious education in 1967-68–with only 4.7 percent going to New York member agencies as against 14.1 percent to agencies in other communities. Federation spokesmen told the JTA that more recent figures showed $1.6 million for education purposes, and that while the in-city percentage of distribution was lower, because of the number of agencies involved, the slice of the pie was actually much higher than in cities and towns outside New York. It was learned that the protesters had not decided in advance how to react to threats of police action, not expecting that such a situation would occur. Thus they spent several hours heatedly debating among themselves as to strategy. There were shouts of “The Federation is guilty of anti-Semitism” and “Let them arrest us studying Rambam.” A large crowd was gathered outside Federation headquarters in the city’s midtown shopping area as the 41 arrestees were led from the building, singing “Am Yisroel Hal” (Israel lives) and making the V-for-peace sign.