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500 Jews in 5-day Fast

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An estimated 500 American Jews took part in a five-day “fast for life” in the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, to protest the war in Vietnam and the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich, the major American Reform agencies reported today.

Led by 100 Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, the fasters were joined by thousands of other congregants who did not abstain from eating for either personal or medical reasons but wanted to show their support, according to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which is the association of Reform synagogues, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is the Reform rabbinical association. Involved were congregations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and a number in New Jersey and Long island.

The initial call for a fast was issued several weeks ago by the Committee on Justice and Peace of the CCAR. The UAHC provided active support through its 710 member congregations and national office. The Munich massacre led to an expansion of the scope of the demonstration and elicited the support of a number of Conservative and Orthodox rabbis.


Rabbi Alan W. Miller of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, said “we must mourn the death of a Palestinian child as an abomination, as well as the death of the 11 Israelis killed at Munich.” He said that society, including Jews, “had become inured to death and destruction.”

Many rabbis expressed the view that the time had come to stop preaching and start acting. Rabbi Sally Preisand, the first woman rabbi in Jewish history, who is an assistant rabbi at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue here, listed some of the activities implemented and planned. Money has been collected for the families of the Munich victims, support has been created for Able Nathan’s peace ship, peace candidates in the current political campaign will be helped and new demonstrations will be held to get more Jews involved.

Telegrams of protest were sent to President Nixon. One from the fasters in Manhattan said in part that “we are deeply anguished by the devastation of human life caused by the continued bombing of North Vietnam.” The fasters added that “this indifference to the transcendent value of life” had helped to create an atmosphere conducive to “acts of violence and fanaticism of all kinds” and “we therefore cannot separate the 11 Israelis massacred at Munich from the murders of Vietnamese peasants or of innocent civilians anywhere.”

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