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Kahane Launches Campaign for ‘democracy in Jewish Life’

October 15, 1975
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Under the slogan “one Jew, one vote” Rabbi Meir Kahane opened a new campaign today for “democracy in Jewish life.” Addressing a press conference at the Summit Hotel here this morning, Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League, called for a “direct and open election” of an American Jewish representative body that would “truly speak for American Jews.” He said the campaign will be coordinated by a group now in formation, Democracy for Jewish Life, which is not connected with the JDL.

Calling the present umbrella Jewish organizations “tyrannical and feudal baronies that bar any minority views and any opportunity for the American Jewish masses to decide any vital issues that affect their own future and survival.” Kahane declared: “We believe that the time has come for the direct popular and open election of a national body that will be representative of the total thinking of American Jewry. We believe that this should be followed by the democratic, direct election of local Jewish federations.”


Announcing that a national preparatory conference of rabbis, synagogue leaders, Jewish intellectuals and youth representing all segments of the Jewish community in America will be hold Nov. 24 at the New York Hilton, Kahane said it will be the first stop for a democratic election for Jewish leadership based on the principle of “one Jew, one vote.” Presently, on the national scene, “there does not exist one group that is directly elected by members of the American Jewish community,” he asserted.

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after his press conference, Kahane–who is currently serving a one-year prison term in an open detention house in Manhattan–said that an application by the JDL to join the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was rejected “without explanation.” A similar request to the American Zionist Federation also was rejected on the grounds that “the JDL is violent,” Kahane said. Spokesmen for the Presidents Conference and the AZF were not immediately available for comment.

According to Kahane, “there is no way” but to establish democratic elections for Jewish leadership because “the average Jew here does not have a say whatsoever” in issues that concern him directly. He also claimed that he will mobilize support for his new idea through synagogues and Jewish community centers throughout the country, Kahane claimed that his call for democracy in Jewish life has already found a sympathetic car among Jewish leaders who do not support the JDL. He cited the names of Rabbi Amiel Wohl of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Rabbi William Berkowitz of B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue in New York who was a former president of the New York Board of Rabbis.


In a separate statement today, Russ Kelner, JDL operations officer, said his group is joining forces with an organization of World War II holocaust victims to demand the deportation of Archbishop Valerian Trifa, of the Rumanian Orthodox Episcopate of America. Kelner said that the president of the Rumanian Jewish Federation, Dr. Charles Kremer of New York City, has approached Kahane asking the assistance of his group in protesting the U.S., government’s vacillation in its prosecution of Trifa, once a commandant in the fascist Iron Guard in war-time Rumania.

Now living in Grass Lake, Michigan, the archbishop faces a hearing on Oct. 20, on charges that he gave false statements about his past in order to gain U.S. naturalization. Officials of the JDL and Kremer’s organization said they will hold public rallies in the Detroit area prior to the hearing to demand that the U.S. Immigration Service present the dozens of witnesses who have given depositions enumerating the atrocities committed by Trifa.

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