Orthodox Leader Protests Denial of Absentee Ballot to Sabbath Observer at Family Conference
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Orthodox Leader Protests Denial of Absentee Ballot to Sabbath Observer at Family Conference

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An Orthodox leader has asserted that a pro-abortion and pro-Equal rights Amendment resolution was approved on Saturday, June 7, at the first of three meetings of the 1980 White House Conference on the Family, by a single vote because an Orthodox Jew was denied an absentee ballot to enable him to vote on the resolution.

Julius Berman, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said he had protested in a telegram to President Carter about “the fact” that no provision had been made for Sabbath observers, which, he said, resulted directly in adoption of the resolution at the gathering in Baltimore. The other sessions of the conference are scheduled, in Minneapolis, June 18-21 and in Los Angeles, July 10-12.

Berman said that if Dr. Joel Rosenshein, a Brooklyn psychologist representing the UOJCA at the Baltimore gathering had been permitted to cast an absentee ballot, he would have voted against the resolution, thereby creating a tie and preventing its adoption.

Berman said that Dr. Rosenshein had been aware that a major vote was scheduled for June 7 and asked several times that he be allowed to cast an absentee ballot because he could not attend any Sabbath sessions. Berman said all of Rosenshein’s requests went unanswered.


Berman said the resolution lumped together several issues, including support of both unlimited right to abortion and the ERA- both of which he said the UOJCA opposes- and that the final vote was 292 to 291. He said Dr. Rosenshein was the only Orthodox Jew attending the Baltimore gathering.

In the telegram to President Carter, Berman said he was “shocked that a fundamental religious liberty was completely ignored in the planning and the running of the conference” in Baltimore. While noting that Rosenshein’s vote would have changed the outcome on passage of the resolution, he said he found most disturbing “the lack of provision for the religious observance of Orthodox Jews and the insensitivity demonstrated” when Rosenshein made his request. Berman called this “inexcusable.”

Berman said that as the only Orthodox Jew present, Rosenshein reported that while the session had “a decidedly liberal bent,” it had not been taken over by extremists of any camp. The Orthodox delegate reported that the participants in Baltimore were moderates who seemed to represent a cross-section of American society. Berman said Rosenshein had been warmly welcomed by many participants and had a fundamental role in the proceedings.

Rosenshein reported that Orthodox Jewish positions expressed at the Baltimore assembly “were always respectfully considered and frequently commanded a majority. Rather than representing a lonely opinion, the Orthodox views and input were warmly received.”

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