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New Jewish Group Hopes to Create Progressive-minded National Membership Organization

December 26, 1980
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The founding conference of the New Jewish Agenda, attended by nearly 700 participants, opened here last night with a program aimed at creating a progressive-oriented national membership organization that will provide a home for Jews who do not feel at home in the present organized Jewish community, according to Rabbi Gerald Serotta, chairman of the NJA steering committed who delivered the keynote address.

Serotta, associate director of the Hillel Foundation at Rutgers University, stated that “Any New Jewish Agenda must stand with the unique role of Jewish identity as a prism for viewing the world. Through Agenda we have a unique opportunity to repair some of the painful separations in our fragmented Jewish community. These corporations have kept us from fulfilling our Jewish destiny of bringing a vision of universal justice to all mankind,” he said.

Serotta said that by the time the conference ends on Sunday he hoped it will have accomplished three things: endorsement of a vision for a national membership organization; ratification of interim leadership until elections can be held; and adoption of a Conference Unity statement to give the new organization direction.

Attendance at the conference, at the 4H-Conference Center, far exceeded the 500 expected and 300 would-be participants were turned away for lack of space, conference organizers said. The participants are a mix of young and older people from all walks of life.


Serotta observed that the delegates represented a “wide political spectrum” and were all the more striking because they ranged from “committed secularist to every flavor of religious outlook–Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Orthodox and the other 90 percent of us who don’t use any of those labels.”

He called such a coalition “both crazy and exciting,” observing that it is an “experiment that can have a profound impact on the life of the Jewish community.”

A statement of purpose that accompanied the announcement of the conference noted: “We seek to apply Jewish values in the following areas. American Jewish communal life; mutual responsibilities between Israel and diaspora communities; Israel society and peace between Israel and its neighbors; American domestic and foreign policy; the role of women and man in Jewish life; concerns related to the Jewish family, nuclear and extended; and relations between Jews and other communities.”

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