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AJC Leader Urges U.S. Jews to Change Some of Their Attitudes to Meet America’s New Economic Course

May 15, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The executive head of the American Jewish Committee urged American Jews “to change some of our attitudes, acquire some new fromes of reference, and develop a new vocabulary” in meeting the “new economic course” on which the U. S. is embarked.

Bertram Gold, AJC executive vice president in remarks prepared for his keynote address to the agency’s 75th anniversary annual meeting, continuing through Sunday at the Washington Hilton Hotel, he stated:

“It is clear that this country is embarked on a new economic course and that for the present, at least, most Americans support the Administration’s program. It is equally clear that as a group, we Jews, who have generally favored the welfare state concept, and the creation of social programs on the national level, are not at all certain how we feel about it.

“We are going to have to learn to work more effectively on a state and local level, and to redouble our efforts to achieve economic expansion in this country. Because there can be no doubt that only with an expanding economy can we ameliorate the plight of the disadvantaged and prevent dangerous intergroup tensions and rivalries.”


But, Gold cautioned, “we must never lose our Jewish passion for compassion” as American Jews shift gears to adjust to changing national conditions and moods.

“Even as we concentrate on the economy as a whole, we must not lose sight of what is happening to the individual,” he stated. “Even as we accept and welcome a smaller federal role in our lives, let us remember that this does not imply a total absence of a federal responsibility. Block grants to the states, for example, may reduce red tape and paperwork, may be more efficient and may even be more responsive to people’s needs, but federally-established minimum standards will still be necessary to make certain they reach those they are intended to aid.”

Gold said that an AJC task force was already at work, examining “the implications of the new emphasis on local governments and the private sector, and on how the mediating institutions can help meet this change.”


Turning to the foreign scene, Gold asserted that the Reagan Administration’s general foreign-policy stance showed “a new strength, a new vibrancy, and a restored sense of confidence.” Nonetheless, he declared, “there are some serious questions that must be posed.” He said the decision to sell F-15 add-ons and AWACS to Saudi Arabia was not in the American interest. He continued:

“It is not in America’s interest to build a U. S. -Saudi relationship based on weakness rather than strength, to supinely bow to Saudi requests without receiving anything in exchange. First it was the F-15s; then it was the add-ons; now it’s the AWACS. What will it be tomorrow? The scuttling of the Camp David agreements? Recognition of the PLO?”

Gold asserted that it was not in America’s interest to escalate the arms race in the Middle East and increase the danger of a new war; ignore the lessons of Iran, and turn over sophisticated weapons to an inherently unstable country and run the risk that our secret technology will fall into Soviet or other unfriendly hands; and break our commitments–in this instance, a commitment given both to the United States Senate and to our most dependable ally in the Middle East.

“And so,” he declared, “we will continue to oppose these sales to the Saudis, not only because they would hurt Israel, but because they would hurt the United States.”

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