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Opposition is Growing Within the Jewish Community to Bork’s Nomination to the Supreme Court

August 18, 1987
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Opposition to the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court is mounting in the Jewish community. The Jewish War Veterans last week became the fifth Jewish organization to voice its protest.

“Contrary to the Administration rhetoric surrounding Bork’s nomination, the issue is one of ideology and the Supreme Court is not well-served by extremist positions,” said the statement issued by Edwin Goldwasser, the group’s national commander.

The statement by the Jewish War Veterans, a mainstream organization, suggests the extent to which Bork’s nomination is meeting opposition in the Jewish community. Worried about Bork’s stand on minority and women’s rights and church/state issues, some Jewish groups which do not traditionally oppose presidential appointments, consider this one fight where they can not remain on the sidelines.

Along with the Jewish War Veterans, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith Women, National Council of Jewish Women and New Jewish Agenda are opposing the Bork nomination. The National Jewish Coalition has come out in support of the nomination, maintaining that Bork is “eminently qualified” to serve on the court and that “neither ideology nor political opportunism should prevent him from doing so.”

David Coyne, executive director of New Jewish Agenda, said he was “very encouraged” by Jewish opposition to Bork. He noted that a year ago, during the nominations of Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William Rehnquist “the Jewish community was almost nowhere to be found.”

Irma Getler, president of B’nai B’rith Women, an organization which did not oppose the two previous court nominations, said her members are showing an unusual interest and concern about the Bork appointment.

“As a Jewish women’s organization we felt compelled to speak out in opposition to Bork because he has spoken out on many subjects affecting women and Jews on which we are on record,” said Getler.

But sources are saying that other Jewish groups will have to oppose Bork if the Jewish community is going to have an impact on the nomination. The Washington Jewish Week recently reported that three Jewish Senators invited several Jewish organizations to send representatives to a closed-door meeting to urge them to take a stand on this issue. Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.), reportedly told them that by opposing Bork, Jewish groups could show that they are interested in issues besides Israel. Sens. Carl Levin (D.Mich.) and Howard Metzenbaum (D. Ohio) also reportedly attended the meeting.

Rabbi David Saperstein, executive director of the UAHC’s Religious Action Center, said that some Senators who will be swing votes on the Bork nomination could be influenced by the Jewish community’s stand on this issue.

“I think what the Jewish community does is going to send a profound signal rippling through the Senate that may well determine the outcome of this battle,” he added.

But some Jewish organizations invited to the meeting are still debating whether to oppose the nomination and say they might decide to remain neutral. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith is currently reviewing Bork’s decisions and writings.

“We’re just trying to be objective about it. That’s why they’re having a hearing. Why have a hearing if everyone’s taken a position on this?” said David Brody, ADL Washington representative.

The American Jewish Committee has a tradition of not commenting on Supreme Court and Cabinet nominations which are presidential prerogatives, explained David Harris, the group’s Washington representative. But he added: “We ‘II be watching the hearings closely and we reserve the right to reconsider.

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