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AJ Congress Refuses to Let Kahane Address Convention; Uninvited JDL Leader Denounced for Views

May 12, 1972
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Meir Kahane, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League, was refused admittance to the National Biennial Convention of the American Jewish Congress here this morning after he demanded the right to address it on the subjects of Soviet Jews and American aliya to Israel. Theodore Bikel, co-chairman of the AJCongress’ National Governing Council who was chairing a plenary session when Rabbi Kahane arrived uninvited, declared that the JDL leader "has no right to bully his way into our meeting, disrupt our deliberations or otherwise force his views on us."

Bikel was incensed by a leaflet distributed by JDL followers here last night accusing the AJCongress of inaction on behalf of Soviet Jews. "We particularly regret Mr. Kahane’s slanderous accusations identifying us as persons who ‘stand by and do nothing’ in the face of mounting Soviet oppression against the courageous Jews of the Soviet Union," Bikel said. Enumerating the many areas in which the AJCongress has been in the forefront of efforts to mobilize public support for Soviet Jews, Bikel declared, "We regard as despicable Mr. Kahane’s self-seeking attempt to use the USSR’s intensified attack against Jewish activists in the Soviet Union for his own personal publicity."


Rabbi Arthur J. Lelyveld, AJCongress president, repudiated the JDL leader for his contention that American Jews face a new holocaust and must emigrate en masse to Israel to save their lives. "We disagree utterly with Rabbi Kahane’s hysterical opinion," Rabbi Lelyveld told newsmen outside convention headquarters. He said American Jews were settling in Israel in increasing numbers "because they wish to be part of the just and right work of building a new Jewish State, not because they fear catastrophe at home." He said "the overwhelming majority of American Jews will remain in America because America offers opportunities for freedom and growth unprecedented in the history of our people."

Rabbi Kahane told newsmen that he had wanted to discuss the plight of the Soviet Jews who have been called up for active duty in the Soviet Army Reserves. The JDL leader said he had intended to ask the convention leaders to call an emergency conference of American Jewish leaders for the purpose of seeking an immediate meeting with Pres. Nixon before he leaves for Moscow on May 22. Rabbi Kahane said he had asked AJCongress officials to allow the delegates to vote on whether or not he should be given time to address them but that this request was denied. Rabbi Lelyveld said the delegates had been canvassed and rejected the JDL leader’s request.

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