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CJF Assembly Approves Resolutions on Soviet Jewry, Ethiopian Jewry, Nuclear Arms Freeze, the Mideast

November 17, 1982
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Resolutions calling on the United States and Canadian governments to raise the issue of Soviet Jewry in their contact with the USSR, urging "an increase in every effort" which will lead to the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, and appealing for an "immediate and verifiable worldwide freeze on the testing, production and development of all nuclear weapons" were adopted unanimously here at the 51st General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations.

Jewish leaders and activists from the United States and Canada at the Assembly, which was held at the Bonaventure Hotel from Thursday to Sunday, also adopted a major resolution on peace in the Middle East which reaffirmed that the Camp David accords "were a major step in the right direction, " that "the parties to the conflict must sit down together and negotiate their differences, and that the United States’ "role as mediator is critical in solving the problems of the area."

The resolution noted that in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, "the opportunities for peace in the Middle East have vastly improved. Israel’s northern border is secure; Lebanon now has the means to reestablish its sovereignty; and the United States is now in an unprecedented leadership role."

Referring to the Camp David accords, the resolution pointed out that "the genius of the accords was that they postponed the more difficult issues to a later date and developed agreements on the more limited issues. This fosters conditions that can ultimately lead step by step to the successful negotiation of a peace agreement. " It noted that "Israel’s commitment to Camp David is exemplified by the return of the Sinai to Egypt and the dismantling of Jewish settlements there."

In line with that, the resolution stated that the Arab states "must negotiate with Israel and their refusal to do so is at the heart of the problem The Fez declaration denying explicit recognition of Israel and calling for an independent Palestinian state and asserting that the PLO is the sole Palestinian representative constitutes a rejection of the principles of Camp David and the initiative of President Reagan. This blocks the participation of Jordan in the negotiations, a vital ingredient in the peace process."


The resolution, as it was presented in draft form by the resolutions committee to the business session of the Assembly, included a sentence stating: "United States advocacy of proposals on matters not yet ripe for negotiation impedes the peace process."

But a majority of the delegates at the session voted to delete the sentence in the final resolution. Their general feeling was that Reagan’s Middle East proposals should not be rejected out of hand since, whatever their shortcomings, the President in presenting his plan rejected a Palestinian state and affirmed that Israel cannot return to a position of vulnerability. Israel has flatly rejected Reagan’s plan, as has the overwhelming majority of American Jewish leaders.

The resolution on Soviet Jewry noted that the "exodus" of Jews from the USSR has now declined to a trickle of 250 per month from an average of over 4,000 a month in 1979. Repression of Jews in the Soviet Union has intensified, the resolution stated. There is constant intimidation and harassment and severe sentences of imprisonment and exile are meted out to activists on false charges.

"Over the past two years the number of refuseniks, many of whom have been waiting years for exit permits, has more than doubled and their plight worsened, " the resolution said. "These adverse developments take place in an environment saturated by government sponsored virulent anti-Semitic propaganda and overt discriminatory policies against Jews in higher education and employment."

The resolution called upon the civilized world, Jewish communities and organizations to raise their voices against this oppression and pointed out that demonstrations and public actions "are essential and valuable methods for keeping this issue a matter of concern for the world."


The resolution on Ethiopian Jewry expressed "deepest concern over the danger of physical and spiritual disintegration of Ethiopian Jews. It continues to call on all concerned agencies, organizations and governments to make greater efforts to ameliorate their plight.""

It noted "with appreciation the fact that the number of Ethiopian Jews reaching Israel has increased … We express confidence in the agencies involved in this great effort." This statement was seen as an answer to those groups in the U.S. and Canada which have been critical of Israeli and Jewish organizations for their alleged failure to help greater numbers of Ethiopian Jews emigrate to Israel and of Israeli agencies for treating those Ethiopian Jews who have come to Israel as second class citizens.


The resolution on the nuclear arms race warned that "the prospect of nuclear war is becoming more real and threatening as time goes on. We declare that there is a consensus that there is a special Jewish viewpoint on this issue. For us, discussion of a ‘nuclear holocaust’ is more than a metaphor. Our history demonstrates that man is capable of perpetrating unspeakable acts on other men and further, that silence in the face of inhumanity is equivalent to complicity."

At the same time, the resolution pointed out that the specific methods of preventing nuclear war are many and complex "and there are substantial issues and political viewpoints on which people of good will differ. There is, therefore, no consensus on specific methods. However, we feel there is consensus on the moral imperative and this we can articulate." The resolution called upon all nuclear powers, but especially the U.S. and USSR "to pursue a program that will produce a total and multi-lateral halt to the nuclear arms race."


In response to deliberations at the 1981 General Assembly, the Committee on Religious Issues in Israel, chaired by Raymond Epstein of Chicago, developed a policy report which was approved by the business session. The report reflected the consensus reached by consultation with the Federations that "it is inappropriate" for the CJF to deal with religious issues in Israel. The report also expressed widespread concern that changes in the Law of Return would be highly devisive.

Delegates also unanimously elected Martin Citrin of Detroit to a second term as president of the CJF.

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