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Conservative Parley Told Jews’ Responsibility Toward Negroes No Greater Than Others’

October 30, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rabbi Harry Halpern of Brooklyn, N.Y., a Conservative leader, said today that while “as Jews we have our share of responsibility in the solution of the problem affecting the Negro, it should be made clear that we resent and deny any implication that our responsibility as Jews toward the Negro problem is, or should be, greater than that of any other white group of America.”

Addressing the biennial convention of the United Synagogue of America, Rabbi Halper, of East Mid-wood Jewish Center and chairman of the Joint Commission on Social Action of the United Synagogue and Rabbinical Assembly, said that “we Jews have not been unconscious of our religious responsibility and participation in the civil rights movement, and our aid to many causes for the amelioration of the plight of Black people has been considerable.

“I would say that we have no right to expect gratitude for what we do. We have a religious mandate to help the poor and the downtrodden and we must carry it out under all conditions. If we do anything, we should make it abundantly clear that it is not because we suffer from a guilt complex. We deny the unfounded accusation that Jewish merchants, teachers and landlords are largely responsible for the pitiable conditions of the Black slum dweller. We resent the dragging in of our Jewishness into a situation in which it is totally irrelevant,” he said. Rabbi Halpern spoke at a panel on Black-Jewish relations.

Earlier, Theodore Sorensen, former adviser to the late President John F. Kennedy, told an Israeli affairs panel at the parley that the United States should make major changes in its Middle East policy. He said Washington should call off “the present super-power talks” because “they waste time and time means lives.” Instead, he said, the Government should press Moscow for a new agreement to keep the forces of both powers out of any new Middle East conflict, to arrange for the emigration of the 20,000 Jews left in Arab states, and to provide for final resettlement and compensation of all Arab refugees.

Mr. Sorensen said that the U.S. should “oppose one-sided United Nations resolutions which condemn Israeli retaliation against Arab attacks, for it is through these reprisal raids that Israel keeps the terrorist groups more dispersed and less powerful, thereby doing Jordan and Lebanon a favor.” Until an arms embargo on the Middle East is concluded between the U.S. and Russia, he said, the U.S. should find ways of easing the financial burden borne by Israel for its purchase of U.S. military aircraft. Sen. Charles Goodell (Rep., N.Y.) told the parley that the U.S. should press for direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Arabs.

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