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Convention of Jewish Communal Workers Reverses Policy on Resolutions

June 3, 1965
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The National Conference of Jewish Communal Services closed its 67th annual meeting here by reversing a 15-year-old policy and resuming the right of the Conference to speak out on public issues in behalf of American Jewish health, welfare, educational and other communal workers. In doing this, the Conference took a stand on the following six current issues:

1. It called on Soviet Russia to end its official measures against Jews and Judaism.

2. It urged reform in United States immigration laws.

3. It called on the U.S. Government to endorse the United Nations Genocide Convention.

4. It backed the civil rights movement.

5. It supported the war against poverty.

6. It denounced the Arab boycott against Israel.

The action proposed by Sidney Z. Vincent, associate director of the Cleveland Jewish Community Federation and chairman of the public affairs committee of the Conference, was approved by the 1,000 members attending the four-day session. It ended an era of 15 years in which the Conference, which is the major professional body of American and Canadian Jewish communal workers, had denied itself the right to express opinions in order to avoid being disrupted by ideological disputes.

Actually, the result was practically a foregone conclusion and this issue caused less excitement and discussion than a number of other topics that involved the members in debates from early morning until late at night throughout the four days of the meeting. Some of these subjects which were discussed were the effect on Jewish life and communal agencies of vast Government funds for private health and welfare service.

These subjects included such problems as: The argument between advocates and opponents of public aid to private and sectarian education; the place of Jewish welfare services and workers in the War against Poverty; and the role of the Jewish people in the struggle over integration and civil rights.


Mrs. Martha Selig, consultant on family and children’s service of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York City and chairman of the program committee of the Conference, said in her closing summary that the meeting had been distinguished by its effort to understand the role of sectarianism “in a world where assimilation and acculturation have become a way of life.”

“We have not attained a consensus, not even on the proposition that American Jews should seek to achieve a consensus,” she said. “That is to be expected. The Jewish community is and should continue to be a pluralistic society. There was a recognition that we cannot rely on the inevitability of survival or Phoenix-like revival of the Jewish people.”

She warned, however, against taking a route “by way of Madison Avenue.” “Our method is not to try and make good ‘copy’ or to break through into the press. If we are to march against segregation, it is not so that the Jews will be there along with the Protestants and Catholics but because it is right for us to be there.” She added that she detected encouraging signs that rabbis and communal workers are turning back to “the fundamental purposes of their professions.”

“It is encouraging to see more and more rabbis relinquishing their place beside the psychiatrist’s couch and returning to the study. At the same time, as this conference gave evidence, functional workers are increasingly concerned with development of positive Jewish attitudes. This demands knowledge, conviction and intent as well as content. With this, our functional agencies can accomplish more for the strengthening and survival of Jewish life than by any Madison Avenue techniques. The caterer has become a great community leader–all too often the arbiter of our social life. Let’s be careful that the public relations man doesn’t become the dictator of our communal activities.”


A confrontation between Negro and Jewish viewpoints took place at a session sponsored by the Jewish Labor Committee and the Workmen’s Circle. The speakers were Bayard Rustin, executive secretary of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and Albert Vorspan, director of the Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Their topic was “The Negro and Jew in Alliance and Conflict.”

Mr. Rustin said that Negroes realize on the one hand that American Jews have always been among the strongest supporters of civil rights and justice to the Negro. They appreciate the efforts of Jewish organizations and individuals to improve Negro education and economic conditions. At the same time, he pointed out, the people of Harlem and other big city Negro ghettos deal every day with Jewish landlords and shopkeepers whom they regard as profiteers and exploiters. Their bitterness is increased by the fact that Negroes are the only minority who have been unable to enter into the mainstream of American life because of the color of their skins.

For these reasons, Mr. Rustin said, there is “no comparison but only contrast “between Jewish and Negro history in America. He appealed to American Jews “not to permit the frustration, confusion and other resulting attitudes of the Negro to divert you from your commitment to freedom and human rights.”

Mr. Vorspan rebuked American Jews for failing to live up to their own expressed ideals when confronted with the realities of integration. He alluded to the “hysteria” of Jews in Queens when contemplating the integration of the schools attended by their children, and their very rigid resistance to social mingling even of very young children, apparently out of fear of intermarriage.

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