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Convention of Reform Rabbis Asks Russia to Revive Jewish Culture

June 29, 1956
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A resolution asking the Soviet Government “to undo the evils of the past” in suppressing and virtually destroying the religious and cultural institutions of the Jews of the Soviet Union, and “to establish a different climate of opinion,” was adopted here today at the closing session of the 67th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, at which Rabbi Israel Bettan, of Cincinnati, was elected national president.

“We pray that the mistreatment of Jews in Communist lands and the destruction of their ethnic integrity may speedily be ended, and that our people again be enabled to practice their religious and cultural freedom without restraint,” the resolution said, “and we are resolved to do all we can, consonant with our own ideals and obligations as American citizens to help our brothers in these lands preserve their Jewish identity and their religious heritage.”

The CCAR also adopted a resolution calling upon the United States “not to abandon” Israel or “endanger its existence.” “We look askance at an arms race in the Middle East, but in the light of Soviet arming of Egypt, we urge our government to preserve the balance of power by making available to Israel the defensive materiel it so desperately needs. We deplore the sending of arms by our government to member states of the Arab bloc, while rejecting appeals from Israel for similar aid.”

The convention, noting that restoration of an arms balance in the Middle East was but a temporary measure, urged that “the Tripartite Declaration of 1950 guaranteeing Israel’s territorial integrity be reaffirmed and that the United Nations declare that any victim of aggression in the Middle East will at once receive whatever support may be necessary from that international body.”

“We urge our government,” the CCAR said in another resolution, “to exercise its moral and legal obligation to insist and insure, as it has done many times in the past, that full rights and privileges be accorded to American citizens of all faiths.” It listed the violation of rights of American Jews by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states which refuse to admit American Jews for purposes of travel, trade or government service.

The convention stressed that the American Council for Judaism “does not represent Reform Judaism or any other valid interpretation of Judaism.” It castigated the Council for “impairing” the vital work of the United Jewish Appeal; for injecting “damaging divisiveness” within some Reform congregations; for attempting to influence the State Department in a policy “contrary to the best interests” of both the United States and Israel; for impugning the patriotism of the vast majority of American Jews; for “distorting” and “misrepresenting” the nature of Judaism, and for reinforcing Arab efforts to “incite prejudice and enmity against the State of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.”

The convention went on record in support of a proposal by retiring president Rabbi Barnett Brickner for a “religious summit conference” of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups to work out a “modus operandi to guide clergymen and laymen” on the issue of segregation. Still another resolution protested the application of Sunday laws against members of faiths which observe another Sabbath day.

The Reform rabbis called on both major political parties, their spokesmen and their candidates to conduct their campaigns in the “highest tradition of American democracy,” avoiding all “defamation, vituperation and untruth” and concentrating on bona fide election issues.

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