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Council for Judaism Denies Charge of Unconcern for Jews in Arab Nations

May 29, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

George Bagrash, acting executive director of the American Council for Judaism, denied today a charge that the anti-Zionist organization was unconcerned with the plight of Jews in Arab countries. Replying to that charge, made yesterday by Dr. Norton Mezvinsky, recently resigned Council executive director, Bagrash said that his organization’s invitation to Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin of Moscow to visit the United States was “based on a deep concern” for Jews in Russia. As for Dr. Mezvinsky’s charge that the American Council’s Philanthropic Fund refused to aid beleaguered Jews in Arab nations after the Six-Day War, Mr. Bagrash said, “I don’t know of any Fund policy that would preclude such aid.”

He denied Dr. Mezvinsky’s assertion that Rabbi Elmer Berger, executive vice president of the Council, had given speech writing aid to Arab envoys at the United Nations, “notably George Tomeh of Syria.” That’s “absolutely untrue,” Mr. Bagrash said. “Mr. Tomeh doesn’t need Rabbi Berger’s help. He has a staff of writers.” Dr. Mezvinsky had said also that Rabbi Berger had provided material on the workings and philosophy of Zionism to Mr. Tomeh. Mr. Bagrash said such information was in the public domain. He also disputed Dr. Mezvinsky’s statement that the Council has 5,000 members. The actual figure, he said, was closer to 20,000.

Mr. Bagrash rejected Dr. Mezvinsky’s assertion that the Council was “bigoted” against Negroes. The latter charged that he had been obliged to “disinvite” author Louis Lomax and Dr. James E. Cheek of Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. to the Council’s annual conference after the National Executive Committee refused to permit a Negro to attend it. Mr. Bagrash said that Rabbi Berger had addressed Shaw students and faculty and that there is “fine rapport” between Dr. Cheek and the rabbi. “If we are bigoted and oppose dialogue with Negroes, why would Rabbi Berger go to Shaw?” he asked.

In a related development, Gottfried Neuberger of New York denied that he was a Council member, as Dr. Mezvinsky had asserted, and denied that he sought to displace the Council as sponsor of Rabbi Levin’s visit by writing Rabbi Levin that the organization was comprised of non-Sabbath observers. Mr. Neuberger and Mr. Bogrash told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the former had gone to Moscow to help arrange the visit, partly on behalf of the Council, which sought details about visit arrangements, and partly on behalf of the “Friends of Jerusalem,” a New York-based organization. The latter is the U.S. representative of the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect of Jerusalem and Mr. Neuberger is a member of it. Mr. Neuberger said he was trying to act as coordinator with other Orthodox groups that wanted to meet with Rabbi Levin and three other Russian Jews coming to the U.S. with him next month.

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