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Jewish Groups in New York Seek Revision of Sunday Law

January 16, 1953
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Revision of the state Penal Law to permit religious Jews and others who observe the Sabbath on Saturday to conduct business activities on Sunday was urged today at a hearing of the State Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Sunday Law by representatives of more than 25 major Jewish organizations, the Protestant Council of New York and the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.

In testimony before the Legislative Committee, which held public hearings, the groups proposed an amendment to the Penal Law which would permit local municipalities to exempt those who regularly observe another holy day from the provisions prohibiting business activity on Sunday. A brief in support of the proposal was submitted by Leo Pfeffer, general counsel of the Joint Committee on a Fair Sabbath Law, a coordinating body for the various Jewish organizations.

Declaring that provisions of the present law have created confusion and hardship for such groups as Jews and Seventh Day Christians, Mr. Pfeffer cited the action taken by the State Legislature in 1952, on the recommendation of the Legislative Committee, amending the Sunday Law to permit professional sports and entertainment on Sunday on the basis of local option.

Statements were also made at the hearing by Dr. Israel Goldstein, president of the American Jewish Congress; Dr. Samuel Belkin, president of Yeshiva University; Rabbi Simon G. Kramer, president of the Synagogue Council of America, and representatives of a number of other organizations. Rev. Leland Henry testified on behalf of the Protestant Council of New York. In his statement, Dr. Goldstein declared that the present Sunday Law not only prejudices the civil, economic and religious rights of Jews and other seventh-day observers, but infringes on their equality of opportunity and constitutes an interference with freedom of religion.

The organizations represented in the Joint Committee for a Fair Sabbath Law include: Agudath Israel of America, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, B’rith Abraham, B’rith Sholom, B’nai Zion, Brooklyn Jewish Community Council, Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations, Hadassah, Hapoel Hamizrachi of America, Jewish Sabbath Alliance of America, Jewish War Veterans of the United States, Labor Zionist Organization of America and New York Board of Rabbis.

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