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Jewish Women Hold Meeting in Preparation for 1984 World Women’s Conference in Nairobi

July 12, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A crowd of women, normally well-behaved members of their Jewish communities, shouted at each other, hissed, yelled and even came to blows here yesterday. Two women in their late 40’s grabbed former New York Democratic Congresswoman Bella Abzug and tried to pry a microphone out of her hands while a prominent member of the B’nai B’rith Women punched a heckler in the face.

These rowdy scenes were actually staged incidents, part of the “simulation games and training” in preparation for next year’s international women’s conference scheduled to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith which organized the international Jewish women’s conference here this week, said the 150 women representing Jewish communities and organizations in 15 countries gathered in Paris “to try to prevent a repetition of the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist atmosphere which prevailed at the Mexico City and Copenhagen conferences” in the mid-1970’s at the start of the UN-sponsored Decade of Women.

Bialkin said the conference here was held to prepare Jewish women delegates to the Nairobi conference, which will mark the end of the decade, “to what they might have to face next year.”

Bernice Tannenbaum, president of the World Zionist Organization-American Section, who attended both the Mexico City and Copenhagen conferences, recalled the virulent anti-Western attitude which prevailed at those two conferences among the delegates from the Soviet bloc, Arab nations and Third World countries, as well as the persistent anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric. The infamous United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1975 equating Zionism with racism was first formulated at the conference in Mexico.

Speaking yesterday at the close of the conference Tannenbaum warned: “We must prepare to prevent a repetition of a renewed over-politization, hate mongering and anti-Semitism” at the Nairobi conference.

The climax of the two-day conference here was yesterday’s mock confrontations. The delegates split into several groups, impersonating the various anti-Western, anti-Israel and anti-Zionist tendencies which had played active roles in the past UN-sponsored international women’s conferences. Their acting at times became so sincere that some of the delegates exchanged real blows and insults. At the end, the consensus of the participants was that “it is all for a good cause.” They said they would use this training model in their communities upon their return home.

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