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Jews Display Pride in Ethnic Identity

May 31, 1972
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Declaring that the passion for assimilation that characterized American thinking for so many years is now a thing of the past, Governor Marvin Mandel of Maryland today told the 43rd annual convention of the National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs that “ethnic shame and anonymity is the great sin of the age.”

The Maryland Governor said that the Blacks, Chicanos, Italians, Poles and Jews, as well as other ethnic minority groups, are now participating “in the great surge of this decade, the struggle for individual and collective identity.” He said that it is “up to us to work as individuals and as a community to carve out a community identity as Americans, as Jews, as American Jews.”

He said American Jewry had a three-fold task before it: the responsibility for the freedom of Soviet Jewry, the responsibility of insuring Israel’s ability “to keep open the gates to our persecuted brothers,” and the responsibility “not to give up the fight for that most noble cause, the cause of freedom for our fellow man.”

Speaking at another session of the convention, Rabbi Joel S. Geffen, director of Community Education of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, said that the militancy of the Blacks, Spanish-speaking groups, and the American Indians has imbued Jews with a new pride as an ethnic group.

Rabbi Geffen noted that the “tensions in the New York City public school system, the Forest Hills scatter-site housing project and the rise of quotas in colleges and employment have caused Jews to adopt a more positive stand in regard to their own needs, rights and positions in the American community.”

He noted, however, that this return to ethnic pride among Jews comes at a time when they “lack the knowledge of their own Jewish heritage and religious traditions.” This lack, he claimed, “is the vital challenge which is facing the American Jewish community today.”

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