Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Johnson Puzzled over Lack of Jewish Support for His Vietnam Policy

September 7, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Johnson was characterized by leaders of the Jewish War Veterans who met with him today as disturbed by lack of support for the Vietnam war in the American Jewish community at a time when he is taking new steps to aid Israel.

President Johnson was described as welcoming JWV backing of his Vet Nam policy while feeling it “incumbent on other major Jewish organizations” to “re-evaluate” their thinking on this subject. National Commander Malcolm Tarlov of the Jewish War Veterans told the White House corps, in relaying these observations, that the President asked the JWV to launch a campaign in the Jewish community to rally support for the Vietnam war.

The President commended the JWV for concurring on Vietnam and favoring any necessary increase in military involvement, Mr. Tarlov said. But, said Mr. Tarlov, the President thought that while other American Jewish thinking was “compassionate and knowledgeable” on different issues, he could not understand why such Jews failed to share the JWV stand on Vietnam.

President Johnson revealed that he had taken steps to provide sophisticated arms to Israel and would now help the Israeli Government out of current economic difficulties, according to the JWV delegation. Mr. Tarlov said the President was mindful of recent developments involving Israeli security.

The JWV commander told the press that the meeting which lasted 35 minutes, was highlighted by strong conviction on the part of the President that Jews who seek U.S. support for co-religionists in Russia and for Israel should vigorously identify with Administration actions in Vietnam.

Mr. Tarlov announced that, in immediate response to Mr. Johnson’s request, the JWV would urge other Jewish groups to back the Vietnam war “on religious as well as patriotic grounds because wherever Communism has spread, Judaism has decayed.” He termed it “absurd” for Jewish groups to dissent on Vietnam.

The JWV leader said President Johnson urged him to explain to other Jewish leaders the point that if the United States is forced to abandon S.E.A.T.O. “commitments” in Vietnam, the less explicit American “commitments” to Israel would be jeopardized. Mr. Tarlov presented the President with a resolution just adopted by the JWV “strongly in support” of the war.

The JWV delegation said the President made an impassioned and direct appeal for JWV intercession in the Jewish communities throughout the nation. Members described the President as well informed on the opinions held by various Jewish leaders on Vietnam, and, especially, the statements of some rabbis. In addition to Mr. Tarlov, the delegation included Monroe Sheinberg, JWV national executive director, and Felix Putterman, the group’s national legislative representative.

Recommended from JTA