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Reform Congregations Urged to More Action for Civil Rights, War Against Poverty

November 13, 1967
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A call to American Jewry not to take a back seat in the struggle against racial injustice, and not to use Negro anti-Semitism “as a cop-out from the civil rights movement” was sounded here today at the 49th General Assembly of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, central body for 680 Reform congregations.

The speakers were Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath, president of the UAHC; Irving Fain, chairman of its Social Action Committee; and Albert Vorspan, committee director. They asked the 3,000 delegates for “a commitment of the moral, physical and financial resources of the Reform Jewish movement” to a far ranging series of programs designed to arrest poverty, promote racial justice and strengthen the moral pressure for world peace.

Rabbi Eisendrath made public letters he had received from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Floyd B. McKissick, Negro civil rights leaders, who sharply repudiated the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic position taken at a so-called Black Power caucus in Chicago recently. In this connection. Rabbi Eisendrath criticized those Jews who use “the anti-Semitic slime of Negro extremists” to escape from “their obligation to help the Negro in his struggle for full equality.”

The UAHC president also urged support of Israel in its decision to maintain a unified Jerusalem, and to discuss boundaries only within the framework of a general peace settlement. He asked that Reform youth’s ties with Israel be strengthened by a large scale student exchange program.

Rabbi Eisendrath called further for adoption by Reform congregations of a Pulpit Placement program to end the chaotic system “wherein rabbis are selected for the most trivial reasons, ranging from their Madison Avenue flair to their skill on the golf course.” He also urged an increase in pensions for aged rabbis who live on retirement benefits “far below those now regarded as bare subsistence minima in other professions.”

A five-point program presented by the Social Action Committee on behalf of racial equality and justice called for: Pooling funds raised by Jewish, Protestant and Catholic groups for investment in integrated apartment houses in hitherto all-white neighborhoods; exertion of moral pressure by rabbis and congregants against Jewish “slumlords and ghetto profiteers,” and the establishment of a code of business ethics; expansion of Reform synagogue support of the upper Park Avenue Community Action project, which seeks to rehabilitate the worst areas of the Negro ghetto in Harlem; increased support of national interfaith projects in which religious institutions refuse to do business with companies that practice discrimination in employment; and intensification of programs like “operation suburbia” in which suburban families take Negro children into their homes for weekend visits.

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