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Reform Jews Urge Fight for Soviet Jewry; Stress Civil Rights Issue Here

November 22, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, parent body of American Reform Judaism, strongly condemned today Soviet anti-Semitism at the closing business session of its 47th General Assembly here.

The 3,650 rabbinic and lay delegates also spoke out on a series of moral issues, including support of civil rights legislation, racial justice in local communities and endorsement of medical care for the aged.

A dramatic moment occurred when Rabbi George Lieberman of Rockville Center, New York, spoke of “the broken branch of a once-flourishing tree–the Jews of Soviet Russia. The Russian Jews cannot engage in sit-ins; they cannot march on Moscow. They cannot speak out. Moscow is not Washington but we–citizens of a free land–can speak out in behalf of our brethren, the second largest Jewish community in the world.”

In spirited discussion, the delegates debated vital issues confronting American society and the Jewish community. The delegates recognized that racial discrimination was the crucial moral issue today and by an overwhelmingly vote resolved to urge a speed-up of school desegregation, enactment of strong civil rights legislation and the strengthening of interfaith and interracial action programs. It also called for a liberalized immigration policy, support of the nuclear test ban treaty and an accelerated program to lessen unemployment and to buttress education through federal aid.

In other matters, the delegates called for greater emphasis on adult Jewish education, higher standards of Reform religious education and urged congregations to develop interfaith committees “so men of good will can work together in interfaith efforts to achieve their common ideals.”

The annual convention of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods adopted a resolution asking Reform Judaism’s three major organizations to act to give American women the right to serve as rabbis in Reform Judaism.


The Rev. Martin Luther King, Negro integration leader, pleaded with the audience last night to approach Congressmen and all others of national influence on behalf of prompt passage of strong civil rights legislation this year.

Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League, said Jews should stop “mouthing platitudes” and begin acting in defense of civil rights not only for the Negro but for all mankind. “Since you also have known pressure and suffering, you know what silence and inaction can do,” he added. He denied there was a growing anti-Semitism among Negroes and asserted that what is mistaken for anti-Semitism among Negroes is anti-white feeling for which the Jewish merchant becomes a symbol.

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