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Reform Rabbinical Leader Raps Nixon, Laird for Rejection of Oct. 15 Vietnam Protest

October 9, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Reform rabbinical leader has accused President Richard M. Nixon and Defense Secretary Melvin Laird of “political insensitivity, arrogance and callousness” for their rejection of the nationwide “Moratorium Day” protest against the Vietnam war scheduled to take place Oct. 15. The criticism was voiced by Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, of Boston, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical branch of Reform Judaism in America.

Rabbi Gittelsohn spoke at a meeting of the CCAR’s executive board here. He referred specifically to a statement by President Nixon at a recent press conference that he would not be “affected whatsoever” by the anti-war protest. Mr. Laird made a similar statement before the AFL-CIO convention in Atlantic City, N.J. yesterday. Rabbi Gittelsohn said the war was the “most crucial moral issue facing the country” and warned that the Nixon Administration “seems determined to repeat the tragedies of the last administration.”

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith told the three candidates for Mayor of this city that predictions of bloc voting and appeals to special racial, religious or ethnic groups can be divisive as appeals to racial, religious or ethnic prejudice.

In a strongly-worded letter to Mayor John V. Lindsay, Mario Procaccino and John Marchi. and to the major news media in the city, the ADL cautioned that appeals to specific ethnic, racial and religious groups, us well as media focus on “alleged bloc voting patterns — the so-called ‘Jewish vote,’ for example,” would inevitably increase “polarization, alienation and distrust.”

Noting that the three candidates recently signed a pledge to run decent, honest and fair campaigns. Benjamin R. Epstein, ADL national director, said that the traditional Fair Campaign Practices Committee Pledge — “I shall condemn any appeal to prejudice based on race, creed or national origin” — does not go far enough.

Although it is “otherwise excellent,” he said, “it does not cover the practice of a particular candidate suggesting he may be best for the special interest of some group — a suggestion which under conditions of intergroup tensions implies hostility on the part of other groups as well as rivalry of interests along racial or religious lines.”

The ADL letter, which expressed the League’s “disapproval of certain practices in the current New York City mayoralty campaign.” said that recent political “analyses” have held “that the ‘Jewish vote’ is for this or that particular candidate, or that it is undecided, or that it is shifting, or that in any event it will be decisive. At the same time, it is charged that a candidate is appealing specially to this ‘Jewish vote,’ or that he is losing it by appealing to another bloc.”

Mr. Epstein cited as an example a published newspaper story which reported a union official as charging the city administration with discouraging new welfare applicants, “and then in the very next paragraph quoted him as saying, ‘anything for the Jewish vote.’ Such simplistic — and, by the way, bigoted — attribution of voter motivation,” Mr. Epstein said, “not only falls short of the truth, but does little to reduce intergroup tension.”

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