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Synagogue Youth Urged to Work with Adults on Aiding World Jewry, Israel Soviet Jewry Dominates USY C

January 3, 1972
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Mrs. Henry N. Rapaport. president of the National Womens’ League of the United Synagogue of America, defended the adult Jewish establishment before 1,200 high school students attending the 21st annual convention of the United Synagogue Youth. She said her generation stands for “concern for our fellow Jews throughout the world for the security of Israel, for helping our Soviet Jewish brothers, for the rights and dignity of all peoples.” These concerns “of our establishment,” Mrs. Rapaport stated, “are non-negotiable for us as they must be for you” if Jews are to survive as a people.

Turning to the role of Jewish youth, she told the delegates who come here last week from 37 states, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Israel that “Our Jewish youth is also part of its own unique establishment which is perfectly valid” provided “you share one of the values of the establishment of your party’s generation.” Mrs. Rapaport asserted that “the enduring values which bind us together must bridge” the superficial differences between the generations in areas such as speech, dress and emphasis on material comforts.

The four-day convention of the USY was dominated by the issue of Soviet Jewry. The 1,500 delegates attending a convention session applauded loudly and then burst into songs and dance after hearing a Soviet Jew say by telephone from Leningrad: “This year in Jerusalem.” The Russian, Lev Lerner who is seeking to emigrate to Israel, was saluted in Hebrew with the traditional “Next Year In Jerusalem” a transoceanic call from Pearl Graub and Maurice Stoke, two USY are from Philadelphia.

They met Lerner last summer when they visited Leningrad as members of a USY pilgrimage to Russia, other Eastern European countries and Israel. The conversation, amplified throughout the hall, was short and at times it was difficult to hear Lerner, but his Hebrew expression on Jerusalem was clear. The pilgrimages, which have involved about 40 youngsters during each of the past three summers, have been led by Rabbi Arnold Turatsky of the Jewish Center in Jackson Heights, N.Y.


The newly-elected president of USY, Jim Kaufman of Steuberville, Ohio, urged the USY membership to write President Nixon asking him to include the question of Soviet Jewry on the agenda of his talks with Soviet leaders in Moscow next May. The 18-year-old head of the 25,000-member organization also urged the establishment in this country of “Jewish day schools at every level and in every community,” He declared that Jews in the US are “confronted with the possibility of devastation comparable to that of our brethren in the Soviet Union.”

The convention delegates split into three principal groups to work on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Twelve units, each composed of 40 students, visited Jewish and non-Jewish homes in many areas of Washington and nearby Virginia and Maryland to explain and discuss the problems of Soviet Jews. At some homes, they told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, they were greeted warmly. At others, however, they received cold receptions. Another 300 delegates visited the State Department where they were addressed by officials on Israel, Soviet Jewry and narcotics. Some of the youngsters later indicated they felt they did not receive adequate response to their questions. Another 350 went to Capitol Hill to leave petitions regarding Soviet Jews at the offices of Senators from their home states.

Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin received an extended ovation after he was introduced by Jacob Stein of Great Neck, N.Y., president of the United Synagogue of America. Rabin said that “survival is the paramount goal” for Israel and “the future of Israel and world Jewry stand on our basic problems–how to survive, how to achieve peace, how to build a new Jewish independent state, and how to build a new Jewish relationship with Jewish communities throughout the world.”

“Once you survive there is a chance for peace,” the envoy said. “We have the will to survive if we have the capability. Big Power guarantees in the United Nations have proven it would be foolish for Israel to rely upon them. No one will defend Israel except Israelis. We have learned through history that sympathy is a poor substitute for life.” Rabin said the “real challenge to the Jewish people –the greatest in over 10 centuries”–is the challenge to its youth.

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