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Youth Leader Urges New Priorities

May 12, 1972
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A Boston Jewish activist youth leader and editor told 500 delegates to the American Jewish Congress’ national biennial convention here today that American Jews must make “fundamental changes” in the spending of communal funds for Jewish needs. Bill Novak, a leader of the Boston Havura and editor of the magazine “Response,” spoke on the second day of a five-day policy setting meeting.

“It is time to think twice about Jewish hospitals,” Novak declared, adding: “It has been demonstrated that were Jewish hospitals given less Jewish funding, support could be found from other sources. It is fine and well that we have places where people can die Jewishly, but isn’t it time we poured money into places where people can live Jewishly-Jewish schools, Jewish summer camps. Jewish day schools?” Addressing the convention session, Novak listed “new priorities for a new Jewish era” in addition to a re-ordering of “how we spend our money at home.”

He declared: “We must have a different understanding of Israel and the diaspora.” American Jewish commitment to Israel, he said, should “not cajole us into stifling dissent, or viewing our life here as any less important than life in Israel.” Jewish leadership, he added, “must shift from the professionals, the wealthy and the politicians to the scholars, the thinkers and the activists.” Furthermore, Novak said, “We must tolerate, even encourage dissent, challenge and diversity. Jewish history and tradition are by and large a product of diversity and dissent, not of uniformity and unity.”

Novak also asserted that “We must demand our fair position in the larger culture, but we should not allow the pendulum to swing back from secular liberalism all the way to conservatism and chauvinism,” and stated that “we must be prepared to build a new kind of religious Judaism for those who do not choose Orthodoxy.” He cited the “freer, more flexible form” such as is being attempted at the Boston and New York Havurot.

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