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November 07, 1980 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-11-07

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2 Friday, November 1, 1980


Purely Commentary

General Assembly as an Emphasis for the Centrality
of Jewish Unifying Forces for Israel and the Diaspora

By Philip

Perennial lngathering of Jewish Leadership, Hosted Currently by Metropolitan Detroit Jewry

CJF General Assembly is the rallying symbol of American Jewry.
FrQm hundreds of communities in the United States and Canada, be they mere
minyanim or kehillot the numerical strength of Detroit or Cleveland, or New
York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia, the Council of Jewish
Federations is drawing them to this city in the coming week for five days of
deliberations on matters of concern to the Jewish people, to this nation and to
It is to the high credit of the representatives of the Jew-
ries who will gather for the serious considerations that their
rich agenda is not limited to Jewish issues and to Israel.
Attention is provided to the serious social and economic mat-
t) ters that are of great concern to all Americans and, therefore,
to mankind.
In the process of reviewing and studying the economic
issues affecting the CJF programs, the delegates invari-
ably give ear to the experts who take into account the prob-
lematic in American life. The viewpoints expressed, though they may not be
decisive, nevertheless reflect the general community's sentiments. Meanwhile,
they provide guidance in community-building and serve as inspirations in
effecting community structuring.
CJF may or may not be considered the representative of a totality of
American Jewish experience. It certainly is the overwhelmingly majority of the
U.S. and Canadian Jewries and as such it is the guiding spirit philanthropically,
culturally and in the fields of the social services.
Perhaps incontestably, the charge leveled at Jewish welfare federations is
that they overemphasize the philanthropic while ignoring the emerging issues
that become vital for world Jewry.
In one area, principle has conquered. In the cultural sphere, the Council of
Jewish Federations has succeeded, with the cooperation of the member agen-
cies, in giving priority to educational needs, to the cultural projects without
which the communities would be totally impoverished. -
The school and the teacher have attained recognition, and in the General
Assembly programs there is the evidence that advancement of educational
needs, raising the standards of Jewish cultural programming, must be treated
with respect and their attainments considered mandatory in communal plan-
ning. If there isn't total fulfillment of the needs, the sincerity with which they
are treated gives assurance of an approach to it.
* * *
The dedication of world Jewry to the major global task of protecting Israel's
right to function as a soverign state and to make progress in the international
community finds special emphasis in the CJF and its General Assembly ses-
sions. A Jewish gathering of any size, anywhere, would be devoid of dignity, the
participants in it would be lacking self-respect, if Israel were not to occupy first
. consideration in planning responsibility of action.
The CJF General Assembly treats the subject with realism, with normalcy,
as a matter that is part of the life of every Jew. Israel did not emerge as
fulfillment of prophecy, as means of ending the homelessness of millions of Jews,
to be abandoned or to be left on her own in time of crisis or at any time. There are
always the periods of stress when Jews must be provided with escape from
persecutions and indignities; and there is the need for progressive aims to assist
the Jewish state in rising to great heights in the iritual-cultural aims, the
contributions to science, the respect for research and adherence to the idealism
that is so vital in the continuity of Jewry's adherence to traditions and historic
It is at the CJF General Assembly that encouragement is given to the
universities in Israel, to the historians, to the scientists. It is at the General
Assembly that new dignity has been given to the Zionist designation. This is
what has helped give the CJF the status of highest ranks of representative
Jewish leadership.
* * *

45s'1 General Assembly

Delrod. arechggsn • Nov 12.16 1960

ment leader in France is all-too-minimal. If it has not been for the protests by
several concerned Christians, including members of the U.S. Senate who were
not candidates for re-election, the few statements that came in the form of news
releases from national American Jewish organizations could be too-easily ig-
The need for solidarity is too evident to need reiteration. The guests at the
General Assembly from foreign lands will surely contribute towards activism.
Silence cannot be condoned.
* * *

Most noteworthy in the CJF General Assembly accomplishments is the role
of youth in the important deliberations.
Justified concern over the indifference displayed by young Jews to the needs
of their people, the assimilationist tendencies, the increased rate of intermar-
riage — these and other negative factors in Jewish life are treated seriously by
the Jewish representatives in meetings of the General Assembly. Out of these
sessions have come comforting assurance that all is not destructive, that all
youth are not defecting, that there is a revival of spirit in the ranks of the young
people, many of them flocking to the General Assembly sessions for a role in
Jewish life.
This trend began more than a decade ago with protests against indifference
and the lack of youth participation in Jewish activities. The experiences were
interesting. There was the picketing and the demand
for participation. There was the emphasis by youth
for adherence to the traditional in Jewish national
It was emphasized on one occasion during the
presidency of Max M. Fisher of the Council of Jewish
Federations and Welfare Funds, as the the name
under which the movement then operated. Young
people then approached the leaders at the speaker's
table and demanded Benshen after the meal, the re-
citing of traditional Grace. Mr. Fisher yielded and he
was encouraged by the guest speaker, Elie Wiesel.
The spiritually-inspired Mr. Wiesel led those who
could recite it in the Benshen. It established a prece-
dent from which the General Assemblies have not
deviated. This is one of the achievements of youth who make themselves felt at
these conferences.
When the vast assembly concludes its Saturday afternoon session with the
Melave Malka and the youth-inspired Havdala, it is one of the most cheerful
notes for the General Assembly, and it is to be recorded proudly to the CJF
record that the role of youth thus was encouraged.
* * *
Add to the activism of youth the participation of eminent personalities, and
the General Assembly sessions notably acquire great significance.
The address to be delivered at the General Assembly by Israel Prime
Minister Menahem Begin is of major importance. Mr. Begin comes here as the
courageous spokesman for the redeemed Jewish state. He symbolizes the dig-
nity of a nation battling for its very existence aainst great odds. He is the
fearless man who does not submit to the threats ai gored at the destruction of the
Mr. Begin's visit here is a necessity at a time when the menacing dangers to
Israel call for solidarity in Jewish ranks. The CJF General Assembly is the
proper place to achieve it. The communities that have always been responsive to
• such calls, of American Jewry standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, will
surely again emerge united in these efforts.
* * *
Progressive growth is the record of the Council of Jewish Federations. It has
become a thoroughly Jewish body. It began with assimilationist tendencies.
When it commenced activities as the Council ofJewish Federations
miliated German

The vastness of the CJF General Assembly program gives it special status
in world Jewish ranks. British and French representatives and leaders of Latin
One could not advocate observance of
Then, what was kosher was treife.
Ameiican and other Jewries have shared in the experiences of these confer-
kashrut in those early years. Now every meal at the General Assembly and in its
ences. Such visits become more significant this year. The spread of anti-
reception rooms is strictly kosher catered.
Semitism, the horrifying experiences in France, the shocking bigotries in evi-
The Reform Jew remains the active leader and respected participant. He
dence in the United Nations under the direction of the Arab and Soviet blocs,
sits side-by-side with those who wear a kipa, and the yarmulke is not snubbed.
these and many other occurrences call for action and create concern that cannot
There is the - minimum observance by those who minimize religion, yet a domin-
ant factor is the traditional service for the Orthodox and Conservative and the
be ignored.
In Paris, some 150,000 people participated in condemnations of the terrorist
Hasid is in evidence.
* * *
action and the growing anti-Semitism. In a few Jewish communities throughout
of Jewish . Feder-
the world there were some expressions
ations and its General Assemblies
of protest. Except for the condemna-
with an especially commendable ap-
tions in Israel and in Paris, there was a
proach to community cooperation. The
lack of organized movement to em-
CJF President
Synagogue and the Community is an
phasize the protests and to express in-
emphasized aspect of special attention
Our agenda for the 49th General Assembly is being
dignation at whiat had occurred and to
given at these sessions for the consid-
shaped by the events around us in a period of extraordinary
send forth a message of cheer to
change. But the challenge is for us as leaders to impact the
eration of the cooperation implied and
French Jewry that Jews everywhere
future in terms of our goals and aspirations.
its necessity where the two major fac-
stand with them in all their tasks to
tors in Jewish life do not fully coordi-
Taking counsel together makes it possible for us to act
battle fearlessly against the emerging
nate. The respect given by the General
more effectively in our local communities even as we devise
bigotry. It is conceivable that it is not
collective actions that can move us forward together.
Assembly to such needs, the welcome
as easy to gather large numbers in
it extends to the rabbinate as well as
American communities for protests
The last General Assembly held in Detroit in 1960 was
the lay leadership, combine to add
memorable. We are looking forward to another exceptional
assailing the growing anti-Semitism.
glory to a great movement.
meeting at the new Renaissance Center.
But silence is inexcusable, and a mere
letter to a newspaper or to a govern-

Challenges for the CJF

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