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March 30, 1984 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-03-30

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Have bow tie, will travel

Friday, March 30, 1984 25

Hyman Bookbinder, the American Jewish Committee's representative in
Washington, D.C., is one of the more visible Jewish voices on Capital Hill and
throughout the country.

News Editor
He "bursts" into the room with a ready
smile and wearing one of his "trademarks"
— a big bow tie. His conversation will cover
40 areas at once, with the special urgency
of a man who has many things to do but
who is willing to give you all the time that
is necessary.
He is the American Jewish Commit-
tee's Washington representative for the
last 17 years — Hyman ("Don't call me
Hymie of Hymietown") Bookbinder.
We had a good day last Tuesday," he
smiles, referring to the U.S. Senate vote on
school prayer. "The Jewish community
worked hard on this, but there were many
others who also worked hard." Then Book-
binder launched into a rapid discussion of
the many issues on Capitol Hill that are
currently associated with the principle of
Separation of Church and State: sending a
U.S. envoy to the Vatican, the Supreme
Court decision on Pawtucket's nativity
scene, tuition tax credits and aid to paroc-
hial schools, President Reagan's recent
speech to Christian broadcasters.
"Bookie," as he is known throughout
the country by AJCommittee members,
describes himself as just one of "hundreds,
maybe thousands" of advocates in Wash-
ington. "I have a position, and I try to find
out what others are thinking."
When he joined the staff of the AJ-
Committee in 1967 — "and it certainly was
associated with the Six-Day War," he
exclaims — he had already spent 16 or 17
years in Washington working on behalf of
labor, and then in the Kennedy and
Johnson Administrations. The earlier ex-
periences had given him access and con-
tacts with government officials, bureauc-
rats and others.

"No other country in the
world has this system of
continuing advocacy."

"Lobbying is not a narrow function of
just appearing before Congress," he ex-
plains. "More important is the whole field
of government action — the Administra-
tion, the Defense Department, State De-
partment — how do they react? What will
they say about things?"
Bookbinder estimates, that he spends
as much time talking to people outside the
government as he does contacting Con-
gressmen, staffs and bureaucrats. He
makes himself available to religious and
civil rights groups, as well as the media,
to answer questions and initiate conversa-
As an example of coalition building, he
described how he contacted Reagan's
Jewish liaison last week on behalf of the
director of the U.S. Committee on Refu-
gees. The committee is concerned about pi-
rate attacks on Southeast Asian "boat
"I wanted the director to see, and the
liaison to see, that we pick up on their

concerns," Bookbinder said. "We share the
anguish and pick up the goodwill."
On the school prayer issue, Bookbin-
der checked off a list of activities: button-
holing White House aides to say, "Israel
isn't our only concern and you are putting
school prayer too high on the agenda";
keeping a list of the way each Senator was
expected to vote and staying in touch with
the Senators.
At one point, Bookie heard that Rudy
Boschwitz, the Republican Senator from
Minnesota who is Jewish, was switching to
the Administration side on the school
prayer issue. "I called Boschwitz when we
heard that he was wavering. He assured us
that he was firmly opposed. Then we asked
people in Minnesota to write him and
thank him."
Bookbinder emphasized that the
American public and the Jewish commu-
nity have a responsibility to personally
correspond with or telephone their gov-
ernmental representatives. He said one of
his most important jobs is "contacting the
people back home" and communicating
with local AJCommittee chapters. He em-
phasized the American system demands
this interchange, and it should not be left
to powerful special interest groups or
"No other country in the world has this
system of continuing advocacy," Bookbin-
der expounds. "It is an important part of
the process, and we take it seriously."
He said the American system calls for
each of the 535 members of Congress to
make up their own mind on issues. "They
have to hear from their constituents," he
asid. "It is not just following party deci-
sions." On the school prayer issue, one
Senator who was expected to vote "our
way" changed his vote • to support school
prayer after receiving 18,000 telegrams on
the issue.

Although he laughingly refused to be
called the "Hymie of Hymietown" referred
to in the now-famous reference by
Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson,
Bookbinder is from New York. He left his
hometown during the Korean War to work
for the government "for one year" as a
labor economist. He then joined the staff of
the Congress of Industrial Organizations
(CIO) and then the AFL-CIO before taking
a job with the Kennedy Administration as
director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial
Fund. From 1964 to 1967, he was an assis-
tant director of the Office of Economic
Opportunity and a special assistant to Vice
President Hubert H. Humphrey.
He spends 70 to 80 percent of his time
in Washington on "Jewish issues" and he
expresses regrets over this ratio. "It means
that Israel has remained a challenging
problem all of these years."
To respond to that kind of problem,
Bookie resorts to coalition-building.
When Israeli troops crossed into Lebanon
in June 1982, Bookbinder invited 40 repre-
sentatives of church, black and civil rights
groups to a next-day briefing. Some 47

Free Press . . . fair trial?

The telephone rang for Hyman
Bookbinder as soon as he walked into The
Jewish News. The call was from Detroit
Free Press editor Joe Stroud.
Bookbinder had sent a lengthy
letter-to-the-editor last week, complain-
ing about the Free Press' front page
coverage of his speech to the delegate as-
sembly of the Jewish Community Council
of Metropolitan Detroit. Bookbinder had
asked during the talk that his remarks be
classified "off the record" if reporters
were present.

Bookbinder proceeded to categorize
black Presidential candidate Jesse
Jackson as a "scoundrel" who is "cor-
rectly perceived" in the Jewish commu-
nity "as an adversary,, an opponent —
some would say an enemy" of Israeli and
Jewish American interests.
The dapper Bookbinder complained
bitterly both to Stroud and in his letter,
which the Free Press published Sunday,
that his remarks were accurately quoted
but that the newspaper's handling of the
story was irresponsible.

Hyman Bookbinder

people came, and Bookbinder and repre-
sentatives of the Israel Embassy "talked,
listened and responded to questions" for
half a day.

He points out that the same kind of
program was established in major cities
throughout the United States, "but in
Washington, these people have access to
Congressmen and government officials.
This was fundamental community rela-

There is no Jewish caucus on Capitol
Hill, but about 15 years ago Bookbinder
initiated what has become known as "The
First Tuesday Group." Representatives of
Jewish organizations in Washington meet
informally the first Tuesday of each month
for lunch and coordinate their efforts, ad-
vise each other "and seek help."
This year, Bookbinder took the idea a
step further, inviting the Jewish aides of
all Senators and Representatives to meet
for lunch. He estimates that there are lit-
erally hundreds of Jewish aides on the Hill

and 30 turned out for the first two lunch-
"This isn't for lobbying purposes," he
says. "There are a number of aides who
want to be identified Jewishly, who want to
know about Jewish issues."
In addition to these activities, Book-
binder has numerous speaking
engagements and radio and television in-
terviews. He spoke to the Jewish Commu-
nity Council during his brief visit to De-
troit last week, and addressed the local
chapter of the AJCommittee. "If you are
advocating, you have to advocate," he says.
At one of those appearances, he came
without his trademark bow tie. He proudly
said that he has 200 bow ties that he has
sewn himself, but added that he has a new
"lady friend" who doesn't believe that he
should wear bow ties all the time.
The classic expression "Love conquers
all" may apply to the energetic Hyman
Bookbinder's work on behalf of Israel and
the Jewish community, and to a trademark
on the Washington scene.

Soviets may rebuild Iraqi nuclear reactor

Washington (JTA) — The
United States appeard to be
taking a wait-and-see atti-
tude about reports last week
that the Soviet Union
planned to supply Iraq with
a nuclear reactor to replace
the one destroyed by an Is-
raeli air raid on June 7,
"We understand that the
contemplated project
merely involves a very pre-
liminary feasibility and sit-
ing study for the possible fu-
ture construction of a nu-
clear power reactor by the
Soviet Union for the gener-
ation of electricity in Iraq,"
State Department deputy

spokesman Alan Romberg
said Friday.
Romberg noted there was
no contract as yet for the ac-
tual supplying of the reac-
tor. He said if an agreement
was reached, it would be
eight to 10 years before the
reactor could be opera-
stressed that it was "sig-
nificant that both the Soviet
Union and Iraq are parties
to the nuclear non-
proliferation treaty under
which they are committed
to placing international
safeguards inspections on
any power reactors exported

to Iraq as well as all other
nuclear facilities in that

Romberg said that these
safeguards must be ap-
proved by the International
Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) in Vienna on whose
board of governors the
United States is a perma-
nent member. He added
that the USSR "adheres to
international nuclear
supplier guidelines which
require it to assure the
peaceful purpose of its nu-
clear exports through appli-
cation of safeguards and
other measures."

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