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October 14, 1988 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Social Legislation Suffers
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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1988

Atve,

A-41
tSr

t's been a disappointing
few weeks for Jewish
groups who have worked
long and hard for a lengthy
list of social legislation.
Last week, as Congress
scrambled to get out of town
and get down to the serious
business of campaigning, the
order of the day was politics,
not statesmanship.
Two bills that have been
promoted by a wide range of
Jewish groups — the Parental
Leave Act, which would pro-
vide unpaid leave for parents
who need to care for sick or
newborn children, and the
Act for Better Child Care —
were drowned in a flurry of
parliamentary maneuvering.
In both cases, carefully-
constructed coalitions fell vic-
tim to party discipline as the
GOP dug in its heels over new
spending programs.
"It's been a very up and
down session," said Sammie
Moshenberg, Washington rep-
resentative of the National
Council of Jewish Women, a
group that has expended con-
siderable resources on both
bills. "For those of us who
work for non-partisan organi-
zations, we could only watch
with frustration as issues
took a back seat to partisan
wrangling."
Moshenberg pointed to
some positive accomplish-
ments in recent months — the
Civil Rights Restoration Act,
the new fair housing law —
but expressed clear disap-
pointment that the "family
issues" that provided good
slogans for both parties did
not translate into successful
legislation.
Mark Pelavin of the Ameri-
can Jewish Congress echoed
these sentiments. "The key is
that before an election, the
easiest thing is to fight every
issue to a stalemate," he said.
"In some ways it's been a
good session. But we were
very disappointed that the
Brady amendment (on hand-
gun legislation) and the
minimum wage package did
not survive."
The Brady amendment
would have required a seven
day waiting period for the
purchase of handguns. It was
supported vigorously by a
coalition of Jewish groups, in-
cluding the American Jewish
Congress, the American
Jewish Committee and the
Anti-Defamation League of
the B'nai B'rith.

But a nationwide public
relations blitz by the Na-
tional Rifle Association
derailed a bill that Jewish ac-
tivists believed would have
special importance for elder-
ly Jews living in big cities,
where handgun crimes have
experienced a steep rise in re-
cent years.

Yarmulke
Amendment
Survives

Sen. Lautenberg:
Swift intervention.

The "Yarmulke amend-
ment," the hard-won
measure requiring the mili-
tary to allow neat and ap-
propriate religious apparel by
servicemen, made yet
another repeat performance
in Washington last week.
But thanks to swift inter-
vention by Rep. Stephen
Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Sen.
Frank Lautenberg (D-Pa.),
two of the legislators in-
strumental in the measure's
passage in September 1987, a
Defense Department attempt
to sidestep the legislation was
thwarted.
Solarz and Lautenberg
fought a quiet, rear-guard ac-
tion against a February De-
partment of Defense regula-
tion governing the yarmulke
bill. The regulation contain-
ed a line that effectively re-
versed the congressional
directive.
"A complete prohibition on
the wearing of any visible
items of religious apparel
may be appropriate under
unique circumstances in
which the member's duties,
the military mission or the
maintenance of discipline re-
quire absolute conformity,"
the policy directive said.
Since the military had
argued all along that the yar-

mulke measure was danger-
ous because all military
discipline demanded absolute
uniformity, the regulation, if
implemented, would have ef-
fectively gutted the bill.
The regulation went on to
allow the military to prohibit
religious apparel during basic
training.
In May — without tipping
off the press or Jewish
organizations here — Solarz
and Lautenberg went to work
on Secretary of Defense
Frank Carlucci. In a joint let-
ter, they explained why the
new regulation would reverse
the entire intent of the bill.
Solarz, according to his staff,
lobbied Carlucci personally
on the issue.
Last week, Carlucci agreed,
and reversed the directive.
But some Pentagon watchers
caution that there still may
be hitches before the "yar-
mulke amendment" is fully
implemented; opposition to
the measure remains deeply
entrenched in the military
hierarchy. Solarz and Lauten-
berg plan to keep a close eye
on the Defense Department's
compliance.

Making Amends
On Investigating
Israel

The strange case of the U.S.
Trade Representative Clayton
Yeutter's decision to in-
vestigate Israel for alleged
labor abuses continues to per-
colate through the Jewish
community here.
Recently, three top Jewish
activists — Steve Silbiger of
the American Jewish Con-
gress, and Dan Mariaschin
and Warren Eisenberg of the
international counsel's office
of B'nai B'rith — met with
one of the signers of the
original petition calling the
investigation and came away
with a retraction.
The legislator in question
was Nicholas Mavroules, a
Democrat from Massachu-
setts. "I don't think he quite
understood what the Arab-
American Anti-
Discrimination Committee
was," Silbiger said. "And he
didn't entirely understand
the implications of an in-
vestigation — or that it would
be perceived as a slap at
Israel. This is a congressman
who has been strongly sup-
portive of Israel."
There were also persistent
reports that the State Depart-
ment is working on a letter
staking out the position that

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