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November 25, 1988 - Image 42

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-25

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'Who Is A Jew'

Continued from Page 1

Judaism are virtually non-existent
in Israel).
Ultra-Orthodox religious parties
in Israel have demanded a Knesset
vote on the issue as a precondition for
their entering a coalition government
led by the Likud Party. Orthodox par-
ties won 18 seats in Israel's elections
three weeks ago.
Cardin told The Jewish News that
she feared that changing the Law of
Return would be equivalent to "a
tyranny of the minority" in Israel.
"A few, by virtue of the Israeli
electorate system, will coerce the
Israeli majority," she said. "That's not
what democracy is about."
The issue, said Cardin, "is poten-
tially the most serious challenge to
Jewish unity in decades. We are talk-
ing about the soul of the Jewish peo-
ple in its totality."
Cardin stressed that U.S. Jews
"must not move one whit from their
unwavering support" for Israel,
especially by withholding funds from
campaigns for funds destined for
"This is not the time," she said,
"to defect, to be hysterical, to punish.
This is the time to unite in support
of Israel. If you cannot make such a
statement," she told one gathering of
GA delegates, "you should not be a
Despite Cardin's admonition,
some of the 3,000 delegates to the GA
gave impassioned impromptu protests
from the convention floor. A Jewish
community leader from San Fran-
cisco, Annette Dobbs, said almost
tearfully, "I don't want to be disfran-
chised. I've given almost 30 years of
my life to Jewish communal affairs."
She noted that donors who have
made "six-and-seven figure" dona-
tions to Jewish campaigns in San
Francisco have threatened to curtail
future donations if Israel's definition
of "Jew" is changed.
Esther Leah Ritz of Milwaukee
stated that "it is time to make it clear
to [financial] supporters of the
Lubavitch the role of the 'Schneer-

New Orleans may be the
city of the Superbowl, jazz
and alligator soup, but to
the driver of the airport
shuttle bus, the city is
something quite different.
As the bus pulled away from
the New Orleans Interna-
tional Airport Wednesday
evening, the driver announc-
ed through the P.A. system,
"Welcome to Sin City!"

Noting the changes in at-
titudes of the new Soviet
leadership, including a



son cabal' in encouraging this new
(Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of
Brooklyn, the Lubavitcher rebbe, is
considered the spiritual mentor of
Israel's Agudat Yisrael Party. The
party, which garnered five Knesset
seats in the recent election, has been
the most vocal voice in Israel deman-
ding changes in the Law of Return.)
And Walter Kessler of Tampa pro-
posed that any member of the
Knesset or of the prime minister's
cabinet who votes to change the
definition of a Jew "should be con-
sidered persona non grata by the
North American Jewish community?'
This proposal was overwhelming-
ly defeated by a voice vote.
Cardin and Detroit's Max Fisher
were among 11 prominent American
Jews who left Sunday for Israel for
four days of meetings with Israeli
government and political leaders, in-
cluding Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir. The delegation included
representatives of the Council of
Jewish Federations, the United
Jewish Appeal, the Jewish Agency
and the United Israel Appeal in
Canada and the United States. The
delegation will also meet with one of
Israel's chief rabbis.
The delegation hopes to convince
Israeli leaders to shift the "Who Is A
Jew" question from the political
arena — the Knesset — to a religious
venue, perhaps a commission ap-
pointed by Israel's prime minister
specifically to address the matter.
Initially, the delegation was to in-
clude representatives of the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC) and the Conference of
Presidents, who will leave Nov. 27.

GA delegates passed a resolution
affirming Israel's centrality to Jewish
peoplehood and the need to maintain
the broadest possible unity among
Jews in support of Israel. The resolu-
tion advised Israeli leaders not to
underestimate the depth of U.S.
Jewish opposition to the "Who Is A

much-needed sense of
humor, William Rosenwald,
honorary chairman of the
UJA Jubilee, told G.A.
delegates of an American
journalist who had been
asked by Soviet premier
Mikhail Gorbachev to
speculate about the changes
that would have occurred in
the world if Nikita
Kruschev had been assass-
inated rather than John F.
As the reporter groped for
an answer, Gorbachev said,
"One thing is certain.

Rabbi Menachem Porush of Agudat Yisrael discusses coalition with Yitzhak Shamir and

Jew" question and urged them to
remove the question from politics.
Delegates also approved a petition
protesting changing the Law of
Return. The petition will be cir-
culated in Jewish communities in the
United States by local federations
with the hope of attaining at least one
million signatures. It will be
presented to Israel's prime minister
by Dec. 4.
A two-hour CJF satellite hook-up
with local federations and Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir was
scheduled for noon last Tuesday.
Delegates rejected a resolution
calling on "all Jews to cease providing
funds to organizations anywhere in
the world which support the propos-
ed change in the Law of Return." The
resolution, proposed by former CJF
President Raymond Epstein of
Chicago, also would have required the
Jewish Agency, which distributes
UJA funds in Israel, to cease funding
institutions that support the propos-
ed Law of Return change.

The resolution was perceived as
aimed at the Lubavitch Chasidic sect
in the United States and Israel and
at ultra-Orthodox yeshivot in Israel.
Both of these have been the primary
forces behind changing the Law of
But Cardin did state at a press
conference that the CJF board has
asked all donors to look closely at the
purpose of the Jewish organizations
to which they contribute funds.
Tom Dine, director of the
American Israel Public Affairs Com-
mittee, said cutbacks by American
Jews in donations for Israel would
"not harm those responsible" — the
Lubavitch and the Aguda party —
for changing the Law of Return.
Harmed instead, he said, would be
the entire nation of Israel and local
Jewish communities. Such cuts could
also harm U.S.-Israel relations "by
leading to a reduction in influence
and status in Washington" for the
Jewish community.

Continued on Page 44

Aristotle Onassis would not
have married. Madame

Overhe ard on an
elevator: "I would just like
to go to one session where no
one mentions who is a Jew."

Dominance of the G.A. by
the "Who Is A Jew'?" issue
produced these comments:
4, Phyllis Margolius, vice-
president for budget and
planning, United Jewish
Appeal Federation of
Greater Washington: "Any-
one who can sit through five
days of this [a General
Assembly] is definitely a

• Asked by a reporter
what he would say if he met,
with the Lubavitch rebbe in
Brooklyn to make him
aware of the groundswell of
American Jewish opposition
to altering Israel's Law of
Return, Morris Abram, head
of the Council of Presidents
of Major American Jewish
Organizations, said coyly
(and in his inimitably

Southern way), "Oh, I don't
know He's much too wise for

If an African head of state
gave an animal to the Na-
tional Zoo in honor of John
Sununu, who has been ap-
pointed chief of staff of
George Bush's White House,
the beast, quipped New York
Times Washington cor-
respondent Steven Roberts,
it would be called
"Sununu's gnu."

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