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December 09, 1988 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-09

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

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30

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1988

Who Is A Jew' Question
Won't Stampede Congress

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

I

srael's agonies over the
"Who is a Jew" debate
continue to reverberate
around Washington in
peculiar ways.
Last week saw an abortive
attempt to put together a
House letter to Prime
Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
The letter, authored by Rep.
Mel Levine, (D-Calif.), ex-
pressed the signers' "pro-
found concern" over the idea
of a coalition built on pro-
mises to amend the Law of
Return.
In a draft of the letter,
Levine—one of Israel's
strongest Capitol Hill sup-
porters—referred to intense
opposition within the
American Jewish community
to the changes urged by Or-
thodox political groups in
Israel as the price for their
support in creating a govern-
ment.
But uncertainty over events
in Israel proved to be a
serious obstacle to Levine's ef-
forts to influence Israel's
leaders. According to several
sources, congressmen from
heavily Jewish districts were
reluctant to commit them-
selves publicly to an issue
that deeply split their consti-
tuencies.
"It's a very sensitive issue,"
said Steve Silbiger, Washing-
ton representative for the
American Jewish Congress.
"There's no question that peo-
ple on the Hill are very con-
cerned about what this issue
will do to U.S.-Israeli rela-
tions. People are concerned
that if there is less support
from American Jews, it will
make things harder in what
we already expect will be a
difficult congressional ses-
sion."
Agudath Israel of America,
the Orthodox group that has
been an active newcomer to
the Washington political
scene, lobbied quietly against
any congressional response.
According to some reports,
Agudah's involvement has
centered less on the details of
the "Who is a Jew" debate
than on the need to cool down
the intense feelings
generated by the controversy.

Reform Group
Networking In
Washington

he Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism is looking
for a few good people — as

long as they have political
contacts.
The politically active arm of
the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations is
upgrading its program to
identify and mobilize syna-
gogue members with special
clout on Capitol Hill.
The "Key Contacts Pro-
gram," according to Glenn
Stein, associate director of the
Center, is designed to pull
together networks of con-
gregants with personal or pro-
fessional ties to national
leaders, as well as identify
Jewish activists with special
expertise in a wide range of
policy areas.
Names are solicited primar-
ily through notices in
synagogue bulletins, and
then added to the compu-
ter—along with information
about the special interests of
each contact. So when an
issue of concern to UAHC
comes up in Congress, a quick
computer search can pull
together a list of Jews at the
local level with good connec-
tions to key decision makers.
"Our hope is that we can
develop key contacts with the
vast majority of members of
both the House and Senate,
and with administration peo-
ple in key slots," Stein said.

Bush May
Appoint Abram
To Top Post

Washington's favorite game
— speculation over the emerg-
ing shape of the George Bush
administration — continues
to provide merry entertain-
ment for Jewish activists
here.
And last week, a prominent
Jewish leader's name made
an appearance on the game
board.
According to numerous
reports, Morris Abram—the
outgoing president of the na-
tional Conference on Soviet
Jewry and the current head of
the Conference of Presidents
of Major Jewish Organiza-
tions—is in line for a high-
level post in the Bush ad-
ministration.
At first, speculation cen-
tered on a slot in this coun-
try's United Nations delega-
tion.
More recently, there has
been talk that Abram may
replace Ambassador Richard
Shifter, the State Depart-
ment's top human rights of-
ficial. Such an appointment
would delight both Soviet
Jewry and pro-Israel ac-
tivists; Abram's long history

Morris Abraham: Bush appointee?

of activism on behalf of Jew-
ish causes, they suggest,
would provide some relief in
an administration that many
suggest is shaping up as a
step backward for the Jewish
agenda.
In a related story, is the ex-
pected nomination of Sey-
mour D. Reich to the top slot
at the President's Conference.
The 55-year-old New York
lawyer and Jewish activist,
has been a prime mover in
B'nai B'rith's recent re-
emergence as a serious player
on the Washington scene.
According to some reports,
Reich was picked over former
U.S. arms negotiator Max
Kampelman by the Presi-
dent's Conference
nominating committee.
An official announcement is
expected sometime next
month.

Germany
Requests Room
At Museum

As excavation continues for
the Holocaust Memorial
Museum on the mall in
downtown Washington, one of
the stranger controversies in
recent years has rumbled
quietly in the background.
According to sources close to
the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Council, the West German
government has made persis-
tent attempts to have some
input in determining the
museum's content. These
sources suggest that West
German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl has been the driving
force behind efforts to provide
an upbeat depiction of today's
Germany. Museum officials
declined to talk for the record
about the West German re-
quests, except to confirm that
the issue is an ongoing one.
But sources close to the

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