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June 23, 1989 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-23

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

INSIDE WASHINGTON

Jewish Groups In Ttirmoil
Over Revised Day Care Bill

JAMES D. BESSER

Washington Correspondent

ewish groups in Wash-
ington are in a turmoil
over the next step in
their long battle for the Act for
Better Child Care (ABC), the
comprehensive federal child
care bill that has been crippl-
ed by disputes between
church-state separationists
and religious groups seeking
funding for their own day care
facilities.
A recent compromise on the
church-state dilemma ap-
peared to save the fragile ABC
coalition. But in an about-face
that angered many Jewish ac-
tivists, the U.S. Catholic Con-
ference argued for an exemp-
tion that would allow parents
who receive federal child care
certificates to use those cer-
tificates at day-care facilities
where specific religious tenets
are taught.
This spawned an amend-
ment by Sens. Wendell H.
Ford,(D-Ky.), David
Durenberger, (R-Minn.), which
supporters have dubbed the
"parental choice amendment."
In a surprise move last
week, Senate Majority Leader
George Mitchell, (D-Maine),
introduced a new version of
ABC that incorporated the
Ford-Durenberger language.
The new bill also includes ex-
panded provisions for child
care tax credits, and sharply
reduced funding for the
program.
Jewish groups are in a
quandary over whether to
support the revised bill.
"We believe that the Ford-
Durenberger amendment
would actually diminish
parental choice," said Judy
Golub, assistant Washington
representative for the
American Jewish Committee.
"If you live in a community
with few child-care choices,
families who don't want their
children indoctrinated in
another religion are going to
have real problems."
Rabbi Lynn Landsberg of
the Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism expressed
some of the frustration that
many backers now feel.
"This is very painful for us,"
she said. "This is something
we've worked on for so long.
But this amendment has dir-
tied the bill, and if it stays dir-
ty, a lot of Jewish groups will
have to reconsider the entire
bill."
On the other end of the spec-
trum, Agudath Israel of
America was on Capitol Hill

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32

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 1989 .

last week, arguing in support
of the Ford-Durenberger
amendment; Agudah opposed
the original ABC language
limiting federal funding for
sectarian day care facilities
and sees the amendment as a
partial remedy that would
provide badly needed help for
the group's expanding day
care network.

Agudath Israel
Chooses Cohen
As New Rep

Agudath Israel of America,
the Orthodox group that has
taken on an increasingly visi-
ble role in the Capitol Hill
political fray, has a new
Washington representative.
The New York based
organization, which generally
takes a conservative position
on a wide range of social
issues, is set to announce the
appointment of Abba Cohen
to the important slot, replac-
ing Nesanel Kasnett, who
opened the group's
Washington operation last
year.
Cohen, a Washington
native, holds a masters degree
in international relations
from Columbia and a law
degree from Georgetown. He
also worked as an attorney for
a firm that includes Orthodox
legal activist Nathan Lewin.

"On the most basic level,
I'm here to serve as the only
full-time Orthodox Jewish
representative in Washing-
ton," Cohen said in a recent
interview. "Since we opened
our Washington office, we
often serve as the eyes and
ears of the Orthodox com-
munity, in the administrative
and legislative arena."
Cohen is also concerned
about what he sees as distor-
tion of the Orthodox political
agenda. "So a very important
part of the role of this office is
to project an accurate and true
image of what the Orthodox
community is, and what our
political agenda is."
Cohen acknowledged the
sharp differences between
Agudath Israel and other
Jewish groups over a wide
range of domestic issues. "But
if we can isolate particular
issues where we have a
mutuality of interests, there's
no reason we can't cooperate,"
Cohen said. "When it comes
to religious liberties, that's
something we want to be very
active in. Internationally,
Israel is a major concern of
ours, and endangered Jewish

communities around the
world."

Conservatives
Oppose Torture
Convention

The American Jewish Com-
mittee and the International
Council of B'nai B'rith are
working quietly to mobilize
support for the "Torture Con-
vention," the follow-up to the
Genocide Convention, ratified
last year by the United States
after a decades-long delay.
And now it looks like con-
servative leaders in the
Senate will also try to stall
the Ibrture Convention, which
seeks to provide some basic in-
ternational protections
against the use of torture by
governments.
"It was listed as a top priori-
ty for the State Department in
this Congress," said Nisha
Abkarian Shrier, legislative
assistant for the AJ Commit-
tee's Washington office. "But
they prepared a report for the
Senate with a list of reserva-
tions and declarations."
According to Shrier, one of
the State Department's con-
cerns involves the definition of
torture. "What they want to
do is raise the threshold of

Sen. Jesse Helms:
Worries convention supporters.

pain you must endure for it to
be considered torture," she
said. And their reservations
allow certain justifications for
torture, and there are ques-
tions about whether it is en-
forceable domestically."
A coalition of Jewish and
Armenian groups, and human
rights groups like Amnesty
International, warns that the
State Department's reserva-
tions could take some of the
punch out of the treaty. And
Jewish activists involved in
the quiet debate worry that
conservative stalwarts like

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