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January 31, 1992 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-01-31

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

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26

FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 1992

Henry Siegman: "We benefit in two ways."

group's mandate.
So ferocious was the response that
NJCRAC was forced to terminate the
consultant. But few observers doubt that
NJCRAC will try again to establish itself
in Washington.

Varied Voices

T

he burgeoning number of Jewish
lobbyists plying their trade on Cap-
itol Hill also means that the com-
munity no longer speaks with a single
voice on some key issues.
This growing political pluralism has
been most evident in three areas: church-
state separation, civil rights and support
for Israel.
"On Israel, we're hearing a much more
nuanced approach from the Jewish
groups," said one congressional aide.
"The strong support is still there. But it's
not automatic. Jewish lobbyists are no
longer always in lock step with the gov-
ernment in Israel.
"We still hear from AIPAC, but we
also hear a lot from Peace Now and
groups like that."
This growing diversity is a mixed bless-
ing for the pro-Israel community.
"Our credibility is enhanced, because
people in Congress understand that while
there's still a fundamental unity on core
issues, the community is strong enough
to have diversity — and to express it in
the public arena," said David Cohen, co-
director of Washington's Center For Is-
raeli Peace and Security.
But it also means that congressmen
whose support for Israel is marginal, or
who are genuinely unsympathetic to the

Jewish state, are not as easily persuaded
to support pro-Israel legislation.
"They can always say, 'Hey look, the
Jewish Peace Lobby is also knocking
Shamir,' " said another congressional
source who argued that the varied new
viewpoints are confusing to legislators.
"Politics is still a game of numbers.
Members [of Congress] look at the Jewish
community and see a community that
can really come down hard on some basic
issues. If the community is seen as
fragmented, some of that power just e-
vaporates."
The growing political diversity of
Washington's Jewish establishment is
even more evident on domestic issues.
When the administration announced its
long-awaited education reform package
last spring, most Jewish groups quickly
condemned proposals that would allow
public funding of parochial schools.
But Agudath Israel of America strong-
ly supported the president's plan, which
the White House energetically pointed
out in its initial efforts to sell the measure
to Congress.
Agudath, joined by the Orthodox
Union, also supported the nomination of
Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme
Court, while groups like the American
Jewish Congress and the Union of Amer-
ican Hebrew Congregations weighed in
against confirmation.
A decade ago, there was an overwhelm-
ing Jewish consensus on church-state
questions like school prayer. Today, with
growing activism by the Orthodox
groups in Washington, the community no
longer presents a solid front on these
issues. ill

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