New Jewish Agenda

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The New Jewish Agenda was established in 1980 with its "Founding Conference", according to a NJA newsletter printed in late 1982 or early 1983 (newsletter is undated). A more detailed version of its founding was published in Rael Jean Isaac's 32 page monograph entitled "The New Anti-Jewish Agenda", 1987, Americans For A Safe Israel.

In her opening paragraph, Isaac wrote the following:

"The New Jewish Agenda was created in 1979 to fill the gap left by the passage of Breira. An amalgam of left wing activists and conservative and reform rabbis, Breira, after a slow start in 1973, burst on the national Jewish scene in 1976 and died shortly thereafter. It foundered when the anti-Israel credentials of many of its leaders were exposed..."

"..So in December 1978 when Gerald Serotta and Albert Axelrad, both Hillel rabbis active in Breira, decided to form New Jewish Agenda, they determined to avoid what Serotta described as Breira's focus on 'day to day developments in the Middle East.' When Breira held its founding in December 1980, the introduction to the program noted that 'important conceptual decisions' had been worked out over the past year. Agenda was to be a multi-issue organization and Middle East issues 'although primary to most if not all of our people will only be a part of our concerns and out not be allowed to dominate'."

National Platform including Statement of Purpose

As published in this 1982/83 special issue of the NJA newsletter, "This platform was adopted at a Delegates Conference which took place in New York City and was attended by sixty-five elected representatives of New Jewish Agenda chapters and at-large members from across the United States. The platform represents the climax of an extensive cooperative process that began at Agenda' Founding Conference in 1980. It represents our current political analysis with respect to the major issues of the day. We anticipate that it will be revised and amended as needed in the years to come."

Statement of Purpose

"We are Jews from a variety of backgrounds and affiliations committed to progressive human values and the building of a shared vision of Jewish life."

"Our history and tradition inspire us. Jewish experience and teachings can address the social, economic, and political issues of our times. Many of us find our inspiration in our people's historical resistance to oppression and from the Jewish presence at the forefront of movements for social change. Many of us base our convictions on the Jewish religious concept of "tikun olam" (the just ordering of human society and the world)* and the prophetic tradition of social justice."

[*Tikun Olam (Talmud, Mishnah Gittin 4:3 - also appears in the Aleynu prayer].

"We are dedicated to insuring the survival and flourishing of the Jewish people. Jews must have the rights to which all people are entitled. But survival is only a precondition of Jewish life, not its purpose. Our agenda must be determined by out ethics, not our enemies. We need creative and vital Jewish institutions and practices that affirm the best of our traditions and involve members of our community who have historically been excluded."

" We call on all Jews who share our vision to join us in working to achieve our goals in the Jewish and wider communities. To those whose visions differ from ours -- let us discuss those differences. Authentic Jewish unity grows from respect for and understanding of diversity."

"Society can be changed and human cooperation can be achieved. Working for social progress not only reflects Jewish ideals, but enhances Jewish security. New Jewish Agenda's national platform upholds progressive Jewish values and affirms that the goals of peace and justice are attainable."


The Platform, edited by each Section with Key Descriptive Paragraphs

  • Jewish Communal Life in the United States

"New Jewish Agenda affirms the vitality and vast creative potential of Jewish life in the United States. We are proud of our historical tradition of providing for our educational, religious, social, cultural, and political needs. However, the existing network of Jewish communal institutions has only partially succeeded in these tasks."

"We call for the transformation of Jewish institutions and the creation of new ones to represent the whole spectrum of views of U.S. Jewry and meet our changing needs. Such democratic participatory structures will enhance the strength and depth of our communities."

[KW: Max Friedman, a Jewish journalist, has offered up some interpretations and context for each of the most controversial of these "sections" and will be identified as "Comments" at the end of each one of interest].

Comment: This challenge to traditional Jewish life and social/religious structures was a frontal attack by the Old and New Left to break up the more conservative political views of American Jewry. The Orthodox Jewish movement was strongly anti-communist, and supported the U.S. in its efforts to repel communist aggression in Vietnam. The Jewish Left could not let this stand, and thus some of the "Hanoi Lobby" Jewish members decided to create, at first, Breira, and then the NJA, to break this "monopoly", as they might view it, of Jewish political conservatism, especially after the 1968 riots which burnt out Jewish businesses in many major cities. As one will see, key hardcore leftists in both Breira and NJA eventually tookover the directional leadership of both organizations and turned them sharply to the Left. In fact, one key NJA leader, Jon Weisberger, ended up joining the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), while veteran leftist Arthur Waskow, a leader of the marxist Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), some of the "Hanoi Lobby" "Mobes", and the Mayday riots of 1971, helped to create the counter-programs to existing Jewish practices, including the so-called "Freedom Seder" (which was an attack on U.S. policies in South Vietnam, with the ancient oppressed Jews of Egypt now turned into the Hanoi-created Viet Cong who were fighting the new Pharoah, the United States).


  • New Jewish Agenda's Feminist Commitment

"New Jewish Agenda (NJA) supports the complete equality of women and men. Our policies are shaped by our commitment to feminism - an eqalitarian system of thought and action. Human needs, interpersonal dynamics, and quality of life are political issues. In order to build NJA as a feminist organization, we emphasize cooperation, inclusive language, and the conscious affirmation of an eqalitarian ethos."

"Women's exclusion from power in society has resulted in pervasive economic social inequalities. This intereferes with women's ability to reach economic stability, and frustrates all people's emotional fulfillment and creativity. ....The glorification of so-called 'masculine' virtues of competition and aggression has contributed to the militarism which has brought the human race to the brink of self-destruction."

"***. As Jews working in the feminist community, we are dedicated to winning its active commitment to the unique struggle of Jewish women and to the struggle against anti-semitism."

Comment: What started out as a position for, if you will, the finanicial/economic emanicaption of women in the workplace, turned into a marxist diatribe about masculine "militarism" and anti-semitism. It was masculine militarism that saved what was left of European Jewry from the Nazi genocide machine, not feminist equality, though the U.S. and Russian military blazed new paths to equality (in varying degrees) by letting women function in traditionally male military roles up-to and including combat.

Also, how does one equate "equality of women" with anti-semitism? If you are anti-semitic, you dislike or hate all Jews, not only men, or women. In being an anti-semite, one cannot pick which gender of Jews they hate. There is no such thing as "half anti-semitism". Like being pregnant, you can't be a "little pregnant" so this last NJA position is superfluous at the least, and typically leftist stupidity at the most.

  • Women in the Work Force, Family and Reproductive Rights

"Women in the work force have historically faced poor conditions and inequitable compensation. We continue the struggle of our grandmothers as we fight on the issues of our day."

"We support equal pay for comparable worth. We oppose discrimination in hiring and promotion against women, Lesbians and Gay Men. It is the employer's responsibility to provide child care, material and paternity leave and job sharing. These benefits are crucial to the redefinition of sex roles."

"The workplace must be free from all health hazards, including those that affect the reproductive system. Women must be protected from sexual harassment. We support the increasing unionization of clerical, childcare, and household workers and other predominately female occupations."

"***.We affirm the value of life and the right of all children to be vorn into a loving and caring environment. Women should be free to choose when and under what conditions they bring life into the world. ...NJA will fight to retain safe, legal abortions and oppose depriving poor people of choices available to others."

"We oppose all government policies limiting reproductive freedoms and affirm the right of children to be adequately cared for by society and by their parents. In order for prospective parents to be truly free in their choice, society must provide adequate child care, adequate incomes and housing. Full reproductive freedom also includes ... and the rights of Lesbians, Gay Men and single people to choose whether or not to parent, adopt or retain custody."

Comment: This is such a hodgepodge of marxist/utopian dogma that it literally self-destructs. Leaving aside the issue of abortion, which is basically a religious issue in the U.S., the theme that the "state" must take care of children is an old Marxist one, put into place by Lenin, Stalin and Mao, and later, the devastatingly destructive Kim Il-Jong of North Korea and Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge leader of Cambodia. In the NJA's world, the "state" must provide housing, jobs, childcare, education, and surrogate parenting. It is as though they wanted Orwell's "1984" to come true.

In Cuba, homosexuals were and are persecuted to the point of jailing, and yet Cuba supplies everything that the NJA wants (except sexual freedom of identity). All the references to Lesbians and Gays should have come in the next section on "Lesbian and Gay Jews."

Agenda Editorial personnel

Winter 1984, Number 14; [1]

(Photo of Silverstein found on Page 5)

Send articles and letters to: Debbie Zucker, 729 W. Briar Pl, F-1, Chicago, Ill. 60657

Agenda Chapter Contacts, Winter 1984 (1983-84), Issue Number 14


Staff Writers and Their Titles within NJA

"Readers' Forum letter writers"

Reply by "Kantrowitz and Klepfisz"

"Attendees at the December National Council Meeting, Dec. 24-26, 1983"

  • 33 chapters an at-large delegates present as well as observers
  • Lee Levin - outgoing Cochair
  • Betsy Cohen - outgoing Cochair
  • Reena Bernards - mentioned as having a meeting with Rabbi Mort Rosenthal, Anti-Defamation League, Latin American Affairs Dept. director

Of particular importance was the following paragraph:

"Betsey reported on the Steering Committee's consideration of the Middle East Task Force's recommendation that the SC reverse its position against admittance of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) into the Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy (CNFMP). The SC decided to meet with the ADC executive director before deciding on the METF's recommendations."

The CNFMP was the old "Hanoi Lobby" in its latest reincarnation. It was previously the Coalition to Stop Funding the War (CSFW) re Vietnam, and was composed of the most extreme, pro-Hanoi organizations, led by Tom Hayden and his Indochina Peace Campaign (IPC) which needed a lobbying arm on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress.

The ADC was an off-shoot of the pro-PLO Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC), the major propaganda arm of the PLO in the U.S. It was founded and led by former Senator James Abourezk, James Zogby and behind the scenes, veteran marxist sympathizer/activist Abdeen Jabara.

Agenda's Peace Tour to Israel 1983

Listed as participants in the NJA Peace Tour to Israel in 1983 were:

Winners of NJA 1984 Raffle:

National Office Volunteers

Agenda, Summer 1984, Issue Number 15, Staff and Writers

Writers this issue:

Director - Shalom Center, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia

  • Lawrence Bush, NJA - "Why I Voted for Jesse Jackson" - opinion column
  • Jeff Oboler, NJA - "The Politics of Jewish Self Respect" - opinion column

As part of the report on "Jews and Disarmament", the authors also described the use of the Jewish "sukkah" (literally "hut") from the harvest holiday of Sukkot in their disarmament programs. The "Sukkat Shalom Committee" (i.e. Sukkat Peace Committee) and its programs were described as including the following groups

"The Sukkat Shalom and Washington and all across the country will be focal points for services, town meetings and visits to political candidates. Jews, both young and old, religious and secular will unite to call for an immediate end to all preparations for nuclear war."

Area contacts - 1984

From Agenda, No 15, Summer 1984


Additional names of NJA contacts:

  • Clare Kinberg - St. Louis re the 1985 NJA Conference as well as the Midwest & East Central Regions "Regional Retreat" 1984
  • Ellen Dannin - Planning contact for a "Regional Retreat" for the Midwest and East Central Regions, Oct. 26-28, 1984". Her phone code is (313) which includes Ann Arbor, Michigan

America-Israel Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

A two-column long ad by the American-Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace AICIPP was published in the Washington Jewish Week, January 7, 1988, Page 8, entitled "End the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip".

Among the signers of this ad were:

Mentions in Rael Jean Isaac's "The New Anti-Jewish Agenda"

In 1987, the pro-Israel organization Americans For a Safe Israel AFSI, published a study of the New Jewish Agenda as written by scholar/journalist Rael Jean Isaac. In order to pick out the names of NJA members and supporters, with organizational identifications, KW will list each section by title and then each person/organization named that is of interest. Not every individual is necessarily a member of NJA, but they will be shown to have some direct contacts worthy of mention.

  • Introduction: Basically a historical review of the origins of NJA from its predecessor, BREIRA, which was created in 1973 by "an amalgam of left wing activists and conservative and reform rabbis." It disintegrated in 1976 "when the anti-Israel credentials of many of its leaders were exposed."
  • Alan Mintz - "the man widely credited with creating Breira", dropped out, asserting that "Breira has done little to assure us that the central point of departure for its work is an emphatic bond with the fortunes of the Jewish people."
  • Gerald Serotta - a Hillel rabbi and creator of NJA. Hillel is an on-campus organization for college Jewish students and provides many services such as a kitchen facility, meeting places, a place for religious services, counseling, etc.
  • Albert Axelrad - a Hillel rabbi and creator of NJA

Agenda's Founding Conference

Held in December 1980, NJA was formed when over 700 people attended and agreed to create a new national Jewish organization. Those mentioned in this section will be listed. The key person involved in the "shaping" of NJA's "role", according to Isaac (p. 3). was Arthur Waskow. Waskow was one of the brains of many of the anti-Vietnam protests in Washington, D.C. and LA while he was a leader of the marxist Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Waskow's identities included (per above and otherwise):

  • a central figure in Breira
  • a 1960's radical
  • co-founder and Fellow at IPS
  • helped to develop activities around the Rainbow Covenant and Rainbow Sign activities
  • (not mentioned was that he created the leftist Freedom Seder)
  • implied that he helped prepare for the communist-dominated June 12, 1981 disarmament demonstration in New York City
  • Lawrence Bush - wrote about the second NJA national conference of August, 1985 in an article published in Jewish Currents about the strong "gay and lesbian presence". "Jewish Currents" was a magazine published by one of two Jewish factions of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), and it used the CP printing shop "bug" 412 as opposed to that of the other publication, "Jewish Affairs", the offical publication of the Jewish Affairs Section of the CPUSA, which used printing bug "209" of the key Party printing shop known as Prompt Press.

The Shift to a Middle East Focus

Mentions another leftist Jewish organization named Shalom Network, which grew out of the leftist Israeli publication New Outlook. It "formally merged into NJA" in 1982.

"Pro-PLO politicians were not slow in taking advantage of Agenda's propaganda value. In August 1982, Ohio Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH), fresh from a visit to Arafat in West Beirut, declared in Congress that she had the names of 100 Washington area Jews who had signed a statement saying "the dreams of a peaceful homeland will never be realized so long as Israel denies the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people." (FT 10). New Jewish Agenda was among the signatories."

Working With Pro-Arab Groups

NJA worked with "the most radical anti-Israel groups", ranging from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to theArab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which has replaced the Association of Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG) as the most active pro-PLO group in the U.S..."

  • April 20, 1985 demonstration, Wash. D.C. entitled "Festival of Resistance" (against Reagan's policies), "was organized by a series of pro-Soviet and pro-PLO groups."
  • Rabbi Brian Walt - NJA, "was there to denounce U.S. support of the "apartheid regime."
  • Abdeen Jabara - was there as a speaker

References

  1. Agenda, Winter 1984, Number 14, page 5