Diaspora Opposition to Apartheid

DESPITE the erroneous impression that American Jews were part and parcel of the neoconservative camp, last year’s US presidential elections showed that they remain liberals at heart. Two thirds of US Jewry voted for Mondale, with almost 75 per cent of New York City’s Jews rejecting President Reagan. Another instance of the liberal conscience is Jewish involvement in the public campaign against apartheid. And it is significant to note that in addition to individuals, established Jewish organizations did not simply pay lip service to the rising tide of protest, but were actually active nationwide.

Theodore R. Mann, the President of the American Jewish Congress, and the actor-singer Theodore Bike!, were arrested on the picket line outside the South African Embassy. The Synagogue Council of America representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, in a letter to the New York Times strongly condemned apartheid. Groups such as New Jewish Agenda were extremely vocal during Jewish festivals like Chanukah and Pesach which emphasize liberation and freedom. Even the Nobel Prize Laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu, attended a Minchah service and spoke to a large audience at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Clearly the problem of apartheid is not going to disappear overnight and it is right that Jewish sensitivity should be registered towards this moral and political question.

Jewish Quarterly Autumn 1985

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