- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

American Jewish leaders generally agree with President Bush that Saddam Hussein is a threat, but few have taken a direct public stand on whether the United States should wage war against Iraq.
Major Jewish organizations are split over the risks of a unilateral strike for the United States and Israel. And some who back a war fear their advocacy would be seen as enlisting America to help Israel, rather than support for U.S. interests, said Samuel Heilman, a sociologist and Jewish-studies expert at the City University of New York.
"Jews, as much as they feel at home in America, and as much as they have succeeded in America, there's still that anxiety about not being perceived as loyal to America," Mr. Heilman said.
Several leading Jewish organizations said they felt more comfortable waiting to announce their position until after Congress approves a war resolution, which congressional leaders predict will happen this week .
"We're following events at the United Nations and in Washington, and when we feel it's the right moment and our voice can be helpful, then we will raise it," said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, a political advocacy and humanitarian group.
Groups that have publicly lobbied for Saddam's ouster for years have not weighed in with their opinion on the latest tensions between the United States and Iraq.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Orthodox Union, which represents 1,100 synagogues, continue to craft statements. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents 800 congregations, has taken no position so far.
Those groups that have made public statements have chosen their words carefully.
B'nai B'rith International, the Jewish social-service group, issued a statement two weeks ago supporting President Bush's proposed congressional resolution on Iraq without directly backing a war.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, issued a statement praising the president's Sept. 12 speech on Iraq to the United Nations. It noted some action should be taken but offered no specifics.
Among the few direct statements on the war was one from the Rabbinical Council of America, which represents Orthodox rabbis and backs military action, and another from Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, who opposes a unilateral strike.
"I think it sets an ominous precedent," Mr. Schorsch said. "If we do this unilaterally, we return the world to the jungle. Any nation that perceives to be threatened can unilaterally start a war."


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