Upon the return of its delegation from the 1998 Plenum meeting of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (formerly known as the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council), the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America hailed the adoption of a policy position endorsing limited government aid to Jewish day schools.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit, proposed that JCPA adopt the following policy: “the JCPA believes that the education provided by Jewish day schools promotes Jewish continuity. Students enrolled in these schools should continue to receivecourt approved, non-sectarian educational benefits, including school district provision of transportation and secular textbooks.” The Detroit proposition also deleted language from the initial JCPA draft that asserted that “the First Amendment prohibits government from providing funds tosectarian schools” While the provision to sectarian schools of the benefits included in the proposition have long been ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, JCPA policy has historically adhered to the view that religion must be strictly separated from government.
During the floor debate on Detroit’s proposition, the Orthodox Union asserted that it was time for even JCPA to reexamine policies adopted decades ago and rescind its opposition to cash-strapped day schools receiving even the most minimal state aid. Much to the surprise and pleasure of the Orthodox Union, other delegates to the Plenum agreed. A leading JCPA and Jewish Federation activist asserted that her children were Jewish because they attended day school and we must put aside our constant preoccupation with the slippery slope’ and give these schools some help.
Nathan Diament, director of the OU’s Institute for Public Affairs and a delegate to the Plenum stated that “we may look back years from now at this Plenum as a watershed when the organized Jewish community finally began revisiting policies put in place 50 years ago and considering what the demands and needs of today’s Jewish community are. The passage of Detroit’s proposition and the fact that our pro-charitable choice proposition failed by a mere 36 votes (out of 400 cast) shows that we are making great progress on these issues.”
Orthodox Union President, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, stated that “these results are some of the reasons why the Orthodox Union invests time and effort in engaging the broader Jewish community through JCPA. If we can make the broader Jewish community support Jewish education, we have not only served our community’s children, but those of the entire Jewish community.”