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Table of Contents:

1)ATTITUDES AND BENCHMARKS: AN OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST JCPA PUBLIC AFFAIRS SURVEY 2) 1996-1997 ARCHIVE

3) ISRAEL AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS

4) EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

5) JEWISH SECURITY AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS



ATTITUDES AND BENCHMARKS: AN OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST JCPA PUBLIC AFFAIRS SURVEY

Dr. Lawrence Rubin
Executive Vice Chairman
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Sunday, February 22, 1998

In December 1997, fourteen community relations councils sent to a pre-selected sample of individuals in their communities a questionnaire prepared for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs by Brandeis University's Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy. The target population to be surveyed consisted of connected Jewish individuals, men and women affiliated with the federation. The major outcome of this effort was to identify trends in Jewish public opinion, both locally and nationally, which would inform the Jewish community relations field in its multi-issue policy and advocacy work. In a word, the goal of the survey was to assure that we speak with the organized Jewish community, not simply on its behalf.

The study provides the field and each participating community as well with an extraordinary planning tool - a reality check, a snapshop of the "connected community" at a given moment in time. It allows us, to borrow ex-New York City mayor Ed Koch's phrase to examine the question, "How are we doin'?" In my judgment, we're doing fine. The community relations field is reading the Jewish public affairs pulse just right.

It is fair to say that the survey results constitute benchmarks for further studies of the National Jewish Community Public Affairs Survey and also invite comparison with other studies done by different Jewish groups and polling organizations. My task today is simpler. It is to share with you some of the major findings of the study. I will be painting with a broad brush and hopefully with a bright palette. Before doing so, however, I want to make the following acknowledgements. First and foremost, this survey would not have been possible without the generous support of the leadership of the JCPA. I'd especially want to note the enthusiasm and leadership of Len Cole and Arden Shenker for their belief in and advocacy of the project, and a special thanks to Lew Cole who arranged for a substantial grant from the Louise Judah Trust. Additional major support was provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation for which we are grateful. It should be noted that each of the 14 participating communities made a significant financial commitment to this project. They are: Atlanta, Bergen County (NJ), Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, East Bay (CA), Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Professor Lawrence Sternberg of the Perlmutter Institute is responsible for the design of the survey instrument, with the guidance and input of our colleagues Earl Raab and Doug Kahn. Larry will be working on the extension and refinements of the analysis in the period ahead. (He's also the one who'll be holding his head - and his breath - as I share with you my own "take" on the results.) Earl has done a preliminary evaluation of the data from which I've borrowed liberally and largely without attribution - to protect Earl. Benita Gayle Almeleh of the JCPA staff coordinated this enterprise with skill and perseverance.

How does this survey differ from all other surveys? As stated before, our target was "connected " Jews, i.e., Jews involved in their communities. The data tell us that we succeeded:

** first of all, our sample was derived from federation lists, either contributors or subscribers to the local Anglo-Jewish newspaper, and a separate sample of individuals sitting of CRC boards was developed as well (more than 6800 federation donors and over 600 CRC leaders from 12 of the 14 communities participated in the survey);

** 97% of those surveyed contributed to their federation last year;

** 80% belong to at least one Jewish organization other than a synagogue;

** 75% pay synagogue dues, which number increases to over 85% of the CRC leadership sample;

** 88% attend services at least several times a year (90% of the CRC sample); and,

** 70% visited Israel at least once with 50% of the CRC sample having visited more than three times.

We were also looking at regional distribution and community size, allowing for other kinds of comparisons. As is obvious, the fourteen participating communities reflect a significant geographic and demographic distribution, coast to coast, north and south, large city and small. Each community will shortly receive an analysis of its individual results, and Larry and Earl are working on comparative assessment to determine the degree to which geography and size influence attitudes and assessments. A preliminary overview by Earl Raab suggests that, whille "discernible disparities" exist, "there is a tight cluster of responses for all communities which puts them all in the same 'neighborhood of meaning' for each given issue" (Raab, draft overview, p. 2).

Let's look now at what we learned and the lessons that might be drawn from what we learned. Since the JCPA will, in all likelihood, be concluding its year-long reexamination of the voucher issue at this plenum, it might be useful to begin by seeing what the sample tells us about the attitude of connected Jews on this issue. In all the charts, the green numbers represent federation donors while the red numbers reflect the CRC leadership sample. By over two to one [question #10], the federation member sample rejected the view that vouchers should be given to families for tuition in non-religious private schools, and the same sample's opposition to tuition assistance to families who send their children to religious schools grew to three to one (76% opposed to 24% favoring). Within the CRC leadership sub-sample, opposition to tuition support for private schools was even greater: it opposed assistance to non-religious private schools by 76% to 25% [3 to1], and rejected tuition aid for religious schools by a whopping 84% to 16% [over 5 to 1]. In a related question, less than half of those in the federation sample who supported vouchers felt they should be given without conditions.

Two other survey questions reached core concerns in the area of church-state separation, and on each the total sample demonstrated strong support for the principle. By 66% to 27% (with 50% strongly agreeing), the federation sample agreed that, "The Ten Commandments should not be hung in any courtroom" [question 1p]. The CRC leadership sample was even more vociferous, agreeing with the statement by over 4 to 1. Only 15% of the federation sample - and a smaller 7% of the CRC leadership sample - said they would never object to the temporary mounting of religious displays (mangers and menorahs). Here [question 12], however, the CRC people, by a margin of 20% (65% to 45%), are more likely to "always object" to religious displays than the federation sample as opposed to simply objecting to displays that are restricted to one religion. The federation sample appears more likely to favor the concept of fairness with regard to the display of religious symbols, while the CRC leadership are more likely to be "strict constructionists" on the separation principle.

None of us needs convincing that questions of faith and religion evoke deep emotions and sharp reactions within our community. This is no less true when the flash points exist intracommunally. In response to the question whether "Israel should fully recognize conversions performed by Conservative and Reform rabbis" [item #6], an overwhelming 89% of the federation sample said yes with that number rising to 91% favoring recognition of conversions performed outside of Israel. It should be noted that not only is there virtually no difference between the federation and CRC respondents to this question but that there is also little middleground on the issues. Views are strongly held. Similar strong feelings were expressed in response to the item, "Men and women should be allowed to pray together in the vicinity of the Western Wall in Jerusalem" [#1i] with over 80% agreeing with the statement.

That these issues have the potential of eroding the feelings of closeness between Jewish leadership and Israel is evidenced by contrasting responses to two related items [#1f and #1g]. While an overwhelming majority - in the mid-80s percentile - assert that disagreement with Israeli government actions on the peace process would not change an individual's feeling toward the country, that response, while still a majority, drops by 20% when the disagreement is said to be over religious matters. That the religious tensions in Israel and between American Jews and Israel have had consequences here at home is evidenced by the finding that connected Jews are also playing the "blame game" [item 14]. Over 80% of the sample blames intolerance among the Orthodox [14c] as a major cause of the communal rift, with only 30% seeing it the other way, that is, viewing non-Orthodox intolerance as a cause of the tension [14b]. These doleful figures cannot be merely cause for sarcasm or resignation, for it is equally clear that the total sample - nearly 90% -- believes that the organized Jewish community should use its resources to narrow the rift [item #14d]. We continue to have our work cut out for us.

While sharp and deeply-held beliefs characterize the intracommunal debate, the survey reveals much more ambivalence when focussing on attitudes toward the peace process. The survey does not give Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government very high marks. Only 40% say they feel close to the Israel government [item #5a]. The Prime Minister is suspected of having unnecessarily provoked the Palestinians [item #8b]. One instance of this position appears to find expression in the sample's support for the statement that "Israel should freeze further settlements on the West Bank (Judea and Samaria)" [item #1h]. Respondents also believe that Netanyahu should try to work more closely with Arafat [item #8c]. Regarding the Likud government, the sample rejects the view that he's handled the conflict with the Palestinians better than the Labor government would have [item #8d].

At the same time, respondents are equally dubious about the intentions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The sample agrees that, "You can never trust the PLO to make a real peace with Israel," [item #1a], and disagrees with the statement that a Palestinian state would not be a threat to Israel [item #1d]. Responses also underscore the sample's rejection of the idea that "Palestinian terrorism would be reduced if Israel would trade some more land for peace," [item #1j]. Despite this, the sample appears willing to see Israel take risks for peace. Although the survey shows a deep mistrust of any Palestinian state, it also shows a strong sentiment favoring the right of the Palestinians "to an independent state as long as it doesn't threaten Israel," [item #1c].

There is clearly an ambivalence in response. American Jews, at least as measured on this survey, continue to feel very close to the people of Israel [item #5b]. At the same time, over 70% [item #7a] believe that the U.S. government should put pressure on both Arafat and Netanyahu to further the peace process. What is clear is that the categories of "doves" and "hawks" are not as sharply etched as they might have been some time ago. The doves have doubts, and the hawks are hesitant. This fluidity will need to be watched closely in the period ahead. And we should all be warned that the religious issues discussed earlier can turn a fluid situation flammable if each is not handled well by all - the government of Israel, the leadership of the American Jewish community, and the various religious denominations as well.

On the question of anti-Semitism, the survey points to the continuing belief that our principal national institutions are largely free of anti-Semitism. When speaking about the areas of employment, politics, and government, the percentage of respondents who believe anti-Semitism is increasing at all never rises out of the teens [item #3a-c]. By contrast, the percentage of those who see an increase in anti-Semitism among extremist groups leaps to 78% [item #3e], with significant (though smaller) percentages seeing anti-Semitism increasing in the areas of violence/vandalism and anti-Israel sentiment. Amusingly, 60% of the federation sample and 47% of the CRC leadership sample said they didn't know if anti-Semitism is increasing or decreasing on the internet. This provides solid, incontrovertible evidence that our sample was not comprised of 15 year-old teenagers! The grandparents know from anti-Semitism; the grandchildren know from cyberspace!

With regard to future conditions that could result in more serious anti-Semitism in the United States, only the item pointing to "a rise in support for [Muslim Minister Louis] Farrakhan among African-Americans" garnered over a 50% response, with "the rise of Christian fundamentalism" trailing by about 10% [items # 4c, 4d]. If my memory is correct, this represents a change from earlier polls of a decade ago or more when Jews tended to see Christian fundamentalists as more of a likely base for anti-Semitism than the black community. Or this may be one area where our own sample of connected Jews would differ from a national sample of Jews, affiliated or not.

While certainly speculative, it is intriguing to wonder if attitudes toward Farrakhan and militant African Americans have had any impact on Jewish responses to items about affirmative action [item #13]. The survey suggests that, while an overwhelming majority of the entire sample rejects the use of quotas in hiring or college admissions, there is a nearly even split within the federation sample on the question of race being used as one criterion among others in choosing qualified candidates or even whether low-income family status can be used as one factor in selecting candidates. Does this represent a strong commitment within the sample to the notion of merit as an overriding criterion or are these other approaches simply viewed as unwarranted racial and gender preferences dressed up to avoid easy detection?

It is interesting to note that the CRC leadership sample is significantly more likely than the federation member sample to accept either race, gender, or ethnicity or low-income family status as mitigating factors in choosing candidates for jobs or college admissions [items #13b, 13c]. Does this imply a more liberal viewpoint within the CRC group or a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the issues involved because CRCs have wrestled with them longer? The same question arises with respect to the survey results on welfare reform policy [item #9] where the CRC group could be characterized as slightly more liberal than the federation sample in that it is somewhat less likely to limit the number of years that a person can receive welfare benefits and is less willing to deny an increase in benefits to women who have children while on welfare.

There is no such difference between the two groups on the question of abortion [item #22]. Over 90% of each sample group agrees that abortions should be legal "as they are now." While a separate analysis by Earl Raab shows that the Orthodox diverge sharply from the sample on this issue, even in that community 56% say the law should remain as it is. This result is significant for another reason. We hear from some that an issue of this kind is too incendiary, too emotional, too wrapped up in religious conviction for a CRC to address. I would suggest that these results tell us that we cannot desist from putting the issue of reproductive rights on our agenda. If we are going to be relevant to our own community, if the CRC and the national agencies are going to be places where the ebb and flow of turbulent, but meaningful debate is to take place, we cannot afford to turn away from issues simply because they are controversial. Even if we will not be able to reach a policy determination in each instance, the very contentiousness of some issues is the reason to confront them. Whether its abortion, or vouchers, or affirmative action, or church-state separation in America, or intracommunal religious pluralism, or gay and lesbian rights, or the environment, we have a responsibility to engage the agenda that our constituents tell us is important.

This first ever National Jewish Community Public Affairs Survey does not provide answers. Rather, it raises questions, pointing to areas where additional work is needed, issues that are unclear, places where differences need to be addressed. If we use this tool wisely, it will help us remain relevant as a system. The Jewish community is less threatened by enemies from without than by inertia and irrelevance within. The survey should not be viewed smugly as evidence that we can shut the door to those who disagree with us. Quite the opposite. The survey should be seen as an assertion by us that the community relations field and its agencies continue to be the most open, thoughtful, deliberative bodies in Jewish life. It is here, in places like the JCPA plenum, where the great public issues of our time will be examined and debated.

The fact that there are no major surprises in the results should be as reassuring to us as it is uncomfortable and perplexing to our critics on the left and right. The poll tells us that we are doing our job well. In it, we can find the confidence and energy to pursue those issues that are both abiding concerns of the community and also those that are urgent and new. That's the enduring work of the JCPA and the field, that is our charge over these next few days at the plenum. Let's get started.



ISRAEL AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS
"Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem"
- Psalms, 122:6

The organized Jewish community feels a profound identification with Israel, a deep commitment to its survival and security, and an abiding concern with events and forces that affect its future. American Jews, and Americans generally, understand that the long-term national interests of the United States and Israel coincide -- a premise underscored by Israel's important role as America's only politically stable and militarily effective ally in the Middle East, and reinforced by the unique cultural and political affinity between the two countries. Reflecting this recognition, all American governments have been committed to Israel's security and survival and to facilitating Israel's ongoing search for peace with its Arab neighbors. However, the vigilant involvement of the organized Jewish community has been a vital factor fostering such policies by past administrations and Congresses.

Moreover, American Jewry's unique and fortunate position, combined with its deep sense of Klal Yisrael, has allowed it to respond quickly to the needs of other Jewish communities in difficulty or danger. As new situations demanding the intervention of the organized Jewish community arise, it must be sensitive to the concerns of the Jewish communities it seeks to help. Similarly, American Jews are concerned about the rights of individuals throughout the world and, therefore, support the vigorous application of human rights principles in the pursuit of American foreign-policy objectives.

Conflicting trends in international affairs have characterized the post-Cold War period. In the Former Soviet Union (FSU), Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, there is uncertainty about the ability of many countries to adhere to democratic principles, to remain politically moderate and to promote economic development. Hopeful signs are muted by old religious and ethnic enmities, extremism and terrorism, gross violations of human rights, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and an increasing disparity between rich and poor. These unstable and dangerous conditions threaten fundamental U.S. interests and the interests of all freedom- and peace-seeking peoples.

Despite the many global challenges facing this nation, foreign policy issues received very little attention during the 1996 Presidential and Congressional elections. In recent years, as the danger of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union receded, the American public increasingly has focused its interest on serious domestic concerns. Over half of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who will serve in the 105th Congress were elected in the last four years, during which time some isolationist tendencies have arisen.

The JCPA strongly supports efforts by the American government to address problems on this country's national agenda. The field also affirms, as one of its core principles, that the U.S. should not and cannot choose between engagement in domestic or international affairs. It will continue to press the Administration and the Congress to provide leadership in the world as an active force on behalf of democracy, respect for human rights and peace. The traditional Jewish mandate of tikkun olam (mending the world) is not limited to the borders of the United States. In the year ahead, the field will be called upon to convey this message effectively to U.S. policy-makers (especially new members of the 105th Congress) and to the American public -- independently if necessary, in coalition with like-minded groups in the general community whenever possible.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
"Let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream."
- Amos, 5:24

The fundamental premise of the field of Jewish community relations is to foster conditions conducive to Jewish security and creative Jewish living in a free society. Such conditions require a society committed to equal rights, justice and opportunity. Their denial breeds social tensions, conflicts, and dislocations, leading to threats to the democratic process in general and to the Jewish community in particular. The stake of the organized American Jewish community in a strong, democratic society is reinforced by the moral imperative of the Jewish community to pursue social justice. This commitment flows from Jewish religious mandates, tradition, and the millennial experience of the Jewish people.

Efforts to address problems of persistent poverty -- in inner cities and rural enclaves -- will play out against the backdrop of the major federal welfare overhaul which passed in the closing days of the 104th Congress. At the same time, ongoing attempts to eliminate the deficit and balance the federal budget will increase pressures to further reduce federal spending for entitlements and other human service programs. Within that context, the organized Jewish community will struggle to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees denied access to public benefits. Work with coalition partners to address broad anti-poverty concerns will continue as well, especially the need to protect children whose parents may lose benefits and to encourage job creation programs and support services to facilitate successful transitions from welfare to work.

Meanwhile, despite reports of declining rates of violent crime, there is still concern about the potential escalation of already-growing violent crime rates among teen-agers. Debates regarding appropriate strategies to deal with the situation will continue between those who argue for increased enforcement, more prisons, and stiffer penalties, and those who favor early intervention to deal with poverty-related root causes of crime. Recognizing the complex factors contributing to violence, and consistent with established policies, the JCPA will urge approaches which balance innovative policing techniques and enhanced control of firearms with comprehensive prevention strategies for effective long-term crime reduction.

Notwithstanding these conditions, increased worldwide mobility, unrest abroad, and America's promise of a better life will continue to draw millions of people to these shores, increasing pressure on social services and sparking further immigration policy debates. As immigrant populations are absorbed, questions of race, ethnicity, and gender will continue to challenge our nation. New attempts to eliminate or reform affirmative action programs may be launched, even as events continue to remind us that the nation has yet to resolve persistent problems of discrimination based on race and gender.

At the same time, our health care system continues to fall short of meeting the needs of many Americans, particularly the poor. Rising numbers in managed care, increasing financial pressures on the Medicare and Medicaid systems and the continued growth in the number of inadequately insured people indicate enormous challenges ahead. The country will be called upon to protect Medicare and keep it solvent without harming beneficiaries and to explore steps to expand coverage to individuals who are currently uninsured while preserving access to care and quality of care.

Finally, opinion polls have shown that schools rank first or second on the priority list of a nation facing surging enrollments and persistent questions about educational quality. With President Clinton determined to make improving educational opportunity and standards the hallmark of his administration, education may become a major legislative issue in the next Congress. However, budget-cutting pressures and a conservative Congress may create difficulties for the President in realizing his education goals. Growing support for alternatives to public schools, including charter schools and voucher proposals, are prompting some analysts to question whether Americans have lost touch with the role public schools have played in forging American democracy. Questions about public education are coming from within and outside the system, as schools struggle to meet the challenge of educating students for the information age. The societal commitment to the public school as an institution which binds diverse groups -- charged with preparing children from all backgrounds for full participation in mainstream American life -- appears to be weakening. Diminishing support comes just when support is needed most, as social and economic changes make it increasingly imperative that public schools become more effective in educating all children from increasingly diverse backgrounds. In response, those who cherish pluralism and are committed to equal educational opportunity, including the American Jewish community, will be pressed to focus their energies ever more intensely on improving public education.

JEWISH SECURITY AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS
"Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
-Leviticus, 25:10

The organized Jewish community has long been profoundly aware that maintaining a firm wall between church and state is essential to religious freedom and to the creative and distinctive survival of diverse religious groups, such as our own. Given the historic ebb and flow of attempts to challenge the principle of strict separation between church and state in America, vigorous efforts to protect that cherished constitutional right must continue. Similarly, our community remains actively engaged in the struggle to protect the right of each American to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience in matters of religious belief, free from government intrusion.

A long-held principle of community relations is that the security of Jews in America depends not only on the nature and extent of overt anti-Semitism, but on the strength of the American democratic process and of those traditions and institutions that foster and protect individual freedom. Therefore, in addition to our abiding concern with manifestations of anti-Jewish attitudes, the Jewish community relations field is committed to a vigilant defense against any and all threats to an open, democratic and pluralistic society.

One of the great challenges facing our government and our country is that increasingly we are a nation whose common values and traditions have been diffused by individual and group cultural diversity. The organized Jewish community is committed to working with others to maintain a vibrant and meaningful civil society in America, one that reflects the core values of the nation within the framework of our most cherished constitutional protections. The hunger for meaning need not -- indeed cannot -- be satisfied by undermining constitutional rights, including the bedrock principle of church/state separation. That principle has assured individuals the right to full participation in society even as it has preserved for all religions the unfettered right to observe the tenets of their faith. Our constitutional system has thus ensured that the religious culture and beliefs of the majority would not be imposed on other faith communities.

By any measure, Jews in America have achieved full and successful participation in mainstream American life, with overt anti-Semitism limited by and large to fringe elements in society. Nevertheless, various forms of prejudice and bigotry, directed at Jews and others, continue to threaten societal unity, undermining our national search for common values. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is committed to working with like-minded individuals and groups to combat all forms of racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism in our society. In the year ahead, the JCPA anticipates working vigorously to monitor and oppose misguided attempts to restrict constitutional protections. Whether in the area of school prayer, freedom of speech, or providing social services in a manner consistent with constitutional principles, the JCPA and the field of Jewish community relations will be guided in its efforts by its commitment to individual freedom, religious liberty, and democratic pluralism.

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