Jewish leaders ask aid for Palestinians


In stunning and unprecedented appeals, rabbis and other leaders of American Judaism called yesterday for U.S. government aid and private financial support for Palestinians to build self-rule on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The calls, issued in hastily rewritten Rosh Hashanah sermons marking the Jewish New Year and in statements by leading Jewish groups, came just two days after Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed a momentous accord on the White House lawn Monday, ushering in what many see as breathtaking changes.

Among those backing economic aid for the Palestinians were the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the central body of 850 Reform Judaism congregations in the United States and Canada, as well as Lester Pollack, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an alliance of 50 national Jewish groups. Among those in the alliance are the American Jewish Congress, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

While all urged continued support for Israel and reminded their congregants not to underestimate the difficulties ahead, some rabbis called for unprecedented backing by their members for financial aid to the Palestinians.

Growing Jewish support for Palestinian aid followed personal appeals in Washington on Monday by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

They called on 170 Arab-Americans and American Jews to support U.S. financial aid, a Jewish spokesman in New York said.

In New York, Mr. Pollack of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said a just and lasting peace must be grounded in economic stability.

"If people in the region don't see the benefits, they're likely to be susceptible to the pleas of religious radical terrorism," said Mr. Pollack.

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