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Jewish Group Straddles East-West Divide

January 14, 2002

Re "American Jews Face East-West Power Struggle," Jan. 6: Since I reopened the American Jewish Congress' California office over 16 months ago, we have expanded our membership, carried out an extensive program and have become financially stable. I disagree with Daniel Sokatch that there is a "growing divide between Jews dedicated to a traditional agenda of Holocaust remembrance, fighting anti-Semitism and support of Israel and those fired by broader ideals of social justice." The AJC reflects both agendas.

This week we are launching a lecture series that will explore the roots of terrorism, Islam and the West and the possibility of peace in the Middle East. Last year, we held a dinner with the Asian community about the racial profiling of Wen Ho Lee and co-sponsored an event with the Assn. of Turkish Americans of Southern California. A delegation of our leadership went to Mexico City to meet with members of President Vicente Fox's Cabinet to discuss immigration reform and investment in Mexico.

Our opposition to President Bush's faith-based initiative manifested itself in our bringing suit against the California Employment Development Department to stop a $5-million program designed exclusively for religious organizations. We have the major brief before the Supreme Court opposing school vouchers for religious education. The American Jewish Congress is playing a vital role in defending the civil liberties and constitutional rights of all Americans.

Gary P. Ratner

Executive Director, American

Jewish Congress, Santa Monica

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