By: Joe Belitsky and Mark Spanglet  | 

Vietnam War Involvement Blasted During YC Moratorium Proceedings (Vol. 35, Issue 2)

On October 15, Yeshiva joined campuses throughout the nation in the anti-war Moratorium. Activities and seminars were scheduled by YCSC, informal discussions were conducted by the Jewish divisions and a city-wide rally was held at Bryant Park. During the course of the day many opinions were aired and solutions proposed. Although many students at Yeshiva participated, the day still saw an element at Yeshiva which protested the Moratorium. Although a great majority call for American disengagement, there is also a great diversity of opinion as to how and why this should be accomplished.

Programs Held

Regular classes were scheduled for all Jewish divisions, but the atmosphere of Moratorium Day was evident. In RIETS many of the rabbis took time during shiur to discuss the halachic, overtones of American involvement in the war. The consensus was that if one is drafted, he has an obligation to fight. EMCSC conducted an assembly during the morning with a majority of EMC students in attendance. The speakers were Rabbi Bernstein, Dr. Grinstein and Dr. Carmilly. The positions stated, for the most part, supported current U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Israel’s military position. If a small nation like Israel can fight and still cope with domestic problems, then so can the U.S. There is little point in considering whether we had any business getting involved in Vietnam in the first place. Rather, we must face the fact that we are involved, Accepting this, it is our obligation to support our allies, with the understanding that Communism is worse than any possible South Vietnamese government.

Most of the students in attendance at the assembly seemed somewhat disappointed that all the speakers were “hawks.” There was a desire to hear a “dovish”. point of view as well, Another Moratorium measure sponsored by EMCSC was the provision that any student who felt unable to attend classes in good conscience would be excused from attendance providing that he submit to EMCSC a written affidavit listing his constructive participation in Moratorium activities during his absence. In JSS, attendance was not taken in most classes. Rabbi Riskin offered a prayer for the war dead and small discussions were held in other classes. Later in the afternoon, Rabbi Riskin delivered a lecture concerning the halachic justification of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He referred to the “spirit of G-d” present in every human being and its implications on the loss of human life. Rabbi Riskin cited scripture to show that peace must be diligently sought before one reverts to war. The primary concern must be with the value and preservation of human life. He pointed out that although self-defense is a legitimate goal in any: war, it has not been satisfactorily established that our nation’s defense is now at stake. It is also a disputable point whether or not one nation should fight for the defense of another.

Afternoon Participation

Participation increased during the afternoon, with many attending the assembly in Furst Hall to hear a seminar organized by YCSC and moderated by Gary Rubin with the assistance of Dr. Snyder. The speakers, Dr. Simon, Mr. Weinberg and Dr. Greenberg, discussed issues that involved most of the students and enjoyed a positive response from those present. Dr. Simon pointed out that anti-war sentiment is no longer a minority point of view, and criticized President Nixon's statement regarding the Moratorium, Nixon's attempt to label policy determined in the street as undemocratic is in itself undemocratic, Dr. Simon suggested. After a review of the history of our South Vietnamese involvement by Dr. Weinberg, in which he refuted the concept of a monolithic world Communist movement, the seminar concluded with an appeal by Dr. Greenberg to American Jews to actively voice opinion against any further needless sacrifice of lives.

At a seminar conducted by the political science department, Dr. Dunner reminded students that the American commitment to insure Israel's territorial integrity would be weakened should the United States withdraw from Vietnam. He felt that withdrawal cannot be justified until President Nixon's Vietnamization program has been successfully completed.

Later that evening, after participants returned from the city-wide rally at Bryant Park, about three hundred students assembled to hear an address by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. In Rabbi Lichtenstein’s opinion, the Moratorium was to be a time of national tshuvah in which Americans could call upon their government to reevaluate its position in line with moral dictates. While not advocating immediate and unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam, he insisted that United States efforts must be directed toward peace rather than toward an intensification of the war.