Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

Economic Conversion

Adopted at the Convention of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
1994 / 5754

Background: The prophets envisioned a world in which "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks" (Is. 2:4, Micah 4:3). Rashi taught (On Num 13:18) that when Moses briefed the 12 spies before their mission into Canaan, he told them, "If they dwell in open cities, they are strong, relying on their own strength, but if they dwell in fortified cities, they are weak." The failure of 210 of the spies and the people as a whole to understand the wisdom of this advice meant that their entire generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who did heed that advice, had to die in the wilderness because they were not ready to govern themselves in their own land. When Rabbi Hiyya, Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi were sent out by Judah Ha-nasi to survey the schools of Jewish communities in the land of Israel, in each town they came to they would ask to see the guardians of the city. The city's militia would be presented to them, and they would say, "These are not the Guardians of the City, but the Destroyers of the city." When asked, "Who, then, are the Guardians of the City?" they would reply, "The teachers" (J. Chag, 1:7, 76c). Jewish tradition affirms again and again that the strength of a society is not in its military and its armaments, but in its people. As it is written, "Not by might, and not by power, but by My spirit" (Zach 4:6).
The end of the Cold War and the down-sizing of the military are having a serious impact on the economic life of many communities and many individual families. Many communities have become dependent on the production of goods for the military that have little or no application in the consumer economy. Many of those who have worked in these plants and firms have highly specialized skills that likewise have little application in the consumer economy in which many must now find employment.
Economic conversion is a term that has been in use for over a decade; it refers to the process of converting manufacturing firms from military to consumer production and retraining employees in the military-industrial sector for work in the consumer-oriented manufacturing sector. Several areas from Silicon Valley to Long Island have engaged in studies and programs of Economic Conversion in recent years
Many of the affected workers are members of our congregations and many of their communities are served by our congregations. Economic dislocation and unemployment are very painful to communities, families and individuals. Furthermore, the need to change over from military to consumer production is only one factor in communal economic dislocations and increasing unemployment among white collar and technical workers.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis calls upon our Movement to address the challenges of economic conversion; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department of Synagogue Management to facilitate the creation of job banks at the congregational, regional and national levels; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CCAR exhort rabbis and local rabbinic organizations to create support groups for the unemployed in our communities, and to become involved in local Economic Conversion projects; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the CCAR urge the Social Action Commission and the Religious Action Center to place the issue of Economic Conversion on their agenda.