Jewish groups call childrens rally affirmation of decency

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jewish officials, whose efforts brought hundreds of activists to the recent Stand for Children rally here, called it a "coalition of decency."

"This was an affirmation of the vibrancy and dynamism of the traditional coalition of decency, of which the Jewish community has been an instrumental part in the past 60 years," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Saperstein spoke at an ecumenical service before the rally last week.

Members of Jewish organizations attended Friday-night and Saturday-morning Shabbat services before joining Americans from across the nation in standing up for children at a Saturday rally organized by the Children's Defense Fund. The U.S. Parks Service estimated that 200,000 children, parents, youth workers and supporters were present on The Mall near the Lincoln Memorial.

They listened to speakers and entertainers, browsed in tents peopled with representatives from various children's and family activist groups and signed petitions, each pledging to help at least one child during the next year.

There was no official count of Jews and Jewish groups in attendance, but Diana Aviv, director of the Council of Jewish Federations' Washington Action Office, estimated that "hundreds and hundreds" were in attendance.

In addition to the CJF, at least seven national Jewish groups endorsed the gathering and had pledged to send members to the gathering Saturday, including B'nai B'rith, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Association of Jewish Children and Family Services.

According to Aviv, the rally was to begin with an interfaith service at 10 a.m., but organizers pushed the starting time back to 1 p.m. so that Jewish attendees could hold morning services and then participate in the rally.

The CJF held special Shabbat services in the basement of the Hillel at George Washington University, a few blocks from The Mall.

Aviv said she was thrilled to notice "for the entire duration of the services" that there were "thousands and thousands of people streaming by."