Some Jewish groups that have declined to participate in the 20th anniversary observance of the 1963 March on Washington will conduct separate programs to honor the march's leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Jewish Community Council has announced a series of commemorative events honoring King during the week of Aug. 21, ranging from discussions and lectures on civil rights issues and black-Jewish relations to planting memorial trees in the Martin Luther King Jr. forest in Israel.
Twenty years ago several national Jewish organizations were in the forefront of the civil rights effort that the March on Washington highlighted.
But differences over U. S. policy in the Middle East have seriously eroded traditional ties between Jewish and black groups. Some Jewish organizations have cited these differences as the reason for refusal to participate in the commemoration of the march on Aug. 27.
The announcement by the Jewish Community Council makes no mention of this controversy, stating only that "it is not appropriate for the Jewish community to be physically present at the march on Aug. 27, because it is the Jewish Sabbath."
The JCC statement by David Davidson, chairman of its Social Action and Urban Affairs Committee, says that "the Jewish community certainly wishes to honor a man whose words twenty years later still ring loud and clear in our minds.
"We wish to honor a man who did much to persuade the nation that the answer to hate was love and that the answer to violence was peaceful resistance."
Among other ways of remembering the slain civil rights leader within the Jewish community, the Washington Board of Rabbis has urged its members to preach on King and his concerns during the anniversary weekend.
Controversy in the Archdiocese of Chicago over an order barring altar girls continued last weekend with a demonstration on the steps of the Chicago Art Institute, where the widely publicized Vatican Art Collection Exhibit is on display.
Early last month, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, in a letter on liturgical guidelines, reminded priests of the archdiocese of the long-standing church rule that excludes girls from assisting at the mass as their male counterparts do.
Bernardin's letter, in which he said he "did not want young girls to be hurt in this matter, nor do I wish to diminish their enthusiasm for serving in the church," has created a storm of protest among women's groups and progressive Catholics and in parishes where the practice had become commonplace.
Some priests have interpreted Bernardin's guidelines as a "request" rather than an order, and continue to permit girls to serve. Others have responded by stopping the use of all aides at the altar, boys as well as girls, and have assigned them instead to such liturgical functions as carrying banners or the crucifix in the processional.
An Illinois group that is opposed to abortion has established an insurance company that excludes abortion from its health coverage.
"If you don't like abortions, you don't like paying for them," said Jack Hansen of the philosophy behind the company. Hansen is an adviser to the newly incorporated Pro Life Assurance Society of Park Ridge. According to Hansen, group members have found it nearly impossible to find a commercial insurance company that does not use policyholders' premiums to pay for abortions, directly or indirectly.
The new company was formed as a fraternal insurance society, which will permit it to be selective in its membership.
Incorporation papers were filed last week and the group is awaiting a temporary certificate of authority that will permit it to begin signing up policyholders. If it signs up 500 members within the first year it will be eligible for a permanent certificate.
The national board of the membership organization for Roman Catholic brothers in this country has issued a statement of support for the order of sisters seeking negotiation with the Vatican over the Mansour case.
Earlier this year, Agnes Mary Mansour was ordered to resign from her religious order, the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, or from a secular position with the state of Michigan that involved administering abortion funding. She chose to leave the order.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Union has filed a formal appeal with the Vatican for further dialogue in the case.
In their statement issued Aug. l, the board of the National Assembly of Religious Brothers "encourages and supports" the order of nuns in their appeal and calls on church leadership "to seek reconciliation through mutual dialogue . . . ."