My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

HYDE PARK, Sunday—Mayors in many cities throughout the United States have declared March 12 to be "ORT Day," in honor of the work done by American ORT. This organization for rehabilitation through training has 25,000 members in the women's division and in the U.S. over 100,000 members and friends of the affiliates of the American ORT Federation. They will celebrate the work of vocational training which has rehabilitated hundreds of thousands of dislocated, distressed and dependent Jews throughout the world.

So good is the work of this organization that even a number of governments contribute to it where the schools of the organization are located. They also receive aid from the Joint Distribution Committee, which is a member agency of the United Jewish Appeal. I hope this celebration will be a great success, for it is the culmination of a two-months membership campaign to strengthen the organization so it can do increasingly good work.

Now that we are accepting universal military training for 18-yearolds and immediately drafting those from 19 to 25, I have had drawn to my attention the fact that we should take up the question of the conscientious objector. In the last war there was a good deal of controversy over the kind of work conscientious objectors should be allowed to do, whether they should be imprisoned and become a burden on the state, or whether they should be allowed to go on with whatever occupations they were pursuing. Let me say at the start that I personally dislike the idea of being allowed to live according to one's convictions because others are fighting and dying to keep one's country free. Yet I dislike even more the thought that we put people in prison because their religion obliges them to put a moral law above a man-made law. Certain religious groups are forbidden to do anything whatsoever which remotely touches on the making of war. Therefore they cannot register or take any of the preliminary steps which, according to our law, they should take. I have very little patience with these ideas, but I do realize that when people have an honest conviction that this is the right thing for them to do, it would be wrong for any man-made law to thwart them.

Having people imprisoned, not only during the war but long after the war has come to an end, also has seemed to me one of the stupid things which war has forced upon us. While they are in prison they are costing the taxpayers money and are certainly not becoming better able to look after themselves.

I think probably our efforts should be bent at making sure that anyone coming before a draft board is a genuine member of any religion which forbids him to take part in war. Otherwise, obviously, cowards could use this way to keep from going to war. I think a more mature and civilized way to face this situation is to let him continue with the work he is doing and require that in addition, if possible, he carry out some voluntary job that is needed in the community to fill manpower vacancies.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL