The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council endorses in principle the proposed National Service Trust Act of 1993 (S 919, HR 2010) with adequate church-state separation safeguards. This initiative would provide a unique opportunity for college students and others to help our nation confront pressing human service, educational, public safety, and environmental needs. National Service positions would include, but would not be limited to, tutoring children, helping health care professionals immunize children, planting gardens at elementary schools, and leading crime prevention seminars. In return, the government will provide educational grants to National Service participants to help defray the cost of their higher education. It is anticipated that such grants will also extend educational opportunities to people who might otherwise not have them.
National Service brings intrinsic rewards of building character and instilling values and individual responsibility through meaningful work that will strengthen society. In addition, the base salary and educational award of $5,000 per year for up to two years, coupled with the recently revised student loan program, will help to ease the financial burden of a college education. The NJCRAC recognizes however that these financial awards represent a small proportion of the cost of a college education and therefore must not supplant Pell grants or other existing need-based aid.
The NJCRAC believes that the institutions and direct service agencies of the Jewish community, including Jewish community relations councils, are well suited to provide valuable National Service opportunities. We encourage creative community partnerships to this end. The NJCRAC strongly urges Congress to incorporate in the legislation appropriate safeguards for the separation of church and state with respect to funds that may be allocated to sectarian institutions.
The National Service program proposes to begin with 25,000 participants. The NJCRAC believes that a larger number of participants would have a greater impact on our country in meeting the needs of our communities. Therefore, we are hopeful that upon successful evaluation of the initial phase of the National Service Program it will be expanded.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council believes that National Service is an important vehicle for developing a sense of individual responsibility in young Americans, expanding educational opportunity, and addressing the social and community challenges facing our nation. The NJCRAC, the national planning and coordinating body for the field of Jewish Community relations in the United States, comprised of 13 national agencies and 117 local organizations, calls upon Congress to pass the National Service Trust Act of 1993 (S 919, HR 2010).