Reagan Administration's Policy in the Middle EastThe Orthodox Jewish Coalition on the Selective Service System has sent an advisory letter to officials of Jewish religious schools, stressing that while individuals studying for the rabbinate may, like all divinity students, claim deferment from military service, they must still abide by President Reagan’s decision last week to continue draft registration, Rabbi Herman Neuberger, the coalition chairman, said today.

Neuberger said the letter was prompted by information that there is considerable confusion among both school administrators and divinity students stemming from the fact that the renewed registration procedures differ substantially from those of previous draft registrations.

The coalition comprises the major Orthodox Jewish organizations in the United States which participated, with a brief, in arguments before the Supreme Court which subsequently ruled, last June, that women were exempted from the draft.

The advisory letter was prepared for the coalition by its counsel, Dennis Rapps, executive director of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), who also wrote the coalition brief in the exemption of women hearings. Neuberger said the advisory letter outlines the procedures to be followed on registration and on the claiming of exemptions and deferments.

A Source Of Confusion

Rapps said one source of the current confusion is rooted in the on-again-off-again history of draft registration, which was reinstated by President Carter on July 2, 1980, after it was discontinued by President Nixon in 1973.

However, when Ronald Reagan, as Presidential candidate, declared he would not, if elected, continue draft registration, a substantial number of American men, reaching the draft age after that campaign pledge, decided not to register. Rapps said, it was assumed that an unknown number of divinity students — including candidates for the rabbinate–were among those who interpreted candidate Reagan’s promise as making registration unnecessary.

The letter warned that the coalition had been informed by the Selective Service System that the “grace periods” of 30 to 60 days for registration without penalty applied only to those who did not register after candidate Reagan’s pledge; and that it did not apply to those reaching the age of 18 after the President’s announcement last week that registration was being continued, including divinity students.

The letter noted that, in previous registrations, young men were required to take physical and written tests and were classified soon after registering. Exemption and deferment claims were filed at that point. Accordingly, Neuberger said, both the students and their superiors were alert to the sequences of procedures.

Under the current systems, registration requires only the filling out of a form available at U.S. post offices. Under the present system, filing for deferment or exemption would take place only after inductees were chosen, as before, by lottery and called up for induction. But that would happen only if the President announced the existence of a national emergency, requiring mobilization.

The coalition members are the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada; Agudath Israel of America; National Council of Young Israel; Rabbinical Council of America; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; United Satman Organization; United Lubavitch Community; Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada; Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools; and COLPA.