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COMERFORD CONFERS WITH JEWISH GROUP; HOLOCAUST REMARKS HAVE TRIGGERED OUTCRY

James W. Comerford Jr. told Jewish leaders Tuesday that he did not intend to minimize the Holocaust in remarks at a rally Saturday, when he said the Nazis' murder of Jews was "more humane" than methods used in abortions.

The Park District member of the Board of Education said he will be more particular about his selection of words in the future.

Lana D. Benatovich, community relations director of the Community Relations Committee for the Jewish Federation of Buffalo, said Comerford met with Jewish leaders Tuesday in the Jewish Center Delaware Building.

"We talked about the issue and the use of the language," she said.

Comerford met with Ms. Benatovich and the committee chairman, Rabbi Steve Mason of Temple Beth Am, after the committee issued a statement calling on Comerford to become aware of the reality and intensity of the Holocaust.

The meeting was triggered by Comerford's remarks during an anti-abortion rally, when he compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazi death camps.

"How they murdered the Jews was more humane than how they murder babies," Comerford told the crowd.

The remark also was criticized by a colleague on the School Board, Oscar Smukler of the North District, who was expected to be the swing vote that will elect Comerford School Board president.

Smukler's support of Comerford was criticized last week by leaders of the United Parents and Concerned Parents, who accused him of acting as playmaker in a deal that would make Comerford president of the board with five votes -- Smukler's and four from the Griffin bloc on the board.

The parents mounted a campaign against Smukler's support of Comerford after Member at Large Judith Fisher, who said she had four votes in her bid for the top post, said Smukler declined to give her the fifth.

Mrs. Fisher said Smukler claimed he agreed to vote for Comerford in order to gain support for Albert Thompson, who was elected superintendent June 13.

Helene Kramer, a spokesman for United Parents, said Smukler told parents that in light of Comerford's statments Saturday, it would be difficult for him to vote for him.

"He said that a full apology to the Jewish community would not be enough," Mrs. Kramer said.

However, Smukler declined Tuesday to say if he still plans to support Comerford.

In a letter to The Buffalo News, Smukler said the Jews of Europe suffered the cruelest indignities and atrocities known to mankind. He questioned Comerford's use of the phrase "more humane."

"Was it more humane when Nazi guards threw babies into the air and caught and disemboweled them on the ends of their bayonets while the distraught parents stood helplessly by?" Smukler asked.

Comerford raised a similar controversy during a School Board meeting March 28, when he called for the removal of books on teen-age pregnancy and parenthood from school libraries.

Then, Comerford criticized a book that mentions Planned Parenthood -- an agency he compared to "a Nazi death camp." At the time, he said such books result in children seeking abortions.

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