Bucharest (Jul. 6)
How are the Jews of Roumania to be organized for the conduct of their social and religious affairs, in communities or in congregations that may spring up at will? This question, long debated, and the bone of contention between various government and Jewish groups, has now assumed an acute character as the date of a parliamentary vote on a bill introduced by the Maniu government into the legislature is approaching. All Jewish parties and groups, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox, have united in a vigorous campaign, attempting to avert the enactment of the bill.
Without previous consultation with the recognized Jewish leaders in Roumania or with the Jewish deputies who were elected on the ticket of the government party, the government introduced a bill calling for a change in the religious law governing the status of the Jewish communities. Under the provisions of this bill the principle of a unified Jewish community in each township, village or city, was thrown overboard and the permission is given to any individual or group of individuals who may desire to form a Jewish religious congregation, without obligation to cooperate with other existing congregations in general Jewish social and philanthropic activities. The action was said to have been taken by the Minister of Religions on the request of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders of Bucharest.
Nationalist and non-nationalist Jews are united in opposing the measure. A vote is expected to be taken on the
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bill during the beginning of the week of July 8. A race between the government and the Jewish communal leaders is now on foot, the Jewish leaders seeking to invoke the highest influence in the State to prevent the legislation, while the government apparently is determined to push the matter to a final climax as speedily as possible.
The Jewish leaders have secured an audience with the Roumanian Regency Council for Tuesday, July 9, in the hope of securing action for the with drawal of the bill. The Minister of Religions, Vlad-Vajda, insists that the matter be taken to a vote in Parliament, possibly before Tuesday. The Jewish deputies are determined to oppose the measure and threaten to lay down their mandates in case the bill is enacted into law. The Liberals, the Averescu followers, the Socialists and the Lupu group, are cooperating with the Jewish deputies to combat the bill, when it comes up. Today it was stated that Prime Minister Maniu has invited the two deputies Fischer for an eleventh hour conference for the purpose of seeking a way out of the unparalleled situation.
The Minister of Education, Vlad-Vajda, in a statement to newspapermen, declared that the government will insist on a vote “even though the Roumanian Jews, according to their custom, will appeal to public opinion abroad.” This statement was resented as implying a threat in Jewish circles, and Deputy Fischer in reply declared that the government bill is greater violence against the Jewish community than the Oradea Mare events. The destruction of the Kehillah unity will affect Roumanian Jewry to a larger extent, he said.
The question is widely debated in the Roumanian and the Roumanian-Jewish press. The general note in the Jewish press is to the effect that the government seeks to disrupt Jewish unity by encouraging and even dictating, through legislation, the splitting up of the Jewish cult into numberless congregations. Roumanian Jews will not appeal for foreign Jews’ intervention, the papers say, adding that it seems that the government project is a product of the wish of some individual Jews abroad. Support of this assertion is seen in a statement ascribed to Prime Minister Maniu.
Dr. William Filderman, president of the Union of Roumanian Jews, in a press interview, attacked the Maniu government for its stand in the matter. The government bill is a very serious attack on the Jewish religion. Since the French revolution, no government has ever attempted to foist any legislation on Jewish religious organizations without previous consultation with those affected by it. This time the Roumanian government has asked no one, not even its own election allies, the Jewish deputies. “We will never permit any government in power to change the norms of Jewish religious life,” he said.
“I would like to ask the Minister of Religions whether he would permit any Greek Orthodox Christian or any Catholic Christian to establish at will separate church communities, misusing the names of recognized Christian institutions? The present unity among Roumanian Jews in this fight shows clearly the sharpness of the problem. The nationalist Jews see greater danger in the government bill since, destroying the Kehillah unity, it likewise destroys the possibility of recognizing the Jews as a minority people, which is the more astounding since the Minister of Interior, in a press interview only last week, expressed his agreement and lauded the policy of the national Jew. All this was undertaken by the government only because of the protest of a single Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Schor of Bucharest, whom entire Roumanian Jewry has long publicly ceased to follow,” Dr. Filderman declared.
“Our stand is the following: We demand either that special legislation be enacted making the unity of the Kehillah obligatory, while provisions are to be made for satisfying the religious needs of any minority group within the Kehillah, or that the matter be postpones until there is an expression of opinion which is possible only at a general conference of Roumanian Jewish representatives. This modus I have proposed to the government, but I was told that the government knows in advance that such a conference would oppose the government bill,” the president of the Union of Roumanian Jews stated.