Will Biro-Bidjan be opened to Jews from Poland or is the settlement of Jews in Biro-Bidjan restricted only to Soviet Jews?
This question occupied the attention of many Jewish organizations interested in settling Jews on land in the week just passed.
Dr. Joseph Rosen, head of the Agro-Joint, is at present in Biro-Bidjan to acquaint himself with conditions of life there. Dr. Zegelnitzky, director of the ORT, is also in Biro-Bidjan now studying the situation there.
A clear cut opinion about Biro-Bidjan and its fitness for Jewish settlement can be formed only upon the return of Dr. Rosen and Dr. Zegelnitzky from their trip into the Far Eastern territory. The impartial reports of these two observers in whom the Jews of the world have the fullest confidence will be the basis for deciding whether the Soviet project to settle Jews in Biro-Bidjan should be taken seriously.
A STATEMENT FROM MOSCOW
In the meantime, however, Dr. Peker, the representative of the Jewish Immigration Society in Poland, returned from Moscow with a statement that no hopes of settling in Biro-Bidjan should be entertained by Polish Jews. Dr. Peker declared that official Soviet bodies had made it clear to him that Biro-Bidjan is intended for Soviet Jews only and not for Jews outside Soviet Russia.
This information, coming as it does from Soviet official sources, is rather disappointing. It certainly does not encourage Jewish organizations in America and in Europe to look with sympathetic interest upon the Biro-Bidjan project, if this project is limited to Soviet Jews only. The Jews in Soviet Russia are today in a position which does not warrant their migrating into such distant territories as Biro-Bidjan. There is still plenty of land free for Jews in Crimea. There are plenty of opportunities for Jews in Soviet industrial enterprises. The Soviet authorities claim that there is no unemployment today in Soviet Russia. Thus the migration of Soviet Jews into Biro-Bidjan is not an economic necessity.
On the other hand, there would probably be thousands of Jews in Poland today who, facing constant starvation and having no outlook for a better future, would be only too glad to settle even in Biro-Bidjan. The difficulties which the Soviet authorities are facing in selecting immigrants fit for Biro-Bidjan from among Soviet Jews would probably not exist when selecting such immigrants from among Polish Jews. The younger Jewish generation in Poland is in despair. There are thousands of healthy young Jewish people in Poland who compose the best element for Biro-Bidjan.
It is therefore no wonder that the blunt statement by the Soviet officials that Biro-Bidjan is intended for Soviet Jews only, has caused great embarrassment for those pro-Soviet organizations abroad which are trying to stimulate Jewish interest in Biro-Bidjan among the different Jewish communities of Europe and America.
The first organization to express this embarrassment was the Agroyid, a Jewish organization in Poland established for the purpose of raising funds for and stimulating interest in Biro-Bidjan. This organization, the existence of which is not justified if Polish Jews are not admitted into Biro-Bidjan, has found it necessary to issue a statement explaining that there there must be a misunderstanding. Asserting that Polish Jews are as welcome to Biro-Bidjan as Soviet Jews are. The Agroyid, in its statement, refers to the same Soviet authorities which Dr. Peker mentions. According to the Agroyid statement, these authorities would welcome Polish Jews in Biro-Bidjan. According to Dr. Peker’s statement, these same authorities are refusing even to discuss the question of admitting Polish Jews.
The problem of settling foreign Jews in Biro-Bidjan is at present not acute enough for American Jewry to inquire which of the two statements is the correct one. American Jewry will wait patiently for the authentic report on Biro-Bidjan which it expects from Dr. Rosen. Dr. Rosen may not have gone to Biro-Bidjan in the capacity of an official investigator. His word on Biro-Bidjan will nevertheless play a decisive role. Depending upon Dr. Rosen’s conclusions, many in America will decide for themselves whether or not the Biro-Bidjan project is worth support and whether or not Biro-Bidjan is a place fit for Jewish colonization.
IN POLAND ‘ARYAN PARAGRAPH’
While the question whether Polish Jews are wanted in Biro-Bidjan or not was under discussion, a new attack was made on Jewish economic positions in Poland.
Fifty-five Jewish doctors have been dismissed from municipal institutions in the city of Lodz alone this week. The “Aryan paragraph” has been instituted by the Lodz authorities silently but firmly.
In the district of Wilno, all Jewish teachers were dismissed from the schools. A campaign to revoke the licenses of Jewish artisans has been started on the ground that the Jewish workers do not hold master’s diplomas. Hope is being held out that the Ministry of Trade will not accede to this demand, otherwise, the economic position of thousands of Jewish artisans is endangered.
The ruthless taxation system which imposes heavy taxes upon the Jews, reached a stage in the week just passed where Jewish delegations from many districts and towns arrived at Warsaw to plead with the central authorities to alleviate the taxation which is ruining the entire Jewish population. A number of the delegations pointed out that the taxes imposed upon the Jewish population in their districts are double the amount of the income of those taxed. Local tax collectors are confiscating even pillows owned by poverty-stricken Jewish traders and artisans who are unable to meet their taxes.
SCHUSCHNIGG AND HIS ‘PLEDGES’
In Austria, Chancellor Schuschnigg last week received a delegation from the Vienna Jewish community which submitted to him a memorandum with regard to the alarmingly worsened Jewish legal and economic position in Austria.
The Premier promised the Jewish delegation to see to it that Jews are treated equally-However, a day after this promise was given, eighty Jewish officials were dismissed from different municipal offices in Vienna, and twenty-six Jewish doctors were ousted from the local sick benefit funds.
A report from Prague stated that Premier Schuschnigg has given the assurance of equal treatment to the delegation of the Vienna Jewish community because the Austrian ambassadors in England and in America urged him to do so. This is the second time that Schuschnigg has pledged equality for Jews and that his pledge was not respected.
In Palestine there were more street clashes between the Laborites and the Revisionists. The situation has reached a point where the executive of the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Leumi, Jewish national council of Palestine, found themselves compelled finally to start a serious investigation of the matter. Both organizations are now working on a plan of how to undertake energetic measures to prevent clashes between the Laborites and the Revisionists in the future.