After making a glowing report on Biro-Bidjan and its possibilities as a haven of refuge for persecuted Eastern Jewry, B. Z. Goldberg, associate editor The Day, turned on the ICOR, a community organization sponsoring the settlement of Jews in Soviet Russia, with the charge that “it is doing more harm than good to Biro-Bidjan,” in an address at the New School for Social Research, Wednesday evening.
The auditorium of the New School proved inadequate to accommodate the huge crowd that came to hear the journalist talk under the sponsorship of the American Committee for Settlement of Jews in U. S. S. R.
An overflow meeting had to be held downstairs, where the editor repeated his talk. Other speakers were Samuel J. Rosensohn, Edward I. Aronow, Benjamin Brown and M. J. Budish.
ONLY 14,000 JEWS
In his talk Goldberg pointed out that at present the population of Biro-Bidjan is comprised of 30,000 Russians, 3,000 Ukrainians, 5,000 Mongolians and 14,000 Jews. The comparatively small number of Jews there now he attributed to the mistakes of the early Jewish settlers.
He predicted that by the end of 1936 there would be between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews in Biro-Bidjan. “Many Jews who left there three or four years ago are very anxious to get back,” he said.
He reported that during the past two years there has been marked progress in Biro-Bidjan agriculture and industry. As proof he cited the increase in the output of wheat and in the number of cows and pigs. Mention of the pigs provoked laughter.
Commenting on the standard of living in the colony, the speaker said it is not below that of other parts of Jewish districts in Russia and “certainly not below that of the Jews of Eastern Europe.”
Regarding the oft-expressed fear that in case of conflict between Russia and Japan, Biro-Bidjan would be wiped off the map, Goldberg said that “the actual scene of a war between the two countries cannot come closer than 400 miles to Biro-Bidjan.”
Referring to the objection that Russia does not, to put it mildly, encourage religious training, Goldberg pointed out that in “New York, where the city is teeming with kashruth and Zionism and we have a Jewish press, only one-fourth of the Jewish children receive a Jewish education.”
“Nobody worries about that,” he said, “but everybody worries about the lack of religion in Russia.”
His true feeling with regard to some Jewish Communists was seen in the following remark: “I don’t consider my work and the work of this committee competition to Zionism and I don’t like the tactics of those who use this program to abuse Zionism.”
“There is no anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. There certainly will be no anti-Semitism in Biro-Bidjan,” he concluded.
Another speaker, Dr. Rosensohn, objected to the use of the word “homeland” in connection with Biro-Bidjan.
“The use of ‘National Homeland’ applies only to Palestine,” he pointed out.