GENEVA (Aug. 5)
The question of whether Jewish communities in countries behind the Iron Curtain can participate in the World Jewish Congress was discussed today at a general debate of the plenary assembly of the WJC which is taking place here.
The issue was raised in connection with the projected expansion of the World Jewish Congress headquarters so that the organization should be able to deal more effectively with problems of Jewish concern.
Dr. David Petegorsky, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, expressed himself doubtful about the participation of Jewish communities from Communist countries, even if they were free to join the World Jewish Congress.
“Until there is tangible evidence that the Jews in the East European countries are free to establish a positive Jewish life, to conduct Jewish educational and religious life, and to contribute to the consolidation and strengthenting of Israel, their participation in the World Jewish Congress must remain a purely academic problem,” Dr. Petegorsky said.
Pointing out that the WJC as an organization has always been neutral as to particular forms of government, Dr. Petegorsky emphasized that it has nevertheless not been neutral as to “the values and purposes of government.” The World Jewish Congress, he declared, is “a collective conscience of the Jewish people and must speak out whenever practices and policies of governments violate or deny human values which are the heritage of our Jewish and democratic traditions.”
IMPORTANCE OF ENLARGED WORLD JEWISH ORGANIZATION STRESSED
Dr. Noah Barou, chairman of the WJC’s European executive, said that Jewish groups who would remain outside of an enlarged world Jewish organization “would make themselves much poorer and much less effective than those who will join our ranks and fight together with us for moral and human ideals of the Jewish people.”
“If Jewish unity can be achieved,” Dr. Barou continued, “it can be achieved only through an organization like the World Jewish Congress which embraces Jews all over the world of all classes, all political views and all religious sects, and which helps them to learn how to agree or disagree without hate and without rancor.”
In formulating the pattern for such an organization, Dr. Barou said, its architects must take cognizance of the fact that “Zionism and Israel is the nerve center of the Jewish people. Any organization which would ignore this fact, would find no support from the Jewish people,” he declared.
AMERICAN DELEGATE SAYS JEWS ARE NOT “TEMPORARY SOJOURNERS” IN U.S.
American Jews are not “temporary sojourners” in America and American non-Jews do not regard them as such, Rabbi Morton Berman, of Chicago, told the assembly. He said that speaking for American Jews and Jews in other free, democratic lands, he rejects the view that a “kind of historical necessity” compels Jews to think of their country as a temporary dwelling place.
American Jews are aware that history in the past 2,000 years has revealed the insecurity of Jewish residence, Rabbi Berman continued, but they hold the view that history need not repeat itself. Failure of that belief, he said, would mean “disaster not only for the Jews in the lands outside Israel, but for Israel itself whose future depends on the existence of freedom and peace in the world.”