International Definitions Affect Status of Jewish Refugees Needing Aid

The term “refugee” is rarely applied to Jewish refugees at international meetings in Geneva and elsewhere, thus creating a false impression of the Jewish refugee problem, Max A. Braude, director general of the World ORT Union, complained here in an address to the 27-nation executive committee of his organization.

“During World Refugee Year each group of citizens is expected to increase its aid to the refugees it chooses to help on either denominational or national lines. But in meeting after meeting in Geneva and elsewhere we hear about every kind of refugee and very little, if anything indeed about Jewish refugees, ” Mr. Braude said. “For the Jewish refugee–by governmental definitions and eligibility standards of the United Nations and intergovernmental agencies–is very rare. There are few under anyone’s mandate, for our most pressing Jewish problems do not meet the legal requirements. “

“A Polish Jewish repatriate is not a refugee legally; he has returned to his home in Poland, yet he still needs help, ” Mr. Braude explained. “A great many of the Jewish expellees from Egypt are not refugees by legal definition as many of them have passports. They are English, French or Italian though in many cases neither their fathers nor their grandfathers ever lived in the country of citizenship. In most cases they have neither family nor friends nor do they speak the language of the country to which they return as citizen or subject.

“More than 15,000 Jews in Rumania, who gave up their citizenship and jobs to apply for visas to emigrate to Israel, many to join their families from whom they have been separated for many years, now that emigration has been stopped are stateless, in most cases homeless and jobless and dependent in a great measure upon charity, but by definition, since they reside in the country of their birth, they are not refugees, ” Mr. Braude pointed out.

“It seems that the integration of a mandated refugee who has gone to Australia or decided to remain in Austria is a matter of world concern. But the immigrant to Israel is presumed to be a ‘Zionist’ who left his country of origin not because he felt things were bad there, but because he had strong political feelings, ” the ORT leader stressed.

“ORT has been serving Jewish refugees throughout the 80 years of its existence. By the most exclusive definition that a Jew can give to the term ‘Jewish refugees,’ if one excludes the refugees’ children, if one excludes the new immigrants to Israel, it still remains a fact that from last June to this June over 10, 000 of our trainees were refugees, ” he reported, adding that “ORT is the solution to the most difficult problem of the refugee in his country of first asylum; his integration in his new home by either preparing him and giving him a trade certificate–his passport to freedom and dignity and self sufficiency, or training him in the country which is his final home. “

“The refugee’s problem has not been solved when he gets aboard a boat, a plane, a train, with a simple blessing, ” Mr, Braude said. “He must be taught to work and to support himself. ORT must gird itself to even greater efforts in this World Refugee Year and secure the means to make this possible,” he concluded.

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