TEL AVIV (May. 27)
Dr. William A. Wexler, of Savannah, Georgia, was elected president of B’nai B’rith at the concluding session of the fraternal organization’s five-day convention here tonight. The final session was addressed by Associate Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg. He told the delegates he “welcomed” the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and West Germany.
Dr. Wexler, president of the Jewish Community Council of Savannah, and chairman of the Israel Bond Organization there, has held, since 1956, the post of international vice-president of the B’nai B’rith Supreme Lodge–the highest position next to the presidency. In Georgia, he is also known as an ardent supporter of civil rights for Negroes, He succeeds Label A. Katz, of New Orleans, who was elected honorary president for life.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, addressing the convention, last night warned that assimilation is the greatest danger to Jewish continuity–especially in lands outside Israel where Jews have achieved political and economic emancipation. The meeting was held at the old Roman amphitheatre in Caesarea.
The Premier called on the members of the fraternal organization to “deepen the roots of Jewish culture” as a barrier to assimilation. He urged more visits to Israel, longer stays in this country for younger people, study programs in Israel for B’nai B’rith leaders, and more study of Hebrew and of Jewish history “wherever there are B’nai B’rith lodges.”
Touching on foreign affairs, Mr. Eshkol said that Israel’s position in the Middle East has improved, while the prestige of President Nasser of Egypt has declined. He pointed out that the conference of Arab states just convened by Nasser in Cairo was “merely designed to hide the cracks in the facade of so-called Arab unity.” He also mentioned the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union, stating: “It is ironic that Russia, which freed hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi holocaust, has denied basic spiritual and cultural rights to the Jews in the Soviet Union.”
Another major address was delivered last night by Philip M. Klutznick, honorary president of B’nai B’rith. With Mr. Eshkol on the platform, Mr. Klutznick alluded to the present Mapai Party split between the Premier and ex-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion–without mentioning either of the major protagonists by name.
Asserting that it is “never pleasant to witness a parting of the ways of old friends, although this is not new in democratic political experience,” Mr. Klutznick said he was sure both “disputants sympathize with the great concern of many that the internal political strength of the State of Israel be kept inviolate in the midst of legitimate differences in the awareness of the foe who stands outside the gate.”
At the conclusion of the convention, tributes were paid to B’nai B’rith’s outgoing president, Label A. Katz, of New Orleans. Mr. Eshkol awarded to Mr. Katz a scroll lauding him for his “efforts in bringing closer ties between Israel and world Jewry.”