STRASBOURG, FRANCE (Jul. 11)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, expressed his belief here tonight that some change for the better is about to occur in the Soviet Union’s treatment of Russia’s Jewish community. He warned that “creating the impression that the Jewish people is anti-Soviet would be a historic tragedy.”
He discussed the situation of Soviet Jewry in his address at the opening session of the World Jewish Congress executive, which is meeting here with 100 delegates from 30 countries in attendance. The session is being held in the headquarters of the Council of Europe.
Dr. Goldmann appealed to the Jewish people and its friends around the world to continue the public demand for equal rights for the Jewish community in the Soviet Union as a religious and national minority, and to seek to persuade the USSR to change its policy concerning Soviet Jews. At the same time, however, he warned against “distortions” regarding the situation.
“Above all,” he said, “we should avoid being dragged into cold war polemics. These we should oppose move than any other minority. We should avoid creating the impression that the Jewish people, as such, is anti-Soviet.” Such a development, said Dr. Goldmann, who has been attacked recently for his stand regarding the treatment of Soviet Jewry, “would be a historic tragedy for our people.”
Dr. Goldmann expressed his conviction that the anti-Jewish discriminations in the Soviet Union “are not a result of Communist dogma, but a specific Russian phenomenon, due to centuries-old traditions among many sections of the population.” On the positive side, he added, are the prominent role which Soviet Jews play in arts and science and the equality of rights they enjoy in many fields.
“Another positive factor which we welcome,” he stated, “is that Russia’s Jews are officially recognized as a national minority, and carry this recognition inscribed in their passports. Russian Jews are not physically endangered through annihilation or persecution but as the result of enforced assimilation, which is the precise policy of the USSR.”
“I am more hopeful at this moment than ever before,” he declared, “that some change may come about by the process of liberalization in the Soviet Union which has not been interrupted by the fall of Khrushchev, but is progressing in increasing measure. Another reason for a possible change for the better is the increasing interest taken in this problem by powerful progressive forces in the world, whom nobody could suspect of being anti-Russian.”
He called on all “to remain hopeful that the day is not too far distant when the Soviet Jewish community will regain its right to remain Jewish however it wishes to do so, to become an organized group, to establish contact with world Jewish organizations and with Israel, and again taking its position within the Jewish world as one of its main, creative communities.”
WARNS ARABS AGAINST EXTENDING CONFLICT; SPEAKS ON GERMANY
Dr. Goldmann also appealed to the leaders of the Arab states “to heed the advice of President Habib Bourguiba (of Tunisia) and give up their attempts to annihilate Israel and, above all, not to try to enlarge the Arab-Israel conflict.”
“Within the past year,” he said, “the Arab leadership has been attempting to enlarge the conflict with Israel into a more general struggle with the Jewish people throughout the world.” He warned that, if the quarrel with Israel were to be extended into a general Arab-Jewish conflict, “this would be a tragic development.”
Touching on relations between the Jewish people and Germany, he referred to the German Parliament’s final vote on granting indemnification to Jewish victims of Nazism who could not escape from East European countries until after October 1943 (see Page 2). This action, however, he declared “does not represent a final answer to the great, complex tragic problems which determine German-Jewish relations from the historic point of view. The solution of that issue will require time, as only time can solve the great psychological and moral questions involved. The existence of Germany now cannot be ignored by the Jewish people, but neither can what happened during the Nazi period be forgotten. Germany must express by its deeds its intentions to eradicate all remnants of Nazi tendencies and all attempts to revive Nazi ideology. On the other hand, the Jewish people should appreciate what Germany has tried to do in the spheres of indemnification and restitution, and not make every German of the younger generation responsible for what their fathers had done.”
He added, as chairman of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, that the Conference has informed the German Government that, now, it has no further claims. He noted that the German decision to spend $300,000,000 for further indemnification will take years for full implementation. “It will be the duty of the Jewish organizations,” he cautioned, “to watch the implementation and see to it that it is generously dealt with.”
URGES ECUMENICAL COUNCIL TO APPROVE DECLARATION ON THE JEWS
On the subject of relations between Christians and Jews, the World Jewish Congress leader first deplored the death of Pope John XXIII, whose passing he called “a loss to the Jewish people.” Then, referring to the forthcoming session of the Ecumenical Council, he warned that, should the Council fail to vote satisfactorily on the last sessions’ approval of the declaration on Jews, “we should not only deplore such failure.” Such a development, he said, “will bring about deterioration between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people.”
He also dealt with some dangers which, he said, threaten the Jewish community from within. These, he said, are not only of an assimilationist and cultural nature, but are also due to the isolationist character of certain Jewish communities. Among these he singled out particularly tendencies within American Jewry. He said that such communities, especially the American, “do not participate in direct action with other communities, either through the instrument of the World Jewish Congress or of the World Conference of Jewish Organizations, bur act on their own and set themselves up as the protectors of other, weaker Jewish communities.”
Dr. Goldmann singled out the American Jewish Committee, whose activities, he said, “are in contradiction with the theoretical basis.” He said that the American Jewish Committee “acts, de facto, as an international Jewish organization dealing with Jewish problems in various parts of the world without observing basic principles of the World Jewish Congress against interfering in Jewish questions in other countries without being asked to do so by the representative bodies of these communities.”
“There is a similar tendency on the part of other Jewish organizations too,” he declared, “and, if this continues, it will increase chaos in Jewish life, bring American Jewry into conflict with other Jewish communities, and create undesirable political problems.” He appealed to the American Jewish Committee “to reconsider its ideology and cooperate with other Jewish organizations with regard to Jewish questions.”