U.S. Jewish Groups Defend Their Programs for Jews in Latin America

The American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith defended today their programs in South American communities against complaints from Argentine Jewish leaders that they had not been consulted before the programs were initiated.

The complaints were made known by spokesmen for Argentina’s two major Jewish organizations, the DAIA, the central representative body of Argentine Jewry, and the Kehilla. Together, the two organizations represent most of the 500, 000 Jews in Buenos Aires and the rural settlements of Argentina’s northeastern provinces. The objections were conveyed to members of a visiting American Jewish Congres delegation.

Dr. William A. Wexler, B’nai B’rith president, said the B’nai B’rith program for Latin America had been initiated at the request of the Latin American district of B’nai B’rith. “In announcing this program last week, the B’nai B’rith stressed that it would be locally planned and locally directed by Latin Americans through B’nai B’rith affiliates on the continent,” he stated, B’nai B’rith has constituents in 15 Latin American countries, he stressed.

Morris B. Abram, American Jewish Committee president, declared in a statement that the organization’s program in Latin America was started in 1948 “at the request of community leaders in Argentina, who sought assistance and know-how to help meet pressing problems.” He added that the program had been preceded by “careful study of the challenges and potential areas of action.”

He asserted that from the start, the Committee’s program had been conducted “in close partnership” with autonomous “sister” organizations in Argentina and Brazil which hold views similar to our own. “From time to time, as financial resources permitted, we have worked with major groups in other countries as well,” he pointed out. “The keynote has been cooperation, with the Committee primarily providing materials and other resources, and serving as adviser to local bodies that conduct their own many pronged affairs.”

Mr. Abram called the criticism directed against his organization “particularly surprising” in view of the fact that DAIA officers wrote to him on August 27, 1964 after a three-week trip by a Committee delegation which he headed in four. South American countries, in which the DAIA offered “warmest congratulations.” He said that in the letter, the DAIA lauded the Committee delegation for declarations the group made at the end of the trip.

Mr. Abram also said that on November 16 he received a letter from officers of the Zionist Federation of Chile on the first anniversary of cooperation between the Committee and the Federation. The officers said in the letter that they wished to take the occasion “to extend our sincere thanks for the interest and valuable help, both material and scientific, which the American Jewish Committee has given us during this period.”

The American Jewish Congress meanwhile issued a statement declaring that it believes that “each Jewish community in the world has the right and responsibility to work out its own destiny.”

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