JOHANNESBURG (Mar. 2)
Gustav Saron, general secretary of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, returned here from a four-months’ study tour of the United States, Europe and Israel “deeply impressed with the communal thinking going on in American Jewry at the leadership level.”
Mr. Saron compared his findings with those of an earlier visit to the United States five years ago and said that “there seems to be a greater concern today for the strengthening of Jewish identity, especially among youth.” He said he also found more concern for “the extension of Jewish education facilities,” as well as “disquiet at the imbalance in the budgets of many communities, caused by large allocations for welfare needs on the one hand, and inadequate allocations for education on the other.”
He also praised the “very healthy concern about recruiting and training younger people for roles of communal leadership. American Jewry,” he added, “is now implementing valuable programs towards this end.”
The South African Jewish leader also told the press that he found much misunderstanding abroad of South African Jewry’s position on his country’s racial programs. He added he felt there was need to increase the opportunities for dialogue between Jewish leaders in South Africa and in other countries, particularly the United States.
Reporting that he gave some 40 lectures to Jewish audiences during his visit to the United States, he declared that “almost invariably direct questions were put to me, asking how the Jewish community fitted in to the overall pattern of race attitudes in South Africa and why South African Jewry did not take a communal stand on racial problems.”
Explaining that he did not see his role as one of defending existing policies but instead one of interpreting to American Jewish audiences “forces and trends at work in South Africa,” Mr. Saron stated that he tried “to give an objective picture of our racial situation and how it differed from that of America.”
He said he tried to make his American audiences understand that “in the South African context there could not be a collective Jewish approach to political issues,” that differences on these issues were “as sharp in the Jewish as in the general community, and that each individual had the democratic right to hold his own opinion and to act upon it in the political sphere.”