NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, who as president of the World Jewish Congress visited recently the Jewish communities of Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia, Hungary and Rumania, told a meeting here tonight at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel that his conclusion from the visit to these East European lands was that it is the duty of world Jewish organizations, and especially of the WJC, to develop and strengthen contacts with East European Jewish communities and countries.
“To maintain the unity of the Jewish people is today one of the fundamental problems of Jewish life and Jewish survival, and it is essential that Jewish communities exist and develop under all forms of social structure and forms of government except in countries where anti-Semitism is an official doctrine,” Dr. Goldmann said. “For the WJC, whose main aim is to express in ideology and practice the unity of the Jewish people, it is of the greatest importance that East European Jewish communities were coming back to the fold ready to cooperate with the Jewish communities in the rest of the world.”
“In this respect,” Dr. Goldmann stated, “the official visit of the delegation of the WJC to the four countries was of historical importance and of great significance not only for the life and future of these communities but for the effort of the Jewish people to strengthen solidarity between all Jewish communities and the unity of the people as a basis for the future.”
In reporting his findings to the meeting here, Dr. Goldmann said: “Jewish life can continue in Socialist countries with no conflict in principle between the ideology and governmental system of such countries, and the right of Jews to enjoy equality as citizens and secure their Jewish identity and their contact with the Jewish people. The fact that unfortunately the same conditions do not prevail in the Soviet Union, despite the paradox that it is the only Socialist country where the Jewish community is recognized as a nationality, proves that this is a specific problem of the Sov- let Union and not a consequence of Socialist doctrine or the specific form of government of these countries.”
The WJC leader reported that he met not only with leaders of Jewish federations in each country but with Jewish personalities of various groups and professions, and with high officials of the governments who are responsible for Jewish affairs. Though greatly reduced by the annihilation of their majority in the Nazi period, the Jews still number 100,000 in Rumania, about 70,000 in Hungary, but only 25,000 in Czechoslovakia and 9,000 in Yugoslavia, he said
In all four countries, Dr. Goldmann asserted, Jewish citizens enjoy full equality and many of them play an important role in government and in the economic and cultural life of these countries. Being recognized officially as religious groups, the Jewish communities not only had all facilities to maintain their religious and cultural life but were to a large degree helped by their governments both economically and culturally. Dr. Goldmann cited as an example the Yiddish theater in Bucharest, 90 percent of the budget of which is covered by the government. Even such a small Jewish community as is in Yugoslavia not only has regular religious services but two Jewish choirs, lectures, courses in Judaism and other cultural activities, he said.
SUGGESTS FORMING FEDERATION OF COMMUNITIES IN SOCIALIST LANDS
Dr. Goldmann said he was deeply impressed by the great efforts made by the leaders of East European Jewry to maintain Jewish life despite their small numbers. His visit, during which he was accompanied by two members of the WJC executive, meant a symbolic act of reunion with the Jewish people which impressed them strongly, he reported. A Friday night service in the Bucharest synagogue which he addressed for over an hour was attended by thousands of Jews and was characterized by the audience’s deeply emotional reactions.
Dr. Goldmann suggested the creation of a federation of Jewish communities of the Socialist countries which would enable its members to cooperate and consult with each other and also to establish relations with international Jewish organizations such as the WJC.
The governments of the countries he had visited, Dr. Goldmann continued, made a clear distinction between relations with Israel on the one hand and world Jewry on the other. With regard to Israel, relations varied from a rather cool view in Czechoslovakia to recent warmth in Rumania which was, while Dr. Goldmann was there, visited by an official Israel delegation headed by the Finance Minister who signed a far-reaching treaty on economic, technical and scientific cooperation between Rumania and Israel, the first such act on behalf of an Eastern European country.