Czech Official Denies Government Cancelled Plans for Jewish Celebration

A top official of the Czechoslovakian tourist agency denied charges today that his government had cancelled plans to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Czech community next year.

Josef Richter, executive vice-president of Cedok, the official tourist organization, said that plans for the celebration rested entirely in the hands of the Czech Jewish community, and he pledged the “unequivocal” support of his agency to this effort. “As business people,” he said, “it is in our interest to encourage the Jewish community to go forward with the millennium celebration; and we shall do all we can to help them.”

The travel official said that his government had no official role in planning the millennium program. “It is against Czech policy either to support or to deny the religious activity of Czech citizens. If the Jewish community of our country wants to hold a millennium celebration, it is free to do so. Our government has not, and did not, cancel the program: we were never involved in it.”

A spokesman for the American Jewish Congress commented today that “Cedok cannot absolve itself of responsibility for developing a program for the celebration of the millennium.” He said that a delegation of the American Jewish Congress had visited Prague in August of 1966 and that Cedok authorities at that time placed “great emphasis” on plans for a “major” celebration of the millennial anniversary of Czech Jewry and of the 700th anniversary of the Altneu Synagogue of Prague.

“Painstaking arrangements” were being made at the time of the visit of the Congress delegation, he said, to “commemorate the active role of Czech Jewry in their country’s history” and “elaborate efforts” were under way to attract Jewish visitors from all over the world. The spokesman added that the Congress was approached several times since and up to the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli war, by Cedok officials in the United States in regard to millennium tours.

“Cedok cannot say that it is the sole responsibility of the Czech Jews to organize a millennium program,” the spokesman added. “The surviving Jewish community is, for the most part, made up of elderly or infirm persons who have neither the physical nor the financial resources to conduct a major celebration like this without substantial help from their government.”

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