CARACAS, Venezuela (Sep. 25)
A proposal to establish Hillel Foundations at leading Latin American universities as a step toward reversing what he called “growing indifference to Jewish identity” on the part of college-age youth, was made here last night by Dr. William Wexler, international president of B’nai B’rith, and was adopted today by the International Council of B’nai B’rith. The Council, with 45 countries represented, is holding its annual convention here, and the strengthening of Latin American Jewry is one of the parley’s top topics.
Noting that the first Latin American Hillel Foundation was opened here this month at the University of Venezuela, Dr. Wexler urged the initiation of similar campus programs at universities in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Lima.
Approving Dr. Wexler’s proposal, the Council discussed also plans for developing in Latin America a corps of trained, native-born leaders, rabbis and Jewish education and community workers to effect the Latin American Jewish community’s “transition from the immigrant culture of largely European coloration to a rooted Jewish community, with institutions and activities indigenous to the Latin American environment.”
Dr. Wexler viewed Latin American Jewry as being in “a painful process of maturing.” He stressed his view that Jewish youth programs must “not depend on imports from abroad, but must be Latin American sponsored, Latin American styled, and rooted in Latin American surroundings.” Discussions were also held by the Council on plans for wide expansion of B’nai B’rith youth activities in Latin American countries which now have only six, widely-scattered chapters with a total membership of 400 Jewish youngsters. Another topic on the agenda was anti-Semitism in Latin America and relations in the southern hemisphere between Jews and the Catholic Church.
Prior to the convening of the Council, with a banquet here last night, the newly-formed B’nai B’rith Caribbean District installed its principal officers. One of the speakers at the banquet was the United States Ambassador here, Maurice M. Bernbaum, who cited the hospitality traditionally extended by the Western Hemisphere to immigration by Jews and others.