GENEVA (Jul. 9)
Four Jewish community leaders from Communist countries reported here yesterday that Jewish life and Judaism can exist and even thrive in those lands despite their political orientation and totally secular outlook. They indicated that strenuous efforts are being made, in some cases with Government support, to revive Judaism among the younger generation in communities that were almost destroyed by the Nazi holocaust.
The speakers addressed the governing council of the World Jewish Congress which convened yesterday for meetings that will run through July 11. One of them, Frantisek Fuchs, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Bohemia and Moravia, told the gathering that religions can exist in Czechoslovakia if they want to. “The Government supports us, to be sure,” he said. “But we are a sadly depleted community. Out of 15,000 children in Theresienstadt (the wartime Nazi concentration camp) only 100 came back. But now we have a new generation of which we are very proud. We teach them the Jewish faith and Jewish ethics. Our children are not really religious but they feel their Jewishness very deeply and this goes for children of mixed marriages as well,” Mr. Fuchs said.
Dr. Benjamin Eichler, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Slovakia, agreed that “Jews can exist as Jews in our country” although there are no denominational schools. “But we give our children a Jewish education through our own resources and we have spoken out against assimilation.” Dr. Eichler said that 20 young boys and girls of the Jewish community are presently working on kibbutzim in Israel for the summer.
Dr. Ladoslav Kadelburg, president of the Jewish Communities of Yugoslavia, declared that “we are not the last of our generation of Yugoslav Jews. There will be continuity and I’m glad to say that the attitude of our Government to Middle Eastern politics has not affected the position of Yugoslav Jews in any way.” Dr. Moses Rosen, Chief Rabbi of Rumania, asserted that “love of Zion and authentic and devoted citizenship of Rumania are not mutually exclusive and this is generally acknowledged not only by ourselves but by our Government and our people. We Jews of Rumania have no fear at all of being accused of dual loyalties.” Rumania is the only Communist bloc country that did not break diplomatic relations with Israel following the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war and the two countries maintain strong trade relations.
Dr. Max Nussbaum, chairman of the American section of the WJ Congress told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later that he was “very impressed with the unique approach of the Rumanian Government to religious groups, including of course, Rumanian Jews.” Dr. Nussbaum was a member of the WJ Congress delegation that attended celebrations in Bucharest recently to mark the 20th anniversary of Rabbi Rosen’s ministry. The governing council unanimously adopted a resolution asserting that “a meaningful Jewish life can exist without regard to differing political, social and economic systems,” as well as resolutions on a wide range of international as well as Jewish issues. It welcomed direct contact between the principal parties in the Vietnam war; urged an early cease fire in Biafra, the break-away province of Nigeria; and called on the United States to ratify the United Nations convention for the elimination of racial discrimination. The council also voted a resolution calling on the Polish Government to abandon its anti-Semitic policies. One of the speakers, Prof. Aryeh Tartakower, said that political anti-Semitism cannot be separated from racial anti-Semitism. He contended that those who hated Israel also hated the Jews.