Orthodox Union Plans to Spend $500,000 Strengthening Latin American Jewish Life

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, fearing a breakdown in Jewish religious life in Central and South America, plans to spend over $500,000 in the next two years to strengthen it. Rabbi Joseph Karasick, re-elected president of the organization, told 2,000 delegates at its 70th anniversary biennial national convention here that it is creating a Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of Central and South America. The new body will represent congregations in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica. It will be organized by the UOJCA and staffed, after United States training, by Latin Americans.

Rabbi Karasick said the Union decided to undertake the project after a recent survey indicated a critical shortage of religious leaders in Latin America and an almost total absence of seminaries and teacher-training schools. He said the survey indicated that many Latin American Jewish communities had been deprived of essential religious guidance for more than 20 years as a “tragic consequence of the European holocaust, since Europe had always been a source of Jewish religious leadership for Latin America.” Some Jewish communities of 25,000 Jews have no rabbis, teachers or youth leaders, Rabbi Karasick declared, adding that many youth were being lost through assimilation.

Chief Rabbi Jacob Kaplan of France, in an address, complained of “increasing secularism” that he said was “weakening religious ties” in the French Jewish community which has more than doubled in the last five years through immigration from North Africa. He said that emigrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia had increased France’s Jewish population from 200,000 to nearly 500,000, and appealed to the American Jewish community for needed rabbis, youth leaders, teachers and religious functionaries. He stressed the need for youth organizers to serve at French universities where “Judaism is weak and secularist forces are strong.” Harold M. Jacobs of Lawrence, N.Y., board of directors chairman, pledged that a group of specialists would be sent as a first step to determine “the more precise dimensions of the problem” and to analyze French Jewry’s needs. He said that young French rabbis would be brought to the U.S. for post-graduate studies and field work in Orthodox congregations. He also called for “unity rather than fragmentation” in the U.S. Orthodox community to counter plans by non-Orthodox Jews to coordinate and intensify their programs in Israel.

In an address, Dr. Nahum Goldmann, World Jewish Congress president, warned that dangerous new forms of anti-Semitism were arising from the “New Left.” He noted that in place of the “classic anti-Semitism of old-line reactionary forces” extremists of the New Left have engaged in such forms of anti-Semitism as attacking Zionism and equating Israel with “colonial imperialism.” He attributed this to the fact that Jews in non-Communist nations, no longer suffering the persecution of the past, have risen from “have not” to “have status” and are now linked with the status quo. Jewish communities have therefore become the targets of attacks by many forces “who want to destroy the existing status quo.” Dr. Goldmann declared.

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