Jewish Community Urged to Produce $5 Million Foundation for Jewish Cultural Projects

The president of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture declared here last night that the foundation he heads has a prestigious name but is without the funds it needs to carry out minimal scholarship and fellowship programs. Addressing the 39th General Assembly of the National Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. Rabbi Daniel Jeremy Silver of Cleveland said “a foundation without a corpus is like a penniless deaf-mute trying to woo a lovely maiden.” The National Foundation for Jewish Culture was established 10 years ago on the recommendation of the CJFWF to encourage all facets of Jewish cultural activities. During those ten years it has received only $400,000 for grants, according to Rabbi Silver. An annual subvention of about $120,000 goes mostly for administrative requirements. Rabbi Silver urged the Jewish communities to create something like the non-sectarian Danforth Foundation to support Jewish cultural projects. “I challenge the Jewish community to produce a $5 million foundation whose stated purpose would be to provide fellowships and scholarships for graduate study in fields of Jewish concern. I can think of no better insurance for our future,” he said.

Rabbi Silver claimed that the National Foundation for Jewish Culture “does not have and never had endowment capital.” He said that “scholarship monies and other grants have had to be squeezed out of relatively modest allocations” and as a result, “many students and many cultural agencies have had to be turned down for financing of worthwhile projects.” Rabbi Silver addressed the CJFWF after presenting his Foundation’s citation and medallion for “outstanding contributions to Jewish scholarship” to Prof. Salo W. Baron. Dr. Baron, a prominent author and Jewish historian, called for a “re-ordering of priorities” by Jewish communities by “documenting their interest in Jewish culture by new and greater contributions to institutions of Jewish culture.” Dr. Baron said that “ignorance of Judaism cannot be eliminated over night.” He classified himself as an “optimist.” stating that “the prophets of doom among Jewry are wrong.”

Speaking at an earlier session of the CJFWF. Dr. William Korey, director of the United Nations office of the B’nai B’rith International Council, said that anti-Semitism, the absence of Jewish cultural and communal institutions, an augmented sense of pride and religious motivation have catalyzed the “phoenix of Jewish consciousness risen from the ashes of a decimated culture” in the Soviet Union. Dr. Korey issued a report showing Soviet Jewish protesters have a “relatively high degree of education with considerable skills in the humanistic and science fields.” From their widely circulated petitions for emigration aid it can be seen, he said, that “a young, highly educated and intensely motivated group has emerged” that has “little faith” of redress of their complaints from “the Communist hierarchy.” Furthermore, Dr. Korey noted, “the militancy of Soviet Jews is not a localized or narrow affair.” He cited figures in his report indicating that 34.3 percent of Soviet Jewish petitions have come from Riga. 26.3 percent from Moscow, 7.7 percent from Minsk, 6.4 percent from Thilisi, 5.7 percent from Vilna. 3.6 percent from Kutaisi and 3.1 percent from Leningrad and Kiev. The B’nai B’rith official suggested that the higher the incidence of petitions the greater the anti-Jewish repression; he noted that in Vilna, where only 5.7 percent of the petitions have emanated, there is a degree of Jewish cultural freedom, while in Riga, which heads the list with 34.3 percent, Jewish culture is “completely lacking.”

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