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Hoffman Urges Balanced Relationship Between Diaspora Jewry, Israel

Philip E. Hoffman, president of the American Jewish Committee, told its National Executive Council’s annual dinner last night honoring Israel’s Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin that it was “crystal clear” that the Israelis are “no further along than we are in their search for the true definition of Jewish identity.” In fact, he said, “they are perhaps more handicapped than we are by virtue of the severe contradictions that exist on this issue within this tiny land.”

Hoffman made these remarks in the context of an appeal for a balanced relationship between American Jewry and Israel. “In the great and growing partnership being deepened every day between Israel and American Jewry,” he said, “there can be neither a major nor a minor partner. Israel will need the fresh viewpoints, the varying attitudes and experiences and the new knowledge that will stem to it from the diaspora. It will be to the best advantage of Judaism and of Israel that its efforts to keep the diaspora strong be as great as those of the diaspora to keep Israel strong.”

“Both sides must have the patience to listen to one another, the courage to criticize one another and the willingness to listen to such criticisms with an open mind,” Hoffman stressed. Many influential Israelis, he said, are “genuinely anxious to create an apparatus that would make possible a healthy give-and-take between Israel and the diaspora.” World Jewish communities, he said, “must be seen as indispensable parts of the whole,” because “if one should declare itself dominant and another subservient, all parts will suffer.”

Calling American Jewry’s support of Israel “natural,” Hoffman said Israel was “the treasure house wherein is lodged the most valued symbols of our faith, our most hallowed traditions, our basic history, our very origins.” He declared; “Israel is the very keystone of the arch which supports Judaism the world over.”

ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE CITED

The National Executive Council was told by Dr. Seymour P. Lachman, director of the AJCommittee’s Foreign Affairs Department, that the Committee was working with the Union of Italian Jewish communities in an intensive probe of current anti-Semitism, including the activities of the political Right, which has been seeking to reassert itself, and those of the Left, with its strong anti-Israel ideology. In contrast with Italian anti-Semitism, Dr. Lachman said, the extreme right wing in Germany lost ground in the recent national elections.

For the most part, Dr. Lachman asserted, European Jews are worse off in countries where there is social turmoil. In Czechoslovakia, for example, “there is a growing effort to hold Jews and Zionists responsible for what the present-day leadership calls the reaction of the Dubcek period.” One especially unhappy aspect of Jewish life in Czechoslovakia, Dr. Lachman indicated, has been the introduction of restrictions on assistance from the outside. “There has been substantial welfare aid to the Czech Jewish community, but the measures being taken by the Czechoslovakian government now threaten this whole aid system,” he said.

Morris H. Bergreen, chairman of the AJCommittee’s Foreign Affairs Commission, said the European Common Market “may prove a powerful stimulus to Jewish communities to join together in some way officially to act within the European community structure.” He said “They may be galvanized to such action by the fact that the first political issue being proposed for joint European action is the Middle East situation.”

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