LONDON (Jan. 14)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress, declared here last night that world Jewry must fight for the right of Soviet Jews to live as Jews in the Soviet Union because “in the foreseeable future” that is where “the vast majority of Soviet Jews will still be living.” Dr. Goldmann addressed more than 200 delegates from 20 European countries, including Yugoslavia and Rumania attending a conference of European Jewish communities convened by the WJC.
Listing the emergence of the State of Israel as one of the “fundamental new factors in Jewish life,” he chided “the Jewish leadership and public” for so far having failed to come to grips with other factors that affect Israel and especially Soviet Jews.
“World Jewry must first of all find the proper contacts and approaches to the two new factors which influence the world: the Communist bloc and the Third World,” Dr. Goldmann said. “We are fighting for the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate without being either harassed or molested. But nobody can foresee whether the majority of these three million Jews want to leave the Soviet Union. In the foreseeable future, the vast majority of Soviet Jews will still be living in the Soviet Union. It is therefore vital to fight for their rights to live as Jews in Soviet society.”
Otherwise, Dr. Goldmann warned, “there is the danger of internal disintegration, not by extermination but by assimilation, forced or voluntary.” The Jewish leader cited Rumania and Yugoslavia as examples “of how Jews can live as Jews under a Communist regime.” He said this was indeed true of “the Soviet Union itself in its early days.”
COEXISTENCE OF ISRAEL, DIASPORA JEWRY
Dr. Goldmann’s remarks on Soviet Jewry–particularly his assertion that most of them will remain in the Soviet Union–were in essence a repetition of a controversial speech he delivered at a meeting of the Board of Deputies of British Jews here in Dec. 1971.
That speech, in which Dr. Goldmann said that efforts to protect the rights of Jews in Russia must be given equal weight to the struggle for their right to emigrate, was denounced by the World Zionist Organization Executive in Jerusalem. It led to the WZO’s withdrawal of its invitation to Dr. Goldmann to deliver the keynote address at the 28th World Zionist Congress held in Jerusalem last Jan. Dr. Goldmann did not attend the Congress.
Last night, he said that “No Jewish organization has yet fully understood the necessity of establishing contact with the Third World, most of which has no local Jewish community.” As to Israel, he said “We must find a way by which the two parts of Jewry–Israel and the diaspora–can live side by side in harmony and cooperation, with Israel retaining her sovereignty and diaspora Jewry retaining its autonomy to decide its own fate.”
He said the problems of European Jewry must be viewed against this background. “European Jewry will only be able to assert a greater influence within a united Europe if it acts in unity and solidarity. This is what the European Conference of Jewish communities is about,” Dr. Goldmann said.