Menu JTA Search

Uja, JDC Leaders Discuss Their Impressions of Jewish Communities in Rumania Poland and Iran

Leaders of the United Jewish Appeal and the Joint Distribution Committee discussed their impressions of Jewish communities outside of Israel that they had visited before coming here a week ago on the UJA Study Mission. Relating their experiences, they told a UJA luncheon at the Jerusalem Hilton Hotel that the Jewish “shtetl” still exists in Rumania; that in Poland, the only place full of Jews is the graveyard.

Jack D. Weiler, chairman of the JDC, who was part of the study group that visited Rumania before coming to Israel, spoke of his contacts with Rumanian Jews, often in a choked voice with tears in his eyes, Speaking of his visit to a synagogue on Simchas Torah, he said “They literally tore me apart” with their welcome. “We (the JDC) are actually saving lives there, the lives of the elderly,” Weiler said.

Richard Salpeter, of Wilmington, Del., who headed a 17-member mission to Rumania, said the Jewish community there, which he put at 60,000-90,000, was “in the process of dying.” He said his group visited four communities and discovered that the “shtetl” still existed. But there was no youth. The few young people the delegation met expressed interest in coming to Israel, Salpeter said.

He said he was approached by one 17-year-old girl who asked him to convey to the outside world her desire to go to Israel. The gates are closed, but “we will and we must bring them home, here to Israel,” Salpeter said. He noted that in 1975, elderly Jews in Rumania were receiving five food packages a year, one every two-and-a-half months. He urged delegates to raise additional funds to allow “one package every two months, at least.”

PLIGHT OF POLISH JEWS

Arthur Brody, of Watchung, N.J., president of the Jewish Community Federation of Metropolitan New Jersey, spoke of his unsuccessful attempts to trace the remains of the 3.5 million Jews who once lived in Poland. His impression of Jewish life in that country, he said, was “nothingness….The Poles succeeded in what Hitler began.”

Instead of millions of Jews, Brody said, the mission found a small community of 3500, most of them elderly people. “In Warsaw we attended a performance at the Jewish Theater. Most of the actors and the audience were not Jewish.” he said, adding, “The only place which was full of Jews were the graveyards.”

He added: “I asked myself, why did we come to Poland, Each of us was looking for his own origin. We were there to take a final reading at what used to be a thriving Jewish community, so that future generations could hear from us what happened in Poland. I don’t believe there will be anything left in that country within five to ten years.”

NO CAUSE FOR ALARM IN IRAN

Donald M. Robinson, of Pittsburgh, vice-chairman of the JDC, spoke of his visit to Iran. He said despite the difficulties faced by the Jewish community there, “there is no cause for alarm and immigration is building up.” He said the JDC encountered difficulties in integrating the local community in its activities in Iran partly because the community leaders lacked the professional skills that the organization demanded. The teaching of Hebrew and Judaism is on the decline. Robinson reported.

NEXT STORY