BRUSSELS (Feb. 17)
Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called here today for a new international drive to permit the free emigration of Soviet Jews and, at the same time, urged the Soviet Union to allow the revival and revitalization of religious and cultural life for those Jews who remain in the USSR.
He said the latter could not be done unless the Soviet authorities permitted Western Jewish scholars and teachers to come to the USSR to help create new centers for the training of rabbis, educators and teachers to assure the survival of Soviet Jewry.
Schindler, who is president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and a leader of Reform Judaism in the United States made his appeal before 1000 Jewish and non-Jewish leaders from 30 countries attending the Second World Conference on Soviet Jewry at the Salle des Congres here which began this afternoon and concludes Thursday. (See related stories this page and P. 4.)
“We must widen our demand beyond emigration, insisting on the inalienable right of Russian Jews to live as Jews, as a distinctive religious, cultural national entity,” Schindler declared. “Whatever our success in the fight for Soviet aliya, millions of our fellow Jews would live on in the Soviet Union. What meaning has their physical survival if they do not survive as Jews?”
CALLS FOR GENUINE JEWISH INSTITUTIONS
Schindler specifically called for the creation by Soviet authorities of a new, modern rabbinical seminary “not the present charade of a Soviet-style geriatrics center but an academy rich with the experts of our faith to transmit this knowledge to young Jews and future rabbis.”
He urged further the establishment of a training center for educators and teachers, “not a dingy attic with a handful of Jews who pay obeisance to a faith which is dead, but an authentic training center where in the Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish languages, professionals are developed to teach a Judaism which is actively relevant to the present generation of Jews.”
The American rabbi stressed that such institutions could only become a reality if the USSR permitted Western Jewish scholars and teachers to come to the Soviet Union to help develop them. Schindler estimated that there are 200.000 Soviet Jews seeking exit visas. “We must summon the civilized world to insist that Russia abide by those conventions to which she subscribed,” he said. Schindler read to the opening session of the conference a message from President Ford extending greetings to the gathering and reaffirming America’s unqualified support of the right to free emigration.