Situation of Jews in Bulgaria

The president of the Jewish Council of Bulgaria, Salvator Israel, reported here yesterday that the Jewish community in his country has been decimated by intermarriage and assimilation and religious life is negligible. But the community nevertheless is interested in establishing and strengthening contacts with Jewish organizations abroad and was interested in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress.

Israel, who is visiting Vienna, said there were 5100 Jews in Bulgaria organized into an active community but there was no rabbi and only two synagogues, one in Sofia, the capital, and the other in Plovdiv. He said that an average of 50 persons attend religious services on weekends. Circumcisions are performed by Jewish physicians instead of a mohel who is a religious functionary.

According to Israel, there have been no Jewish religious weddings in Bulgaria in recent years. He said that at least 50 percent of the young Jews marry non-Jewish spouses and most Jewish youth are completely assimilated and are members of the Communist Party. He said the Jewish community enjoys good relations with Bulgarian authorities and he described relations with the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria as very good. He noted that despite the anti-Israel policy of the Communist bloc countries, Bulgarian Jews have never been pressured to sign anti-Israel or anti-Zionist statements.

This year, Israel reported, the Jewish community received enough grain to bake I. I tons of Passover matzos. It publishes a monthly magazine, stages cultural and religious meetings at the Jewish National Club and has an annual budget of 10,500 Leva, about $2500, which is fully covered by the Bulgarian government. Israel said the problem of contacts with Jewish communities and organizations abroad “cannot be solved by Bulgaria alone. It all depends on the relations of the World Jewish Congress with Moscow.”

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