Canadian Official Says Problems of Soviet Jewry of Paramount Concern

Jim Fleming, Minister of State for Multi culturalism, declared here that “the problems of Soviet Jewry will continue to be a matter of paramount concern to this government,” adding that the plight of Prisoner of Conscience Anatoly Shcharansky “will not be forgotten.” Fleming, who spoke at the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), also declared that “denial of human freedom, whenever it occurs, will be a concern of mine and of the government of Canada.”

He said that Canadian Jews had so large a list of problems of specific concern to them as Jews, that he could understand if there had been “a total preoccupation with your own concerns.” But, he declared, the frequent intervention by the CJC in issues of human rights, racism and discrimination whenever injustices affected others had led the Canadian government to rely on the support of the Jewish community.

Fleming listed those specifically Jewish concerns as “the safety and security of Israel, your historic home, the intolerable treatment of fellow Jews living under Soviet domination, the precariousness of viable Jewish community life in many countries, the prevalence of anti-Zionist forces in many countries” and “other Jewish facts of life.”

STRENGTHENING CANADIAN JEWISH LIFE

Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, the outgoing CJC president, told the 1200 delegates that during his three-year mandate, “we have demonstrably widened the influence of Congress” and that the CJC now reached “every comer of our nation and, through mergers with community and welfare funds, has broadened its field of activity and its responsibility.”

Plaut also said that the CJC was “on the way” to becoming the Parliament of Canadian Jewry,” the single voice and at the same time the single force through which our community acts. We have expanded our concerns to Jews in Arab lands and in the South American countries.”

Discussing his hopes for the future, Plaut said “we want to make Jewish life here and every where rich and meaningful by strengthening Jewish life in Canada; securing a vibrant and healthy Israel; assisting Jews in all parts of the world, and helping Canada to enrich its human and material potential so that it may give to all its citizens a maximum measure of access to its inherent potential.”

He warned the Jewish community of the problem of progressive assimilation and asked every Canadian Jew to acquire “a modicum” of knowledge of Hebrew. He predicted that the 80s will “bring one significant change. They will see a much more open dialogue between the diaspora and Israel than has been customary in the past.”

Plaut said “We will speak to Israel and about Israel with greater openness and this will lead to a greater intensity of support for Israel. We must be certain not to indulge in irresponsible meteoric which may endanger an already beleaguered and isolated Israel.” Adding that Israel “has enough critics already,” he said “we must remain in many ways part of its security fence.”

PROBLEMS CONFRONTING CANADIAN JEWRY

Alan Rose, CJC executive vice president, discussed the division of communally-raised funds as between Israel and Canadian Jewish communities, declaring that “division must relate to the reality of Jewish life in Canada.”

He said that “our budget has increased an average of only 16 percent, with inflation rising 25 percent, during the past three years.” He said “this creates a situation where we must think in terms of choices rather than solutions. There are many worth-while projects which would greatly enrich the cultural domain of the communities if monies could be found.”

He indicated he meant new approaches for new problems in addition to the ongoing programs for Jewish education, community relations, Soviet Jewry, Holocaust remembrance, international affairs, the religious department, Yiddish, the program for Quebec and archives and research.

Rose said that “for entirely understandable reasons,” the Canadian Jewish community entered a period “of devoting itself to its own problems. This policy was brought about by the wars of 1967 and 1973 in the Middle East, the needs of a beleaguered Israel, the problems of funding Jewish education, the worsening situation in the Soviet Union and Syria, the campaign of anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism, which has entered global proportions, the problems we face in Quebec and many other attendant crises.”

Rose asserted that “the feeling among some members of the Jewish community is that in the post-Holocaust period, our concerns should be for ourselves and ourselves alone, but this is not a view shared by all survivors of the Holocaust by any means.” He added, “I do not believe this philosophy responds to the reality of maintaining a viable Jewish life in the true sense of the meaning in Canada.”

Sam Sable, a leader of Toronto Jewry, was awarded the Samuel Bronfman Medal for his lifetime of service to the Jewish community of Canada. The four-day assembly concluded yesterday with the election of Prof. Irwin Cotler of McGill University Law School as president of the CJC for a three-year term, succeeding Plaut.

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