Jerusalem (Jan. 21)
– Edgar Bronfman, the newly elected president of the World Jewish Congress, spoke bluntly of Israel-diaspora relations in his acceptance speech at the WJC’s seventh plenary session here this week. He said that most diaspora Jews will not immigrate to Israel and should not be made to feel guilty for that reason, and that diaspora Jews should not be expected to support Israel blindly on every issue.
The 51 year-old Canadian-born industrialist who heads the Seagram Liquor Corp. succeeded Philip Klutznick of Chicago as president of the WJC. He was acting president during the past year while Klutznick served as Secretary of Commerce in the Carter Administration and will now serve a full three-year term as president.
Bronfman disclosed that the WJC has established an International Advisory Committee of businessmen, academicians and statesmen “one of whose first priorities is the furtherance of investment in Israel.” Its European branch is headed by Baron Guy de Rothschild of Paris, the Israeli branch by Raphael Recanati and the South American branch by Adolfo Bloch.
URGES NEW KIND OF ALIYA
The WJC president urged “a new kind of aliya–investments from the diaspora to help create a more economically viable and attractive Israel.” “The strengthening of Israel is clearly the first item on our agenda for the coming decades. For all Jews to lead tranquil and meaningful lives, a secure Israel at peace with her neighbors is essential,” Bronfman declared.
However, he suggested “new perceptions” to improve Israel-diaspora ties. “First, the Israelis must understand that for the most part those Jews who live in the diaspora will not make aliya. Those who do not should neither feel guilty nor be made to feel guilty,” he said. “Second, the Jews of diaspora should not be expected blindly to support the government of Israel in every single matter. Automatic, rigid adherence to every position of the Israeli government can be ineffective in influencing our own governments outside of Israel,” Bronfman declared.
He added, “Israel is not the only item, nor should it be, on the agenda of diaspora Jewry. Jews should be concerned with the affairs, the economics, the moral and political climate of the countries in which they live.”
SITUATION OF SOVIET JEWRY
Discussing the situation of Soviet Jewry, Bronfman said the Jews of the free world have two objectives. “The first priority is to try to get all the Jews out who want to leave, offering Israel as a place where they can come if they so choose. Secondly, for those who want to remain in the Soviet Union we must work to see that they can lead lives as Jews with as much dignity as the confines of the Soviet system will allow.”
Bronfman urged “getting the facts straight” on worldwide outbreaks of anti-Semitism. “We must recognize that there is an alarming increase in world-wide violence and lawlessness…Jews are not the leading victims, but they, too, are victims,” he said. He stressed that Jewish education should be a “major WJC priority” and proposed close cooperation with the World Zionist Organization “to see to it that each Jewish child gets a Jewish education.”