Special to the JTA European Rabbis Urge All Involved in City of David Dig Controversy ‘to Abstain Fr
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Special to the JTA European Rabbis Urge All Involved in City of David Dig Controversy ‘to Abstain Fr

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The standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis, now meeting here, has called on all those in Israel involved in the controversy over the archaeological excavations at the City of David in Jerusalem “to abstain from violence” and to use “goodwill and persuasion” to further their views.

The Conference, which includes Chief Rabbis from more than six European countries, issued a unanimous declaration expressing its “growing concern” about the verbal and physical clashes between members of the religious and secular communities in Jerusalem over the dig, and asking for “moderation.”

The dozens of rabbis, teachers and community leaders attending this first-ever major Jewish meeting in an East European country, have been meeting here since last Wednesday at the invitation of Rumania’s Chief Rabbi, Dr. Moses Rosen.

The declaration on the City of David dig was issued after less than two hours discussion. A prominent Chief Rabbi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “this was the furthest we could go in disassociating ourselves from the extremist elements in Jerusalem.” He explained that the declaration’s appeal for moderation was addressed to all the parties involved in the controversy, but especially to the leaders of the religious community. Several of the participants at the gathering told the JTA that the appeal is also a call to end coercion in any form.


The participants at the Conference meeting, who are touring parts of the country today to meet with members of Jewish communities, are due to discuss tomorrow the issue of Soviet Jews who decide, once they arrive in Vienna after having received their exit permit, to settle in Western countries other than Israel. Rosen favors cutting off aid to these dropouts, but most of the other rabbis, including Britain’s Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz, plan to issue an appeal for continuing aid to the dropouts by such organizations as HIAS.


At its session yesterday, the Conference paid tribute to Rosen for enabling the participants to meet here and also addressed its appreciation to the Rumanian authorities and President Nicolae Ceausescu for their friendly attitude toward Rumanian Jews. Many of the participants, in Rumania for the first time, were surprised and moved by the deep religious and cultural Jewish life which continues to exist despite the dwindling number of Jews in the country: some 33,000 from a post-war peak of 400,000.

Addressing the meeting, Rosen said: “It is rare, if not unique, for a rabbi to be happy to see his community steadily diminishing. Over the last 33 years some 95 percent of Rumania’s Jews went to Israel.” He stressed that they “did not emigrate. They left for Israel.” He also pointed to the paradoxical situation that prevails in this country with regard to the Jews.

According to Rumanian laws, no religious nor national group is allowed to operate educational institutions, receive money from abroad, organize and publish an independent newspaper or be involved in politics as an independent group, Rosen observed. “And yet, we do all these things, not against Rumanian authorities but with their agreement and their active help,” he said. He noted that “no one can even imagine that the country’s Catholics can recite prayers for Rome as we do for Jerusalem, or for the Vatican as we do for the State of Israel.”


On Saturday night the Conference members attended a performance of the Jewish Theater of Bucharest. The first Jewish theater in the world was started over 100 years ago in Bucharest. Today, the audience which regularly attends the theater and the theatrical troupe are only a fragment of what they were even a dozen years ago, but the theater, which is subsidized by the government, still puts on performances five nights a week.

Several Jewish choirs, including the Menorah Ensemble, entertained the participants. One of the most moving moments was at the conclusion of Friday night’s ceremony in Bucharest’s Choral Temple where a five-year-old girl recited the traditional Aleph Beth with more conviction and deeper feeling than in many larger and far more prosperous communities elsewhere.

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