Bucharest (Sep. 8)
The standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis called today for a revival of Jewish education and other Jewish religious activities in the Soviet Union in the belief that “the miracle that happened in Rumania could happen elsewhere in Eastern Europe.”
The committee, which concluded its six-day meeting today, paid tribute to the intensity and depth of Jewish life in Rumania. The committee’s spokesman, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Firon of Zurich, said participants at the meeting had seen “with deep emotion the strength of Jewish feeling of the Torah in Rumania, a socialist East European country.” He added that “we should try to do the same in the other countries in the socialist world.” Committee members said this was a reference to the Soviet Union.
The committee launched an appeal to Israeli institutions and Jewish organizations around the world to try to provide all necessary assistance to Rumania’s Jews. It said they need rabbis, teachers, ritual slaughterers and religious objects as a matter of urgency. It said that the lack of such individuals and religious material endangers the remnants of Rumanian Jewry.
THE ROOT OF SOVIET JEWISH DROPOUTS
Discussing the issue of Soviet Jews who decide, when they leave the USSR, to settle in countries other than Israel, committee members said this problem stems from a lack of Jewish identification on the part of the dropouts. “The real root of this (dropout) tragedy is that our brothers and sisters who leave the Soviet Union lack a minimum of Jewish self-identification and have lost the spirit of the Torah,” the committee said in a statement. “When the emigrants will feel like real Jews, identify themselves with Jewish spiritual values and the love of Zion, the problem of dropouts will disappear.”
Several of the rabbis told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Rumanian example, where 95 percent of the Jews made aliya to Israel, inspired their appeal for a renewal of Jewish activities elsewhere in the Soviet bloc countries.
Turning to the archaeological excavations at the City of David in Jerusalem, the committee said it is not qualified to take a basic stand on the issue. “The halacha in Israel is the sole concern of the State’s Chief Rabbinate,” it said. The committee, however, called for the utmost moderation and for an end to “all violence, including verbal abuse.” It expressed its “deep concern” at the growing gap between religious and secular Jews in Israel and in the diaspora and stressed that “hearts must be drawn closer through persuasion, explanation and education.” It added that “this is the only way.”
REMNANTS OF TRADITIONAL ‘SHTETLS’
Yesterday, the rabbis visited provincial centers. In Dorohoi, where thousands of Jews resided before World War II and where only some 500 Jews now reside, the rabbis were greeted in the small, centuries-old synagogue by a children’s choir and a small orchestra. Many of those greeting the rabbis presented them with flowers.
In Buhushi, old Jewish “mamas” held their children up to be blessed and a choir burst into song. The venerable rabbis, who lead large Jewish communities, were so taken by the choirs in both towns that they joined hands with the people in festive dances. These two towns, and several others visited by the rabbis, are the remnants of the traditional Jewish “shtetls.”
Even in small Jewish centers such as Suceava, where only a couple of hundred Jews are left, Jewish institutions, home for the aged, kosher canteens, Talmud Torah schools and ritual slaughter houses are still being operated.
In Jassi, the former Moldovian capital where over 60,000 Jews lived in pre-war days, Jewish community members gathered first in the city’s cemetery where 11,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis with the help of extreme rightwing Rumanians are buried.
Then, close to 300 people, including many non-Jews, met for a festive banquet. Among those present were also the head of Moldovia’s Orthodox Church, known as the Metropolite, and representatives of other Christian denominations. All paid tribute to the understanding between Jews and Christians and called for still closer ties between the two.
Tonight, Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen of Rumania and several of the visiting rabbis will meet Rumanian Minister for Religious Affairs, loan Rosianu, and attend a festive dinner given in their honor by the Rumanian Federation of Jewish Communities. The Conference of European Rabbis will have their next meeting in May 1982 in Paris.