B’nai B’rith to Fight Soviet Clampdown on Jewish Culture at UNESCO Conference in Mexico City
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B’nai B’rith to Fight Soviet Clampdown on Jewish Culture at UNESCO Conference in Mexico City

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In an effort to reverse, the campaign by the Soviet Union to snuff out Jewish culture within its borders, B’nai B’rith International will send a special delegation to provide information about the status of Soviet Jewry to the World Conference on Cultural Policies in Mexico City July 26-August 6. The conference will be held under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Philip Lax, chairman of the International Council of B’nai B’rith, said the group plans to present data to help UNESCO fulfill its guarantees that everyone has the right to enjoy his own ethnic culture, including the languages of minorities.

The conference has been called by UNESCO to review cultural policies and practices adapted since its last such meeting in 1970. The world organization seeks also “to encourage thorough reflection on fresh guidelines both for strengthening the cultural dimension in development and for facilitating international cultural cooperation.” The meeting’s agenda includes consideration of the preservation of the non-material heritage, such as language.


Citing the Soviet Union’s drive to prohibit the teaching of Hebrew and Yiddish, Lax asserted, “Central to human rights in the field of a minority culture is the assurance that that culture’s language or languages will not be subject to discrimination, let alone to deprivation or exclusion.” He . added that “this is specifically defined in international law.”

Lax pointed out that the UN’s Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both adopted unanimously, and the Helsinki Final Act all obligate their signatories — which include the, Soviet Union — to “respect human rights and fundamental freedom” and to “promote and encourage the exercise of cultural rights.”

“Even though the Soviet Union has accorded official recognition of Hebrew as’a vital and living language, intimately linked to the culture of the Jewish people, the government has displayed c systematic pattern of discrimination against the use and teaching of Hebrew,” Lax declared.

The B’nai B’rith leader said that the UNESCO meeting is also expected to be the center of a propaganda attack on Israel by supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. If there is such on attack, Lax said, the B’nai B’rith delegation is prepared to counter with facts about the Lebanon situation as well as Israel’s rule over all of Jerusalem.

In addition to Lax, the B’nai B’rith delegation consists of Dr. Isaac Frenkel of Santiago, Chile, co-chairman of the Council and head of its Latin America section; Samuel Hoffenberg, its UNESCO representative in Paris; Rabbi Gunther Friedlander of Miami, a member of the International Council and formerly director of its Canbbean region; and Dr. Harris Schoenberg, director of the organization’s United Nations office.

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