WASHINGTON (Aug. 11)
Rabbi Mases Rosen, Chief Rabbi of Rumania, believes that even I there were no Jews left in Rumania American Jews should support the annual extension of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status for the East European country.
The reason is that even before the U.S. first granted Rumania MFN in 1975 some 350,000 of Rumania’s 400,000 Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel, Rasen told a Capitol Hill reception Monday night for Senators and their staff members. Since then another 22,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel, he said.
The reception, sponsored by B’nai B’rith International, was held on the eve of yesterday’s hearings for extending MFN to Rumania, Hungary and the People’s Republic of China before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade.
Rosen said Monday night that while the Rumanian government opposes emigration, it has made an exception for Jews because of the suffering they underwent in the Holocaust. He claimed that those who apply for visas to emigrate to Israel receive them within 12-14 months
RABBI CITES EMIGRATION FIGURES
The chief rabbi, who was introduced by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, as a “miracle worker,” said there are about 32,000 Jews left in Rumania, 60 percent of whom are over 60 and too old to emigrate. Rosen noted that visas to emigrate to Israel were issued to 667 Jews in 1960, 394 in 1981, and 1204 during the first seven months of this year.
As for the numbers who actually left for Israel, Rosen listed them as 667 in 1980, 394 in 1981, and 1204 in 1982. He noted he gets a complete list of all those who apply for aliya and those who leave.
Jacob Birnbaum, national director of the Center for Russian and East European Jewry, challenged Rosen, saying there were many individual cases in which people had been denied visas for years. He also objected to Rosen, a Rumanian government official, appearing on Capitol Hill to press for MFN the evening before a Senate hearing.
At the hearing yesterday, Birnbaum said if it were not for the fear of consequences to themselves or their families the number of Jews seeking to emigrate could total 4,000, the figure in 1973 and even 5000.
CITES ‘UNIQUE’ ROLE OF RUMANIA
Jack Spitzer, president of B’nai B’rith international, who has dealt with the issue on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the gathering Monday night that Rumania has played a “unique” role in the Soviet bloc and is the only Communist country to have relations with Israel. He said this uniqueness should be “encouraged and strengthened” by the billion dollars of trade between the U.S. and Rumania each year.
At yesterday’s hearing it was announced that Spitzer would begin meetings today with Rumanian officials to ease the bureaucratic restrictions that have delayed emigration from Rumania. It was also announced that the U.S. government would begin similar talks with Rumania in September.
Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Washington), author of the Jackson-Vanik amendment which links trade to emigration, said he supported extension of MFN to Rumania but has made it clear to Rumanian officials the need “to streamline the Rumanian emigration process so that applications are handled expeditiously and adjudicated promptly, and all harassment of applicants avoided.”
John Scanlan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, in supporting the MFN extension, said that while the Reagan Administration is not “primarily concerned “that Rumania allow a specific number of Jews to go to Israel each year, “We believe that individuals accepted for immigration by the government of Israel should be granted permission to emigrate from Rumania without undue delay or difficulties.”