PANAMA CITY (Oct. 12)
In a report to the World Jewish Congress on his visit to Managua, Nicaragua, a prominent Latin American Jewish intellectual found “definite anti-Israel tendencies” in the country but did not observe “any anti-Semitic activity.”
Rabbi Heszel Klepfisz of Panama City, winner of the 1981 prize for Jewish intellectual merit presented by the Latin American branch of the WJC, spent four days in Managua late last month.
He had been invited by the international congress of members of Catholic religious orders to lecture on the subject of social justice in the Jewish tradition and had used the occasion to become acquainted with the Jewish situation.
In his report to the WJC, Klepfisz noted that there were currently three Jewish families living in Managua, the rest having left for other countries, although some of them still maintain businesses in Nicaragua and come on frequent visits. “Only the businesses and houses of those who had commercial relations with the dictator Somoza were confiscated,” he said.
STATUS OF THE SYNAGOGUE BUILDING
The synagogue building in Managua, according to the report, is in the hands of the government which moved a Sandinista youth organization into it. Klepfisz noted that the Jewish community had moved the holy scrolls to Miami some years earlier, during the street fighting.
He reported that representatives of the government had authorized him to inform the Jewish community that the government is prepared to return the building so that the synagogue and religious services can be reinaugurated. Senior members of the Sandinista government offered to participate in the inauguration.
Klepfisz relayed the governmental message to the few Jews living in Nicaragua, to which the reply was: “Do you really think it’s worthwhile to keep up a synagogue for three families?”
RATIONALE FOR ANTI-ISRAEL TENDENCIES
Reporting that he had not observed any anti-Semitic activity in the country, Klepfisz added that both the government and the human rights committee operating there on behalf of the United Nations assured him that “there is no anti-Semitism in Nicaragua.”
He pointed out, however, that from private conversations and from the media he found “definite anti-Israel tendencies which were repeatedly justified by Israeli arms sales to Somoza and Israel’s friendly relations with El Salvador and Honduras.” He confirmed that there is a PLO office functioning in Managua.
Klepfisz was born in Poland in 1912, obtained his rabbinical ordination in Warsaw in 1930, his Ph.D. at the University of Warsaw in 1934 and his Lit.D. in Zurich in 1936. Prior to settling in Panama in 1961, he served as a rabbi in Warsaw and in The Netherlands, was a professor at the Glasgow Hebrew College and at the Miami Jewish College. He was the head of Panama’s Albert Einstein School from 1961-1978 and a professor at the University of Panama from 1963-1978.