NEW YORK (Nov. 26)
Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen of Rumania suggested today that last week’s summit in Geneva between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev may lead to an eventual easing of the plight of Soviet Jews. However, in assessing the summit’s results, he cautioned, “I’m only a rabbi, not a prophet.”
Speaking to reporters at a news conference at the headquarters of the American Jewish Committee, Rosen indicated that the summit may be the beginning of an overall improvement in the relations between the two superpowers. This, he said, could result in a better situation for Jews in the Soviet Union.
At the summit conference, the issue of Soviet Jewry was raised by President Reagan and other Administration officials. But in a joint statement at the summit’s conclusion, there was only brief mention of human rights and, by implication, Jewish emigration. The statement said the two leaders “agreed on the importance of resolving humanitarian cases in the spirit of cooperation.”
The 73-year-old Rosen, who presides over a small, though vibrant Jewish community of 25,000, is in the U.S. on one of his regular visits to meet with Jewish groups interested in Rumanian Jewry. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides substantial funding to numerous programs for Rumanian Jewry.
Prior to World War II, the Jewish population of Rumania totalled about 800,000. While some 400,000 survived the Holocaust, Rosen prides himself on the fact that 380,000 Rumanian Jews have made aliya in the last 40 years. Aliya, he said, in continuing.
SITUATION OF RUMANIAN JEWS
Rosen noted that Rumanian Jews have been able to study and practice Judaism, unlike the Jews in the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries. He attributed this to behind-the-scenes diplomacy. According to Rosen, this tactic has ben successful.
He told reporters that Rumania has II kosher restaurants in which 4,000 persons eat every day; a network of old age homes with nearly 500 beds, a meals-on-wheels program for over 900 bed-ridden people and programs providing money, food, clothes, and medical help for more than 6,000 people. The JDC has aided in these programs.
Rosen, who has been a member of the Rumanian Parliament since 1957, serving as representative of the Jewish community, said that Rumanian authorities have allowed the publication of a biweekly magazine, Revista, in Rumanian, Hebrew, Yiddish and English. He said the magazine is circulated all over Europe, including the Soviet Union and other Communist countries.
Soviet authorities, he said, have allowed the publication to enter the country because, he said, the magazine is not fighting the Soviets. He said some 800 copies make it into the Soviet Union where they are copied and circulated within the Jewish community. He said the magazine has a total press run of 10,000 copies.
A PROBLEM WITH ANTI-SEMITISM
While the Jewish community in Rumania is allowed certain freedoms that are barred in other Communist countries, Rosen said, “We have a problem with anti-Semitism.” He said that prior to 1980 this was not a major concern, but that since then there has appeared in the press and books attacks on him and other Jews. “I didn’t believe it was possible in Rumania,” he said.
He said hehas made personal contacts with President Nicolae Ceausescu to intervene in the situation, adding that since last April, after his last meeting with the President, the situation appears to have stopped. He said he hoped the appearance of anti-Semitic attacks in Rumania “is finished.”