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Special Interview U.S. Jewish Leader Holds Two-hour Meeting with Ceausescu

Rumanian president Nicolae Ceausescu was urged, during a private meeting in Bucharest with a prominent American Jewish leader, to convey to the Soviet Union “the lesson of the Rumanian experience” with regard to Jewish emigration.

Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, met with the Rumanian leader at the beginning of this month for a meeting that lasted more than two hours. He also met with Minister for Foreign Affairs Ioan Totu and Minister of Cults Ion Cumpanasu.

In a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Abram said that Rumania, a Socialist state, should serve as a “model” to the Soviets and other East European states, for the way it has been handling the Jewish community and the effect it has had on its relations with the United States.

Abram noted that of a past Jewish population of 390,000, only 25,000 Jews are now in Rumania. “The rest were permitted to emigrate and mainly went to Israel.” he said. In addition Abram stressed, the Jews of Rumania are permitted to maintain a vibrant Jewish community under the leadership of Rabbi Moses Rosen. They are permitted to teach and learn Hebrew, and maintain Jewish tradition and culture without any restrictions, Abram said.

He noted that in 1985, 1991 Rumanian Jews received approval for emigration but only 1,332 exercised their right to leave, In the first 10 months of 1986, 1,041 Jews left Rumania, he said.

REASON FOR THE TRIP

“I undertook this trip to Rumania because I felt it is important to convey to the Soviet Union the lesson of the Rumanian experience,” Abram said.

“I went to say to Ceausescu that he had shown that a Socialist state can permit Jewish emigration without the state suffering. And at the same time I pointed out that a Socialist State has nothing to fear from permitting the Jews to practice their culture and religion.”

According to Abram, he was under the impression that the Rumanian President was willing to convey his message to the Soviet leaders.

Abram pointed out that Rumania’s liberal policies regarding Jewish emigration have benefitted the country in its relations with the United States. Rumania has been enjoying Most Favored Nation (MFN) status with the U.S., largely because of its open border policy regarding Jewish emigration. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, is not enjoying those benefits and is restricted by the Jackson-Vanik amendment that links trade benefits to human rights.

Abram said that in his talks with the Rumanian officials he strongly protested recent anti Semitic incidents in Rumania, including the burning down of a synagogue and the publication of an anti-Semitic essay and a poem in the local press. “The reaction of the Rumanian leaders was that there is no anti-Semitism in Rumania and that these are isolated incidents,” he said.

Abram said that after his meeting with the Minister of Cults, the two of them were guests at a reception by the Jewish community. He said the children played and sang Hebrew songs and the Minister Joined in the dance to the tune of Hebrew songs.

Abram, who is of Rumanian descent, said a particularly moving moment for him was when he met some members of his family, still residing in Rumania.

Abram was accompanied on his trip by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Presidents Conference.

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