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Leon Dulzin, Former WZO Chairman and Zionist Leader, is Dead at 76

Leon (Arye) Dulzin, a former Cabinet minister whose career as a leader of the world Zionist movement spanned four decades, died Tuesday night at the age of 76.

Dulzin served as chairman of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive from 1978 to 1987, when Simcha Dinitz was elected to replace him.

He had been ill for some time and was receiving dialysis treatment for a kidney ailment.

Israel’s Inner Cabinet observed a standing minute of silence in Dulzin’s memory Wednesday morning. He was extolled by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

A leader of the Liberal Party wing of Likud, Dulzin was a member of Israel’s first national unity government. He served as a minister without portfolio from 1967 to 1970 in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Deeply concerned with the problems of Diaspora Jewry, he traveled the world preaching aliyah and Jewish education, to counteract what he considered the danger to Jewish identity posed by intermarriage and assimilation.

A frequent visitor to the United States and Latin America, Dulzin spoke English and fluent Spanish, having lived in Mexico for 28 years before settling in Israel in 1956.

He was in the forefront of the Soviet Jewry aliyah movement and played a major role in Operation Moses, the secret airlift that brought some 10,000 persecuted Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the winter of 1984-85.

‘GREAT LOSS FOR ZIONIST MOVEMENT’

One of the first reactions to Dulzin’s death came from his longtime colleague Moshe Nissim, a minister in the present unity government and head of Likud’s Liberal Party faction.

He described Dulzin as “a great Zionist who implemented his Zionism. He saw Zionism not merely as an ideological movement, but as a practical recipe for living, which he fulfilled in his own life by his own aliyah.”

In New York, Bernice Tannenbaum, chairwoman of the WZO-American Section, called Dulzin’s death “a great loss for the Zionist movement, the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

“He was one of the first Zionist and Jewish leaders to alert us to the potential forces in Soviet Jewry, which led later to the great exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel,” Tannenbaum said.

She announced that a memorial tribute to Dulzin will be held at WZO-American Section headquarters in Manhattan at 11 a.m. Friday.

Milton Shapiro, president of the Zionist Organization of America, and Paul Flacks, its executive director, said in a joint statement Wednesday that “the ZOA and the Zionist movement have lost an outstanding leader, whose eloquent voice, profound leadership and accomplishments have made a major impact on world Jewry.”

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, declared that “Dulzin served world Jewry and the Zionist movement with distinction and honor during a long career of service to his people.”

Dulzin was born in the Russian city of Minsk in 1913, and moved with his family to Mexico in 1928. Ten years later, at the age of 25, he became president of the Zionist Federation of Mexico.

During the postwar decade, Dulzin attended World Zionist Congresses as a delegate, representing Jewry in Mexico and Central America.

At the 24th World Zionist Congress in 1960, Dulzin became the first Latin American to be elected to membership on the Jewish Agency Executive.

Dulzin was elected chairman of the WZO-Jewish Agency Executive in 1978, replacing the late Pinhas Sapir.

Funeral services are scheduled for Friday morning. The cortege will leave from the Jewish Agency headquarters, and he will be buried on Mount Herzl.

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