PRAGUE (Nov. 13)
A “new era of freedom for Jews and all people in Eastern Europe,” was predicted by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, here Sunday night.
He spoke of sweeping changes that seem to be transforming the Eastern bloc, including the Soviet Union, where the WJC will participate in a historic conference of Soviet Jewish communities next month.
Bronfman, an internationally known industrialist, addressed a reception in his honor by Prague’s tiny Jewish community at the historic old Jewish Town Hall. He arrived here Sunday afternoon, on his first official trip to Czechoslovakia.
The WJC leader spoke on the eve of a series of meeting with the country’s top leadership. He affirmed that one of the subjects he plans to raise will be the restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel, which the Czechs broke in 1967, at the time of the Six-Day War.
He noted that now there are full diplomatic relations between Hungary and Israel, which were restored in September. “This matter I will discuss with the Czechoslovak government and also with the Polish government,” he said.
Bronfman had a meeting Sunday night with the minister for foreign trade, Jan Sterba. He was to meet Monday with Czech Communist Party chief Milos Jakes, Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec and Foreign Minister Jaromir Johannes.
Israel Singer, the WJC secretary-general accompanying Bronfman on his tour, noted that the desire for talks on the highest state and party levels was mutual.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lubomir Marsik, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Sunday that the Prague government hopes to reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel in the future. He said furthering commercial links could be a first step in that direction.
‘A NEW ERA DAWNING’
A Western diplomatic source here said it appears the Czechs are looking for alternative trading partners because of a predicted sharp drop in trade with the Soviet Union.
There are 5,000 to 6,000 Jews in Czechoslovakia, about 1,000 of them in Prague, once one of the world’s richest and most important centers of Jewish culture.
Bronfman spoke encouragingly to the community. “The winds of freedom are blowing across the world like a gale,” he said.
“There is a new era dawning on everyone. It seems that people won’t be governed without their consent. In Eastern Europe, we see a non-Communist government in Poland.
“We see a government in Hungary by a party that used to be Communist, but now is not. In East Germany, there is the promise of free elections under the eyes of the entire world,” Bronfman continued.
“I have been told, and I am convinced, that here (in Czechoslovakia), too, things will change along those lines. From a Jewish point of view, this is important,” he said.
Bronfman announced that he and WJC executives will go to Moscow in mid-December to meet with representatives of 60 to 65 Jewish communities from throughout the USSR.
“They are going to discuss Jewish cultural and religious activities, and asked us to be there to be of help,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they formally apply to join the WJC.”
“It is important that the Jewish people in Eastern Europe begin to feel closer together,” the WJC president stressed. “The Jewish world will go from strength to strength.”
Zdenek Ornest, speaking on behalf of the Jewish community here, called Bronfman’s brief visit “a breakthrough between Czechoslovakia and world Jewry.”
The WJC delegation leaves Tuesday for Sofia, Bulgaria.