NEW YORK (Nov. 20)
What may become the first perpetually airborne Torah is now set to circumnavigate the globe on the private jet of Edgar Bronfman.
Bronfman, who is president of the World Jewish Congress, received the 100-year-old Torah scroll as a gift of the Jewish community of Bulgaria, which he visited last week.
Bronfman will have an ark built on the plane to house the Torah, according to Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, who spoke by telephone from Sofia, Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian Jewish community made the gift as an expression of gratitude to the WJC for the help it gave the Jewish community there, particularly following World War II.
It will also enable their Torah to connect them with other Jewish communities, said Steinberg, who was part of the WJC group accompanying Bronfman on his first official visit there.
The delegation arrived in Sofia on Nov. 14 from Prague, whose Jewish community also hosted Bronfman’s first official visit. As a result of the visit, the Prague Jewish community will now be a member of the WJC, upgrading its status from observer.
The Bulgarian community currently has observer status, “but we have every confidence that, after certain governmental matters are straightened out here, they will become members,” said Steinberg.
Leaders of the two countries, who met with Bronfman and with the WJC secretary-general, Israel Singer, discussed restoring relations between those countries and Israel.
Both Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria followed the lead of Moscow in 1967 in breaking relations with Israel at the time of the Six-Day War.
In both Warsaw Pact nations, the WJC figures were accorded the respect given heads of state. In fact, Bronfman and Singer were the first foreign visitors who met with the newly appointed. Bulgarian leader, Petar Mladenov, who only five days earlier had succeeded Todor Zhivkov as chairman of the Communist Party.
On the matter of renewed Bulgarian relations with Israel, “we emerged optimistic on this question, and confirmed that there are contacts on questions of trade, cultural relations and the question of diplomatic relations. It is a matter of serious consideration,” said Singer.
Mladenov “said he takes the visit seriously, because he has a high regard for the Jewish community of the world,” said Singer.
There are now about 5,000 Jews in Bulgaria, most in Sofia, some in the city of Plovdiv.
“The Jewish community suffers from no anti-Semitism at all,” Steinberg reported.