Romanian Jews Worry About Future, Despite Assurances from Government

The Jews of Romania are seriously concerned for their future, despite assurances by officials that the new government will continue to guarantee their well-being.

The assurances were given to Sylvia Hassen-feld, president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Michael Schneider, its executive director, who arrived here Thursday after visiting Romania and Czechoslovakia.

Romanian Jews, who had a stable if precarious existence under the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, are fearful of the emergence of fascist elements in the turbulent atmosphere that has prevailed since the revolution two months ago, the JDC officials reported.

“Anti-Semitic slogans such as ‘Jews go!’ can already be seen on the walls,” they said.

Hassenfeld and Schneider met with Romania’s new president, Ion Illiescu, and other senior officials in Bucharest.

“Illiescu said Jews were free to emigrate, to stay or to come back, as they wish,” Schneider reported.

There are at most 22,000 Jews in Romania. Before the revolution, 1,200 to 1,400 immigrated to Israel each year.

But unless the situation worsens appreciably, no mass aliyah can be expected from that country, because half the Jewish population is too old to make the move, Hassenfeld and Schneider said.

JDC PLANNING SEDERS IN MOSCOW

They said JDC would continue to focus its program in Romania, which has an annual budget of $4 million, on aid to the predominantly elderly Jewish population.

But JDC is also providing non-sectarian aid to the larger Romanian community. Hassenfeld and Schneider said they met with the Romanian health minister, who spoke of the many cases of AIDS discovered at local hospitals.

JDC promised the local authorities to send a shipment of syringes and disposable gloves to help control the spread of the fatal disease. Contaminated needles are suspected of spreading the virus that causes AIDS to hundreds of babies, who are routinely inoculated at birth.

The JDC officials said they found a sharply contrasting scene in Czechoslovakia, where “there is an air of euphoria following the so-called Velvet Revolution.”

Because of the optimistic mood, Hassenfeld does not expect any immigration of Czechoslovak Jews to Israel.

JDC is able to engage in previously prohibited youth activities in Czechoslovakia because of the democratic reforms, the two leaders said.

The international Jewish relief and educational agency has also received the approval of Soviet authorities to open an office in Moscow and will do so when suitable space is found.

JDC is arranging to send 30 couples from Israel to the Soviet Union during Passover to run 30 communal seders all over the country. The Soviet minister of religions welcomed the project and promised to assist, the JDC leaders said.

Hassenfeld said JDC is involved in the Soviet Union, because “no matter how large aliyah will be, Soviet Jewry will continue to be the largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe.”

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