Albanian Leaders Express Interest in Ties with Israel, Rabbi Reports

Diplomatic relations could soon be established between Israel and Albania, until recently a Communist dictatorship existing in self-imposed isolation from both East and West.

That is the opinion of Rabbi Arthur Schneier of New York, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, who led an interfaith delegation to the Albanian capital of Tirana last week, to determine the status of religious freedom there.

Schneier, who is senior rabbi of Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue, said he found “good feelings toward Israel” among members of both the Albanian government and the opposition.

President Ramiz Alia, who like most Albanians is Moslem, told the delegation he is “very proud” that no Albanian Jews were handed over to the Nazis when his country was occupied during World War II.

“Anything less,” Schneier quoted him as saying, “would have dishonored the Albanian people and their spirit of tolerance of all religions.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Acting Foreign Minister Sokrad Pracka and Dr. Sali Berisha, leader of the opposition Democratic Party.

They and others joined in voicing the hope that diplomatic relations between Albania and Israel would be established soon, Schneier reported.

But an official at the Israeli Consulate in New York said he knew of no discussions taking place at this time about the prospect of diplomatic relations.

Schneier’s delegation included the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkofsky, president of the National Council of Churches in the United States; Rev. Spenser Kezios, representing the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, and Monsignor Nicholas Di Marzio, representing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

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