Charging that in the 13 years of the Soviet Union’s existence the government has never considered the Jewish question in its full aspects, Dr. Abraham Bragin, one of the founders of the Russian Jewish colonization movement and a leader in the Ozet, today criticized the Central Executive Committee and the Communist Party itself for its failure to place the complicated but urgent Jewish problem on the agenda of any of its congresses.
Making himself the spokesmen for the non-Communist Jews of Russia, Dr. Bragin told the All-Union conference of the Ozet, the society for settling Jews on the land, that the government had never officially discussed the matter of Jewish self-determination in Jewish territory. He said that when the Jewish Communist leaders speak of an autonomous Jewish region they are apologetic while such a region is an absolute necessity which must be openly demanded.
While the government had planned the creation of such a region in Bira Bidjan, Far Eastern Republic, Dr. Bragin insisted that it must be in Crimea. Crimea, he declared, not only had enough land for more than 200,000 Jews but also had great industrial potentialities for tens of thousands of Jews. The Kertch district of Crimea alone will produce more metal in the next seven years than Belgium and France together, he added.
Addressing the Jewish Communist leaders, he recalled that two years ago they spoke of settling a million Jews in Bira Bidjan but now, he charged, they have reduced that number to 50,000 in three years. “I wonder whether you will ever settle even 50,000 there,” he remarked. “Personally I don’t believe it,” he said.
A. Merezhin, leader of the Comzet, the government department for settling the Jews on the land, who followed Dr. Bragin, devoted a good part of his three-hour address to a discussion of the weak and strong points of the Comzet’s activities and to condemnation of those who demanded the liquidation of the foreign Jewish relief organizations operating in Russia.
He said little about Bira Bidjan but stated that the work of the foreign Jewish relief organizations were very helpful. Merezhin urged that until the completion of the Five-Year Plan the number of Jewish industrial workers should be double that of the Jewish artisans and that during the same period the entire amount of land set aside for Jewish settlements in Crimea should be settled.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.