Little attention is being paid in America to the Jewish situation in the Baltic countries, despite the fact that anti-Jewish discrimination there is growing daily.
At a conference of Jewish leaders in Kaunes recently, it was emphasized that urgent relief is necessary for Jewish artisans throughout Lithuania because of the fact that they are gradually being pushed out of existence through various regulations. The same is true also with regard to the Jewish small merchants who are losing ground in Lithuania because of government monopoly and also because of the special assistance given by the government to the non-Jewish cooperatives.
JEWISH AUTONOMY EVAPORATED
The situation is even worse in Latvia, a country where Jews at one time enjoyed full equality in commerce and complete autonomy in internal Jewish life. Now this equality is gone and the Jewish cultural autonomy has evaporated.
The government of Latvia has been accused on many occasions of taking away commercial licenses from Jewish firms and handing them over to non-Jewish firms. It has been accused of systematically ousting Jews from commercial life.
With the Jews of America and England failing to give any moral support to Latvian Jewry, these accusations are taken lightly by the Latvian government. In order not to hear of them, the government of Latvia has closed down the entire Jewish press and liquidated all Jewish organizations.
PUBLIC LIFE IS DEAD
Jewish public life in Latvia is therefore dead at present. The Augdah, the only Jewish organization which enjoys the privilege of existence in Latvia, is far from representative of the Jewish population in the country. The Agudah organâ€”the only Jewish publication permitted in Latviaâ€”does not voice the opinion of the majority of Latvian Jewry.
Economically and politically, the Jews of Latvia to a large extent, and the Jews of Lithuania to a lesser degree are reaching a point where their situation may be compared with that of the Jews in Poland. In Lithuania even Zionist activities are prohibited.
ADVICE TO “INVESTIGATORS”
The Summer season, when many American-Jewish leaders are starting out on trips to Europe “to investigate the Jewish situation there,” is now starting. It may be expected that this year more American-Jewish leaders will go to Europe than last year because many of them will be interested in participating in the Zionist Congress.
To these Jewish leaders, who during their short stay in Europe will undertake “to investigate” Jewish conditions in different countries, my advice is as follows:
Don’t proceed to Poland, to Germany, to Rumania, to Austria. The Jews of America know how pitiful is the situation of the Jews in these countries. Proceed to the Baltic States. Study the situation of the Jews in Kaunas and in Riga. Speak to Jewish leaders in Latvia and in Lithuania and observe Jewish daily life there. It will be of greater service to the Jews of America if they are told a little more about what is going on among Jews in the Baltic countries. They border Nazi Germany so closely.