Jewish Communal Life in Hungary and Rumania Found Not Hampered
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Jewish Communal Life in Hungary and Rumania Found Not Hampered

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The president of the American Jewish Committee challenged the Soviet Union today to grant religious and cultural freedom to its Jewish citizens equal to that existing in Hungary and Rumania.

Morris B. Abram, who returned from a trip to Hungary, Rumania and Israel, told a press conference here that despite the fact that the Hungarian and Rumanian governments are as anti-religious in outlook as the Soviet Union, there is no evidence of serious restrictions in the two smaller Communist countries against the religious and cultural pursuits of the Jewish communities there.

In his report, based on visits to rural areas and meetings with leaders of local Jewish communities, Mr. Abram pointed out that “Hungarian and Rumanian Jews carry on extensive communal life and fully manifest their religious beliefs.” He noted that they have central religious organizations that are allowed to maintain contacts with worldwide Jewish organizations and that they have Jewish schools and publications. Rumania, he said, supports two Yiddish State Theaters and Hungary has a Jewish theological seminary and a Jewish museum.

“If these other Communist nations can respect the religious and cultural rights of the Jews, why can’t the USSR?” Mr. Abram asked, adding: “We are simply asking the Russians to grant the Jews and other observing religious people the rights that are already provided in their constitutions.”


Mr. Abram met with Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen, of Rumania, Dr. Seifert Geza, president of the Board of Deputies of Hungarian Jews; and with Dr. Alexander Scheiber,

Rumania has some 70 Jewish communities, he reported, with an estimated 120, 000-130, 000 Jews. In the town of Vaslui, from which Mr. Abram’s father emigrated in 1904, he noted that the Jewish community numbered 4, 000 before the war but that now there were less than 300 Jews in the town with an average of 35 worshipers on a Sabbath, using two synagogues standing side by side.

Mr. Abram said that he regretted the fact that one exception to the freedoms accorded Jews in Hungary and Rumania appeared to be the policy of the two governments not to permit emigration to other countries. The AJCommittee president said that he thought the major reason for the Soviet Union’s failure to provide religious and cultural freedom to Jews was the global power politics of the USSR which included arms shipments to the Arab states and affected that country’s internal policies.


In Israel, Mr. Abram met with Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, Foreign Minister Abba Eban and former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli leaders. He told the Israeli officials that he was gratified to learn that the remaining government restrictions affecting Arab border communities in Israel were to be abolished. He also met with many families from East Europe — especially from the Soviet Union — who hoped that members still separated from them because of the Second World War would be allowed to join them in Israel.

Mr. Abram explained that he had told the Israeli officials that the problem of Jewish identity and of Jewish continuity generally, and the link between Israel and American Jewry in particular, is one of major concern to the American Jewish Committee. Another major concern, he said, is the problem of Soviet Jewry.

The Israeli leaders reviewed with Mr. Abram and reaffirmed an earlier understanding that “the State of Israel represents and speaks only on behalf of its own citizens, and in no way presumes to represent or speak in the name of the Jews who are citizens of any other country,” Mr. Abram said.

In spite of the fact that there is apparently little or no discrimination for against Jews in Hungary and Rumania, Mr. Abram stressed that “Hitler’s decimation has left the once-great Jewish spiritual and intellectual life that was Eastern Europe a mere shadow of its former self, sapped of its vigor and its vitality.” He said that the Jewish communities in the United States and Israel had the commitment and responsibility to establish and maintain the institutions needed to continue Jewish traditions.

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