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Jewish Leaders Discuss Oppression of Tibet in Session with Dalai Lama

September 27, 1990
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A landmark meeting took place this week between the Dalai Lama and a group of American Jewish organizational leaders.

Representatives of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council met Monday with the exiled Tibetan religious and political leader, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

The meeting came after the umbrella group’s executive committee released a statement Sept. 10 in support of the Tibetan religion and culture, which is threatened by Chinese hegemony.

“After 31 years of oppression of Tibet by China, it is clear that the Chinese have persecuted and brutalized the Tibetan people, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans,” the NJCRAC statement said.

Abraham Bayer, NJCRAC’s director of international concerns, said the Tibetan leader spoke of how he was “inspired by Jewish history.”

“He asked us repeatedly, ‘What is the secret of Jewish survival over so many years?’ “Bayer said.

The Dalai Lama told the NJCRAC delegation that because of systematic population transfers, Chinese now outnumber Tibetans in their native land. “This period now could be a threat to the ultimate survival of Tibetan culture and religion,” he was quoted as saying.

The NJCRAC delegation traveled to the Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., to meet with the Tibetan leader and were impressed both with his hospitality and his demeanor.

“We got a very gracious reception,” said Bayer. “They even went to the trouble of bringing in kosher lunch,” a gesture that made a deep impact on the Jewish group.

This was not the Dalai Lama’s first meeting with American Jews — he met last year with a group of rabbis, including Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg.

But the NJCRAC meeting was not designed to discuss theology. Its purpose was to explore the support the two communities could give one another, according to Bayer.

In the statement on Tibet, the umbrella group for Jewish communal relations organizations recommended that its constituent organizations “seek to form coalitions wherever possible with other organizations concerned about human rights violations in Tibet” and “request that the U.S. government place the issue of Tibet and the protection of religious freedom on the agenda of discussion between the U.S. and China.”

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