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World Jewry Must Focus on Olim, Says New European Jewish Leader

May 10, 1991
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Jean Kahn, the French Jewish leader who was just elected president of the European Jewish Congress, believes world Jewry must focus all of its resources on helping Israel absorb immigrants from the Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

He expressed his views at the “Hillula sur Seine,” an outdoor gathering in the Moroccan tradition on the occasion of Jerusalem Day. Its motto was “Am Ehad” (One People).

The main task of Jewish communities around the world is helping the immigrants, Kahn said.

“An end must be put to all the partisan fund raising. The money should be raised by only one organization and sent to help immigration,” he declared.

He was referring apparently to the proliferation of fund raising by different Orthodox religious groups which help only those whose Jewishness is not disputed by their rabbis.

That approach excludes many Soviet and Ethiopian Jews.

Kahn is president of CRIF, the representative council of French Jewish organizations, and was elected this week president of the EJC, a World Jewish Congress affiliate which represents 26 Jewish communities in Europe, plus Egypt.

The Hillula, which is in Moroccan tradition a commemoration of any prominent rabbi, and whose root word is “hallelujah,” was held in a huge tent city in a suburb north of Paris and had a distinctly Oriental flavor.

It featured lectures, scholarly discussions and light entertainment by performers from France and Israel, meat roasted over charcoal on skewers and camel rides for kids.

“For many people, being a Jew is what they eat,” said one visitor.

Israel’s ambassador to France, Ovadia Soffer, was on hand, visiting the multitude of exhibitions by Jewish schools, booksellers and art galleries.

The Hillula was also the occasion for about 40 Israeli mayors and town council members to sign “twinning” agreements with Jewish communities in France, providing, among other things, for cultural activities and youth exchanges.

The organizing force behind the event was David Sa’ada, director of the United Jewish Social Fund of France.

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