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Famed Rabbi Permitted to Leave Rumania; Had Been Arrested

April 1, 1960
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Jewish religious leaders here today received a cable from Brussels, Belgium, reporting the arrival there by plane from Rumania of the 62-year-old Skulener Rebbe, rabbi Eliezer Zisu Portogal, and his family, en route to the United States. The venerable rabbi and his son had been arrested in Rumania and were released at the intervention of the United Nations.

The United Nations, through its Undersecretary for Special Political Affairs, C. V. Narasimhan, has worked quietly but dramatically behind the scenes to free the revered spiritual leader of Rumanian Jewry. The State Department, at the intervention of Jewish religious leaders in New York, pledged to grant immigration visas to the rabbi and his family as soon as they are permitted to leave Rumania.

Rabbi Portogal, who had been spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Chernowitz and later at Skuleny, where he became famous as the “Skulener Rebbe, ” was arrested with his son by Rumanian authorities last April 8. As soon as word reached the United States of Rabbi Portogal’s arrest, many prominent Jewish personalities, and various Jewish organizations, became interested in doing all they could to rescue him from the Rumanian prison.

At the United Nations, one of the first to start the wheels moving on behalf of the rabbi’s release was Dr. Isaac Lewin, UN representative for the World Agudat Israel. After trying various other methods to influence Rumania, Dr. Lewin decided to approach the United Nations officially. He formed a committee consisting of prominent rabbis. which visited Mr. Narasimhan, The committee asked the UN official’s intervention. They also showed Mr. Narasimhan a contract signed by the board of trustees of a Brooklyn synagogue, offering Rabbi Portogal the spiritual leadership of that congregation.

A week after that conference, Mr. Narasimhan notified Dr. Lewin that he had taken up the matter with the Rumanian delegation which assured him that the case of Rabbi Portogal was being handled by the government at Bucharest. On August 18, Mr, Narasimhan notified Dr. Lewin that he had received a cable assuring him that Rabbi Portogal was being released.

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