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Zionists Urged to Make Jewish Education Top Priority Matter Only Way to Stem Assimilation

January 24, 1972
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Haim Finkelstein, head of the World Zionist Organization’s education department, told a plenary session of the 28th World Zionist Congress today that its four year program to further Jewish education in the diaspora would come to naught unless the Jewish communities abroad provide the necessary financial means.

“We must make a supreme effort to influence Jewish leaders in the diaspora to put Jewish education at the top of their list of priorities, and not be satisfied with crumbs from the public table to support it,” Finkelstein declared. “They must return to the tradition which prevailed before the second World War when the various Jewish communities took upon themselves the lion’s share of the cost of education,” he said.

Finkelstein contented that education was the main hope to stem Jewish assimilation. He claimed that the Jewish people have lost more adherents through assimilation than through all the wars of this century and the Nazi holocaust combined. “Recent surveys showed that we could have numbered 140-150 million souls instead of 13 million but for assimilation,” Finkelstein claimed.

Moshe Krone, head of the WZO’s Torah education department denounced the extreme anti-Zionist atmosphere that he said exists in some Orthodox yeshivot. He stressed the need to increase information about Zionism in the rabbinical world in order to insure Zionist hegemony among the yeshivot. He also criticized the idea that there can be a parallel Jewish center outside Israel. “This optimistic viewpoint is no longer shared by those who are aware of what is going on,” he contended.


In other Congress developments, Dr. Israel Katz, director of the National Insurance Institute, proposed the creation of a central authority to direct efforts to solve the problem of Israel’s social and economic gap. He said that statistics collected by the Institute indicated that some 10 percent of Israeli families are living in relative deprivation despite the steady rise in the general standard of living in Israel during the past two years.

Premier Golda Meir told a Congress session Thursday night that she agreed with the Orthodox contention that “there is no difference between the Jewish religion and Jewish nationality.” Menachem Beigin, leader of the right-wing Herut opposition drew wild cheers from the Orthodox Mizrachi delegates when he claimed that “there can be no separation between religion and identity” and added that the conversion of Jews must be strictly in accordance with halacha, religious law.

Yaacov Hazan, leader of Mapam was heckled by Herut youngsters when he said that Israel eventually would have to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories.” The Mapam leader also expressed concern over the “almost purely white collar” character of the current immigration. He said great satisfaction was to be derived from direct participation in manual labor to help build Israel.


Hillel Ashkenazi, director general of the Absorption Ministry disclosed that a recent survey showed that 50 percent of the immigrants from the Soviet Union found permanent housing within two months of their arrival compared to 35 percent of the immigrants from other countries. He said 80 percent of the Russian emigres reported satisfaction with their accommodations and that 70 percent reported after two months in the country that they were satisfied with their social integration.

Ashkenazi said that 58 percent of those seeking jobs found employment within two months but only 57 percent said they were satisfied with their jobs. Among the Jews from Russia there is a much higher percentage of dissatisfied workers than among other immigrants, he said.

Yitzhak Levitan, a Russian immigrant who was imprisoned in the USSR for 15 years because of his Zionist activities, castigated world Jewry for not exerting enough pressure to get the release of Jewish political prisoners. He also claimed that it was false to state that Russian Jews became Zionists only after the Six-Day War. According to Levitan, “prisoners of Zion filled the jails, work camps and concentration camps in the 20s, 30s and 40s and until the present day.”

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