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March 16, 1990 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I ANALYSIS

Our Sale on
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will save you SALE
lots of
GREEN.

$35

Reg. $55.
White Melamine
Low Bookcase,
27" x 10" x 33 1/2",
Cash & Carry, 3 for $99.

Fear Of Pogroms Haunts
Baltic Jewish Meeting

DR. LEORA SHELEF

Special to The Jewish News

SALE $89

T

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16

FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 1990

THE JEWISH NEWS

allinn — Seven flags
are on the center table
in front of the head of
the Jewish community in
Tallinn, which is chairing
this unusual meeting of the
First Baltic Jewish Con-
ference held in Tallinn on Feb.
15-19. The flags represent the
Baltic republics Estonia,
Lithuania and Latvia, and
the Scandinavian countries
Norway, Denmark, Finland
and Sweden. Delegates in-
clude members of the Jewish
communities in these coun-
tries, as well as represen-
tatives from Kaliningrad and
Leningrad. Each of the states
or cities has 5-6 delegates; a
representative of the Jewish
Agency and about 20 spec-
tators also are here.
The conference begins with
the singing of "Hatikvah."
This is a very emotional mo-
ment for all of us and a
historical event in the lives of
the Jews in the Baltic states.
The agenda is long, and of
the topics the most important
are: How to deal with the pre-
sent anti-Semitism, how to
help those who want to leave
the Soviet Union and how to
help those who wish to stay
and continue their lives as
Jews.
The imminent danger of the
Jews in some regions in par-
ticular, such as Moscow and
Azerbeijan, is raised by the
representative from Len-
ingrad, who emphasizes the
need to set priorities in pro-
viding help and exit visas.
There is fear that the lives of
those outside the Baltic states
may be at risk.
The new political situation
in the Soviet Union and the
eruption of nationalistic feel-
ings have an impact on
Jewish life. While many of the
Jews are strongly
assimilated, Jewish national
rebirth began here in the
1960s, and the desire to
strengthen the ties with
Israel is on the increase.
Many Jews are seriously
preparing for aliyah. It is
estimated that one of every
six Jews wants to leave, and
the technical problems that
face these Jews are enormous.
For awhile, the discussion
focuses on technical pro-
blems: the visas, flight to
Israel, the possibility of direct
flights from the Baltic states,
or intermediate stops in Scan-
dinavian countries or other
Eastern European countries
such as Hungary or

855-0480

Czechoslovakia.
Some of the absorption pro-
blems that face newcomers to
Israel are discussed. The Jews
are flown into the country,
leaving behind their fur-
niture and other belongings.
They have economic and
social problems. But the para-
mount problem is safety, and
again the discussion returns
to fear of pogroms.
The return of Jewish
cultural life and problems
associated with it are discuss-
ed by each of the represen-
tatives. After 40 years of sup-
pression, major activities,
such as a Jewish museum, ex-
ist in Vilnius. In Moscow,
Jewish heritage is being
researched. First and
foremost is the need for
Hebrew teachers and educa-
tional material — books, dic-
tionaries, newsprint.
While the Jewish Agency
representative is optimistic
about providing teachers from
Israel, the experience of
representatives of the Jewish
centers in the Baltic states
points to difficulties. In
Tallinn, 300 people wish to
study Hebrew; they're
awaiting a teacher from
Finland. There are schools for
children in Lithuania and
Latvia and classes in Hebrew
and Jewish studies. Children
are taught Hebrew and Yid-
dish songs, often learned
without
mechanically
their
understanding
meaning.
A representative from
Lithuania distributes copies
of the first issue of a Yiddish
Yerushalaim
newspaper
(Jerusalem of
d'Lita
Lithuania), published in
Vilnius in October 1989. Its
articles are charged with
elated emotions, describing
the opening of a synagogue
and other activities. Plans for
Jewish education, lectures,
exhibitions, theaters and
choirs are mentioned. But
while in the Baltic states the
Jews are actively pursuing
these plans, the represen-
tative from Leningrad com-
ments that the number of
students is small because of
the fear of pogrom. Whereas
two months ago one could
freely speak Yiddish, now
everybody wants tot leave as
soon as possible.



Dr. Leora Shelef is chairman
of Wayne State University's
department of food science
and nutrition. She is
presently serving as Fulbright
Scholar at Tallinn Technical
University in Estonia, USSR.

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