WJC: Iranian Terror a Threat to Small Jewish Communities

NEW YORK - Iran's support for terrorist organizations threatens the safety of small, isolated Jewish communities worldwide, Edgar Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress, warned yesterday.

Bronfman will arrive in Israel today to attend a meeting of the WJC's board of governors, where one of the main topics on the agenda will be the difficult situation faced by many small Jewish communities, particularly in South America, the Baltic states and certain other countries of the former Soviet Union. The board will discuss a plan to establish a network that would establish and maintain ties between small communities and larger communities in the nearest big cities.

Bronfman said that the board will also discuss a plan to establish a regular framework for dialogue between Muslim countries and the West - an initiative the WJC has been pushing.

Bronfman, who spoke with Haaretz on Saturday after receiving an unofficial briefing from senior U.S. government officials, said that Iran's support for terror, and particularly its close ties with Hezbollah, represent a threat to the safety of such communities. Hezbollah, he noted, was behind the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Other senior WJC officials said that concern over the safety of small Jewish communities has grown in recent months. They added that Israel's budget-driven closure of its embassies in certain South American countries, such as Paraguay and Bolivia, has increased the feeling of isolation among these countries' Jewish communities.

In addition, they said, many small communities are witnessing an exodus of young people to the cities, while the rabbis, once a mainstay of community life, are aging and therefore curtailing their activities.