Commitment to Judaism and Israel

In order to help his wife, who at the time was committed to setting up a secret immigration network towards Palestine, Chaïm Perelman created the Jewish Refugees Welfare Society, an entirely legal association, in the name of which Fela Perelman acted illegally. Their intervention meant that thousands of survivors of the death camps could be reunited with all those who were working towards the creation of a Jewish State. With the UNO vote of 29 November 1947 on the sharing of Palestine, there was a growing need to create a body which would be both a powerful support to the Jewish Agency, in order to gain voices for the Zionist cause in Belgium, and the fermenting agent for cultural relations between the new Jewish State and Belgium, in particular throughout the scientific world. This is why Chaïm Perelman took the initiative to begin, with the help of a few friends, the work of the Belgian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, of which he was the Secretary-General.

In the spring of 1955 Chaïm Perelman founded the Menorah association that he chaired until it was dissolved. The creation of this body, which proved to be particularly active in Brussels at the end of the 1950s and at the beginning of the 1960s, notably publishing a quality periodical, by organising numerous activities and conferences focused on Jewish education and culture, fitted well with Perelman’s Jewish political and cultural identity at this time. The creation of the State of Israel had modified the very essence of his Zionist adherence. Having refused to belong to a Zionist party in diaspora, from this point on Perelman fought for Israel: he was fully committed to the young Jewish State but refused the ambiguous allegiance of the militant Zionist politics. In 1959 he accepted the presidency of the Magbit (Keren Hayessod) and the Vice-Presidency of the Belgo-Israeli friendships which had just been founded. Perelman shared this position with a young and talented political analyst from the University of Brussels who went by the name of Marcel Liebman and who was secretary of Menorah at the time.

Chaïm Perelman had a great deal of influence and prestige at the time, both outside the Jewish community, as a logician with an international reputation, and within it, where his moral authority was incontestable.

Source : Schreiber Jean-Philippe, “Perelman, Chaïm (baron)”, in : Dictionnaire biographique des juifs de Belgique : Figures du judaïsme belge XIXe – XXe siècle, Brussels, De Boeck et Larcier s.a., 2002, p. 273.Translated from the French by Catherine Hall.


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