Riga (Sep. 21)
(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)
Revelations concerning the recent arrest and release of Rabbi Schneursohn, the famous Russian Jewish religious leader, known as the Lubowitscher Rebbe, and head of the Chassidic Chabbad school, which has numerous followers throughout Jewish communities of the world, were contained in reports received here from Moscow.
Rabbi Schneursohn was arrested by the Soviet authorities in the middle of June and was brought to Moscow where he was ordered exiled to Kostroma. The order of exile was then revoked. After spending a month in prison he was released the middle of July and granted permission to leave Russia, the Latvian government having permitted him to settle permanantly in Riga.
The imprisonment of Rabbi Schneursohn who is held in high esteem by Russian Jews and who has never before been interfered with by the Soviet authorities during all the years of the Soviet regime gave room for much speculation as to the cause of his arrest and the sudden decision to release him. In Chabbad Chassidic circles his arrest and release are viewed as an event similar to that which befell his great grandfather who was arrested during the regime of Nicholas I and whose release is still considered in Chassidic tradition a miracle.
The original report concerning the Rabbi’s arrest stated that the charge against him concerned his alleged activities to raise funds for the maintenance of his Yeshiva, which has been in existence for a long time with the Soviet authorities taking no cognizance of it.
Well informed circles in Moscow, according to the reports received here, trace the arrest of Rabbi Schneursohn to a serious party conflict within Russian Jewry and place the responsibility for the course of the events upon certain Jewish leaders. The controversy centered around the proposed conference of Jewish kehillahs in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, which is to be held in Leningrad on October 21, with the permission of the Soviet government, being the first of its kind to be held since the establishment of the Soviet regime.
Permission to hold this conference was granted by the government following the submission of a memorandum on this question by the leaders of the Jewish kehillah in Leningrad. It is stated that although there was unanimous agreement that some steps are necessary for consolidating the Jewish religious activities in Soviet Russia and tryng to widen ther scope as much as possible, and although the agenda of the conference was approved by the government, Rabbi Schneursohn and the group of rabbis associated with him voiced their opposition to the holding of this conference at the present time. They contended that in view of prevailing conditions it would be impossible to elect a truly representative body of Russian Jewry and that why committee which might result from this conference would not be endowed with the power to carry on the work and have the religious authority required.
This attitude of the Lubowitscher Rebbe called forth resentment among the initiators of the Leningrad conference. To remove his opposition they decided, it is stated, to discredit him in the eyes of the Soviet authorities, an action which resulted in his arrest.
This charge against the initiators of the Leningrad conference could not be verified for obvious reasons. Rabbi Schneursohn’s release was brought about by the intercession of his friends, the echoes of the event abroad and the guarantee of the Jewish community of Moscow for the Rabbi’s complete loyalty. It was stated that Michael Kalinin, president of the Soviet Republic, has interested himself in the case.
This development has made uncertain the fate of the Leningrad kehillahs conference. There is no definite knowledge as to whether or not it will convene on October 21. The reports add that the resentment against the action of the conference initiators is so strong among religious Jews that it is planned by even those communities which originally intended to send representatives, to boycott the conference.
According to the original plan 110 kehillahs throughout the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics were to send 179 delegates. The agenda included questions pertaining to the establishment of Mikvehs, ritual baths; the founding of Yeshivas and maintenance for rabbis and synagogue officials. The conference was also to consider the question of the Chedarim, the Jewish religious schools; the printing of religious books and the problem of Sabbath observance. It was also to consider a plan to create a Union of Kehillahs in Soviet Russia.