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U.S. Rabbi Renders Uncensored Report” on Life in Russia

An “uncensored report” on his recent trip to the Soviet Union was presented today to a group of Zionist leaders by Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, at a Z.O.A. luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria. The part of the report made public after the luncheon reads:

“What we have seen and heard leads us to the melancholy conclusion that Judaism in Russia is seriously threatened with extinction. The core of devout Jews, despite heroic and sacrificial efforts to preserve their faith, is waging a losing battle against Communism’s fundamental hostility to religion: While the Soviet regime speaks of religious freedom and has, in fact, somewhat relaxed some of its repressive measures, its policies continue to restrict and strangle Jewish life.

“We were shocked to find that the major institutions of the Jewish religion and the vehicles of expression of Jewish culture had all but vanished, leaving a Judaism that is anaemic and moribund. We had hoped to find in Moscow synagogues adequate to serve its approximately 300,000 Jews only to discover one synagogue and two auxiliary houses of worship. In Leningrad, a city with an estimated 200,000 Jews, we found only one synagogue where, formerly, there had been 16.

“For two years we had heard about the publication of a new prayer book; yet we found that it is not ready. The few prayer books in use are torn in shreds. We had heard of the establishment of a theological seminary for the training of rabbis and teachers to serve Russia’s estimated 3,000,000 Jews. However, we saw no evidence of its being launched. We found no religious schools for youth–indeed officials of the Council of Cults declared that the ban on such institutions is still strictly enforced.

“We found no Jewish cultural institutions, no religious literature of recent origin, no community organizations, no Yiddish or Hebrew press, no national Jewish bodies, no Jewish social service institutions, without which Jewish life cannot long endure. The brightest ray of hope is the still vigorous will for Jewish life even among the unsynagogued; the passionate desire by many parents to instill in the younger generation a love for God and loyalty to Jewish traditions. Under present conditions, however, they have few of the bare physical means such as religious books and little possibility for transmitting a Jewish heritage. They are desperately striving to build bricks without straw. And this is the great danger for the survival of Judaism in the Soviet Union.”

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