Jewish Youth in Russia Reported Interested in Jewish Life Abroad

Contrary to the general belief, Jewish youth in the Soviet Union feels itself part and parcel of the Jewish people. This conclusion was given to the press last night by spokesmen for some 100 Israeli non-Communist youth who returned last week from the Moscow Youth Festival.

The returning Israelis revealed that tens of thousands of Jews tried to make personal contact with the Israeli young people. The Israeli spokesmen estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the Jews who talked to them were young people between 18 and 35 years.

The Israelis encountered a great interest in Israel and world Jewry among all Soviet Jews they met. Many of the Soviet Jews spoke Yiddish and Hebrew. The young Israelis described the case of a middle aged man who possessed only one Hebrew book which he has read and re-read constantly for 40 years in order to conserve his knowledge of the language. The younger people who speak Yiddish or Hebrew mostly learned the languages from their parents.

The questions put to the Israeli visitors mostly centered on conditions in Israel. Many Russian Jews expressed hope that they would be able to visit Israel under the Soviet Union’s recently liberalized and expanded foreign tourist scheme.

Despite official hostile anti-Israel propaganda, the visitors found a cordial reception from many non-Jewish Soviet citizens. A Cossack youth even insisted that in view of the hostility which existed in Czarist Russia between Cossacks and Jews he wanted to embrace and kiss publicly one of the Israelis.

Although the Israelis made numerous attempts, they never succeeded in holding official meetings with Arabs. In unofficial talks, too, the Arabs’ attitude was one of downright hostility, the youth festival delegates stated. However, a number of Asian delegates, including Indians, Ceylonese and Indonesians, displayed friendliness and the Polish delegation was extremely friendly.

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