U.S. Asked to Ship Jewish Books to Russia Under East-west Exchange Plan

The Department of State today made known that it is considering a Jewish Labor Committee proposal to ship Hebrew and Yiddish books and periodicals to the Soviet Union under the East-West cultural exchange program.

The Department indicated it would consider the matter after Frederick Merrill, chief of the Department’s East-West cultural exchange program, met with a JLC delegation. The delegation presented a view that the United States had a “moral responsibility.” to raise with the Soviet Union the issue of liquidation of Jewish cultural institutions, writers artists, and other cultural leaders.

It was suggested to the Department that Soviet Jewry be afforded an opportunity to regain contact with Jewish cultural institutions outside Soviet borders. Such contact, it was said, should not be confined to exchange visits but to a more broad area–the re-introduction into the Soviet Jewish cultural mainstream of books and periodicals in Yiddish and Hebrew.

The JLC delegation stressed the importance of obtaining from the Soviet authorities an accounting of the fate of Jewish cultural personages whose disappearance has never been officially explained. A memorandum and documentation were presented to Mr. Merrill demonstrating that a vacuum exists in Soviet Jewish cultural areas as a result of a ten year purge. Despite free world protests, said the delegation, the “cultural genocide” continues.

Charging that concern is not only with past abuses, the delegation expressed concern with present practices “at this moment” in cultural discrimination against Jews. “Jewish institutions, press, publishing houses, schools, theaters are padlocked. Our government should be cognizant of the fact that there prevails within the Soviet Union today an atmosphere of suppression and repression against Soviet Jewry,” the delegation said.

The memorandum presented asked that the Secretary of State carry out negotiations under the cultural exchanges with Russia toward reviving “a culture that has been left for dead in the wake of purges conducted by the Soviets against their own Jewish cultural personalities.” Members of the delegation included Jacob T. Zukerman, president of the Workmen’s Circle; Jacob Pat, executive secretary of the Jewish Labor Committee, Dr. Israel Knox, American Jewish educator, and Walter J. Kirschenbaum, JLC director of public relations.

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