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Soviet Intrigues to Bar Israel Embassy Staff from Moscow Synagogue

The Chief Rabbinate has received several letters from Moscow protesting the attendance of members of the Israeli Embassy staff there at religious services in the Moscow synagogue, newspapers reported today.

The letters, an obviously inspired attempt to restrict even further the limited possibilities of the Israel Embassy to have any contacts with the Russian Jewish community, were purportedly written by members of the Moscow congregation. They complained of the behavior of the Israeli diplomats, accusing them of disturbing the services by loud talk and of desecrating the Sabbath by smoking.

The letters were seen here as opening guns of a campaign to bar the Israeli diplomats from the synagogue in an effort to discourage Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel. The Soviet authorities, it was said, were now apparently compelling Jews to participate in this campaign.

Last month, the Soviet authorities permitted a group of 12 Russian Jewish tourists to visit Israel. One of them has already published an article in the Soviet press describing the “suffering of the new immigrants” and the “long lines of people before the Soviet Embassy seeking return to their homeland.”