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Soviet Officials Continue to Close Synagogues; Jews Reported Panicky

A condition of near panic among Soviet Jews has developed as a result of the forcible closing of the Great Synagogue of Chernovitz in the Ukraine, last month, the New York Herald Tribune reported today.

Citing “a reliable report, ” the newspaper said that news of the closing of the historic synagogue in a city in which Jews are more than half the population spread swiftly through Jewish centers of the Ukraine and European Russia. The news has created “something near panic among the Jews of the Soviet Union who regard it as an evil omen for their future, ” the newspaper stated.

The report said that the Great Synagogue was widely used until the sudden closing which led Rabbi A. Barnboim to go to Moscow in Jure to plead with Soviet authorities against the move. Rabbi Barnboim sought without success to obtain the help of the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Yehuda Levin. The Soviet authorities sent the synagogue’s Torah to two small huts used for Jewish prayers on the outskirts of Chernovitz.

Synagogue officials were ordered to tell visitors that the synagogue close was the fault of congregants who had used the synagogue for unspecified “non-religious and illegal purposes, ” according to the report. The report also asserted that the Soviets have been imposing bans on private prayer meetings, to which Soviet Jews have been resorting increasingly because of the steady closing of synagogues in various parts of the Soviet Union

The report confirmed earlier disclosures that the baking of matzoh was forbidden before the 1959 Passover in-Kiev, Kharkov, Kuibyshev, Rostov, Kishenev, Odessa and Lvov in the Ukraine and in European Russia. It also mentioned the denial by first Soviet Deputy Premier Frol R. Koslov–during his recent United States visit–of such anti -Jewish actions and his statement that he had personally given permission to a rabbi of Leningrad to bake natzoh. The report indicated this statement to be an indirect verification of the anti-Jewish acts on the ground that there would otherwise be no need for a rabbi in the Soviet Union to have to ask a deputy Prime Minister for such permission.

Noting that other faiths in the Soviet Union are not molested, the report suggested that the current Soviet campaign is apparently “based on a belief” among Soviet officials “that the Jews are to be regarded as alien and hostile. They can live in the Soviet Union They are of course forbidden to leave. But they are not to create any national unit which might somehow be tied to Zionism or to the bourgeois Jewish cultural centers in America and Israel. “

Other restrictions cited in the report were:

In Bobruisk, the synagogue and eight private prayer meetings were closed. In Vitebsk, all 12 private prayer meetings were closed on May 16 and Vitebsk Jews were threatened with ten years imprisonment if they resumed the meetings. In Minsk and Smolensk, Jews were unable to obtain copies of the recent Soviet publication, in Yiddish, of the collected short stories of Sholem Aleichem. In Benderi, once part of Rumania, an ancient Jewish cemetery was destroyed. New housing is being built on the shattered tombs.

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