Soviet Government Reports to U.N. on Status of Jews in U.S.S.R.

The Government of the Soviet Union, in the first official report of its kind ever made public, conceded that there are 3,000,000 Jews in the USSR and claimed that “worshipers of the Jewish faith have at their disposal about 450 synagogues.”

The Kremlin report was one of 86 “country studies” filed by as many nations with the United Nations as background for a two-year study on worldwide discrimination in the matter of religious rights and practices. The overall study is being made by a subcommission of the Human Rights Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Among the studies were also reports from two of the constituent republics of the USSR, Ukrania and Byelorussia.

All of the Soviet countries claim that they adhere to a Soviet Russian decree adopted in 1918, providing that “every citizen may profess any religion or none at all.” All officially proscribe “any legal disabilities connected with the profession of any religion, or none,” and all claim they outlaw “attacks against the clergy and the believers who practice religious rights.”

The Soviet Government asserts in its official report that “Jewish synagogues and sectarian houses of worship are open daily and may be freely visited by worshipers for the purpose of taking part in public divine services, private prayer, or the performance of any other ritual.” In a section of its report dealing with “ritual objects,” the Soviet Government asserts:

“By order of the USSR Government, on days preceding particularly important holidays–Passover in the case of the Jews–the shops of the State trading organizations sell special types of bakery products, such as matzot. (unleavened bread) for Orthodox Jews to enable worshipers to perform the appropriate ritual.” The USSR report mentions nothing at all about help or deterrence to Jews desiring to observe the ritual dietary laws.

CITES EXISTENCE OF YESHIVA IN MOSCOW; STRESSES PUBLICATION OF SIDDUR

According to the Soviet Government, there is a rabbinical theological school (yeshiva) in Moscow. A note added to the report observes that the Moscow yeshiva was opened only three years ago, on January 6, 1957. Declaring that “with aid from the State, the various religious organizations regularly publish a wide assortment of devotional literature,” the Soviet Government reports that a siddur (prayer book) is published “for worshipers of the Jewish faith.” In this section, the report quotes this supplementary information:

“Before his death (April 7, 1957), Rabbi Solomon Schliefer, Chief Rabbi of Moscow, had succeeded in publishing 10,000 copies of a prayer book. It was hoped that this would be the beginning of a continuing project for supplying religious Jews in the Soviet Union with prayer books, which had been practically unobtainable.”

Other sections of the Kremlin report refer to facilities for travel abroad for religious pilgrimages, granted to practitioners of the Moslem religion, and for “manufacture of the requisite articles for religious worship” permitted to various religious practitioners. There is no mention of the granting of such privileges to Jews.

The Ukrainian and Byelorussian reports mention Jews only in passing, and list no statistics whatever for Jews in these regions which had been centers of rich Jewish culture for centuries before the Communists took power.

POLAND, HUNGARY AND RUMANIA SUBMIT REPORTS ON JEWS TO U. N.

A Polish report states that. “all Jewish personnel are granted special holidays on Jewish Holy Days.” It declares that “the Government assists the Jews in obtaining kosher meat, and grants to every Jewish community the necessary amount of flour for matzot for the celebration of Passover.” In the field of religious training, the Polish report states: “There are at present 20 day schools of the Talmud Torah type, and 30 schools with classes in the afternoon hours.”

Rumania reports that it “permits” animal slaughter in accordance with the rules of kashruth, Rumania is credited with having “many” Talmud Torahs, as well as a rabbinical seminary with 35 pupils at Bucharest.

The report on Hungary states, as of 1958, that “Budapest had 16 synagogues with a total seating capacity of over 3, 000 and 10 rabbis. Prayer books and religious objects were allowed to be imported, and the Government also made a grant during 1957-1958 for repairing the main synagogue in Budapest, which celebrated the centenary of its foundation in 1958, and for the rebuilding of the famous medieval synagogue in Sapron,”

Two Hebrew secondary schools and a rabbinical training college are listed as existing in Budapest. There were 12 students in that seminary in 1958, “and the salaries of the rabbis and teachers were paid by the Government.” The Hungarian Government states officially:

“The Hungarian Israelite communities received, in 1953, over and above the regular yearly state subsidy of 2,700,000 another 500,000 forints for the restoration of the synagogue in Dohany Street, in Budapest, and 200,000 forints for the restoration of the synagogue in Szeged.”

The Jewish population of Poland is estimated, as of 1956, at 50,000. Hungary’s Jewish population, as of June 1955, is estimated at about 120,000–as against 400,930 in 1941. In Rumania, the Jewish population is estimated as totaling 230,000 in 1954–against 350,000 in 1949. The presumption is that most of the 120,000 Rumanian Jews taken off that country’s lists between 1949 and 1954 had emigrated to Israel.

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