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Dead Sea Scrolls Elicited Interest in Moscow, U.S. Scholar Reports

More than 1,000 scholars from 60 countries, including the Soviet Union, showed great interest in the Dead Sea scrolls and in the recently discovered Bar Kochba letters, at the 25th International Congress of Orientalists held this month in Moscow, an American scholar reported here today.

Dr. Walter J. Fischel, professor of Semitic languages and literature at the University of California, at Berkeley, reported these observations today when he returned from the Moscow congress. He was one of a number of prominent Jewish scholars from this country attending the congress, held at the University of Moscow from August 9 to August 16. Other prominent scholars from this country in attendance were Dr. Solomon Zeitlin, of Dropsies College, who discussed the Dead Sea scrolls; and Dr. Abraham L. Katsh, of New York University, an authority on Russian collections of rare Jewish and Hebrew manuscripts.

Israel had sent an official delegation composed of seven eminent scholars, headed by ex-general Yigal Yadin, who is a famous archaeologist. Dr. Yadin lectured on the Bar Kochba letters which teams he headed in Israel discovered several months ago. Dr. Fischel was invited by the Russian hosts of the conference to preside at one session, dealing with the history of the Arab countries. A few Arab scholars participated in the discussion that followed Dr. Fischel’s address. However, the California Jewish scholar noted, there were surprisingly few Arab delegates at the Congress.

Russian-Jewish scholars were active in the Congress. The session addressed by Dr. Yadin had as its chairman a famous Jewish orientalist, J.N. Vinnikov, professor of Semities at the University of Moscow, Dr. Vinnikov speaks both Hebrew and Yiddish fluently, according to Dr. Fischel. A Jewish woman who is a librarian at Leningrad told him, Dr. Fischel said, that she receives many Hebrew works from Israel for cataloguing and indexing.

One of the features of the Congress, as far as the Jewish participants were concerned, was a well-attended reception at the Israeli Embassy in Moscow. The program of the congress carried a special note advising “believers” among the delegates where they could attend religious worship. On the list was the single synagogue in Moscow. Many Jewish delegates attended Sabbath morning services at that synagogue, Dr. Fischel said. There were about 500 Russian Jews present, nearly all middle-aged or older.

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