PARIS (Oct. 23)
A portrait of the present-day position of Russia’s approximate 3,000,000 Jews, confirming all previous reports that showed there is no central Jewish religious organization, no Yiddish press whatever, and lingering fears that the anti-Semitic terror period of 1948-53 might recur, was drawn here today by Andre Blumel, one of the topmost leaders of French Jewry and former president of the French Zionist Organization.
Special significance was attributed to M. Blumel’s report by the fact that he is one of the co-chairmen of France USSR, an organization whose aim is the fostering of mutual understanding between this country and the Soviet Union. M. Blumel is also one of the world leaders of the International League for Human Rights.
Just returned from a ten-day survey of the conditions under which Russian Jews live now, M. Blumel reported he found that the period of anti-Semitic terror under the last years of Stalin, during the years 1948 to 1953. has left an “indelible mark” on Soviet Jewry. Even today, he stated, the attitudes and reactions of Soviet Jews are fraught with fears that a similar wave of persecutions might return to haunt their existence. Government administrators and Russians in general, the Jewish leader said, are still “permeated” with the pre-1953 anti-Semitic attitude.
On the whole, M. Blumel found, Soviet Jews enjoy a feeling of relief that the “black, purge years” are over, Put the fears are there. While Jews are coming forward more and more openly with demands for the establishment of a central, Jewish religious organization and the revival of Yiddish theatre, the Russian rabbinate “lacks courage.” while Yiddish-language writers are “reluctant” to insist upon the revival of Yiddish literature, “due to the memory of the 1948-53 period.”
M. Blumel reported various promises from Soviet Government officials to improve the general situation regarding Jews. On the other hand, he reported, he could not during his visit obtain from the Government any data showing that there are Jews in the Soviet foreign service; and he could not find proof that distribution of matzch for Passover had been permitted anywhere except in Leningrad and Moscow.
FINDS ONLY 107 JEWS OUT OF 10,000 WORKERS IN BIN MOSCOW PLANT
The Jewish leader reported that he and his personal interpreter, whom he brought from France, found only 107 Jews among the workers in one of the largest manufacturing plants outside Moscow, where 10,000 workers are employed. But these workers, he said were “indignant” at reports their children have been found ineligible for admission into “the most important Soviet schools, being shunted most often into engineering schools and law faculties.
Many Russian Jews have received honors for scientific work, M. Blumel said, while many others practice law. He said he was told that about 50 percent of the lawyers in Kharkov and Leningrad are Jews.
The fact that Russian Jews want avidly to show their religious affiliation was illustrated by a personal observation by M. Blume, in Leningrad, which he visited on Simchat Torah, the last day of the Succot festival. He reported that more than 15,000 Jews milled in the streets outside the Leningrad synagogue on Simchat Torah, unable to enter the house of worship which was crowded to capacity.
In talks with officials of the Soviet Government’s department of religious affairs, and in conversations with Jewish community leaders, M. Blumel reported, he was given these promises:
The Jewish community in Leningrad is to received a 55-acre grant from the municipality for a cemetery and for the construction of a new synagogue; and has received authorization to print 5,000 prayer books. In response to protests, the Babiyah mass-grave cemetery in Kiev, where the remains of 10,000 Jews massacred by the Nazis are interred, will not be turned into a municipal park but will, instead, be marked by a monument honoring the memories of the Jewish dead.
Yiddish writers will be permitted to issue a periodical in Yiddish as a “test” that would determine whether there is public demand for such a publication on a regular basis.
On the whole, M. Blumel reports, he found the Chief Rabbi in Moscow “not a very courageous individual,” while there is “little inclination on the part of Jewish leaders to stick their necks out” for fear of a recurrence of the terroristic period of 1948-53.