PARIS (Jul. 19)
A somber picture of recent developments in the life of the Jews in the Soviet Union was presented here today by Dr. Nahum Goldmann. He drew that picture in a report for the World Conference of Intellectuals which met here under his chairmanship last September to evaluate the situation of the 3, 000, 000 Jews in the USSR.
During the last 12 months, Dr. Goldmann reported, 13 synagogues have been closed down in the Soviet Union. He listed the cities where Jewish houses of worship have been shut as Stalino, Kasaviurt and Kobuleit in Daghestan, Saratov, Rezina, Kremenchug, Poltava, Veliki-Luki, Soroka, Novograd-Volinsk, Kaminovits, Tukkum (near Riga), and the Russkaya Street Synagogue at Czernowitz.
In general, the report found, “no signs of improvement” in the religious life of the Jewish community in Russia could be found since the Paris conference of last year, nor has there been any “distinct improvement” in regard to Jewish national or cultural life in the Soviet Union.
Since the 1960 conference had requested the Soviet authorities to permit emigration of Jews wishing to reunite with their families abroad, Dr. Goldmann touched specifically on that issue in his eight-page report. He stated that, although “tens of thousands” of applications have been submitted by Jews desiring reunion with their families, “only a negligible number of these applications have received favorable attention.”
Finding that there is “a general anti-religious campaign in the Soviet Union,” the report pointed up the fact that “where the Jewish religion is concerned, its character is uninhibitedly unpleasant, even at times outright anti-Semitic.” Rabbis and other Jewish ecclesiastic officials, Dr. Goldmann stated, “are often depicted as crooks and speculators.”
According to Dr. Goldmann, visitors to the Soviet Union have found “a severe shortage of Jewish prayer books and other objects necessary for the practice of the Jewish religion.” Consequently, the Jewish leader stated, “the Jewish religion experiences much greater discrimination than do other religious denominations in the Soviet Union.”
JEWISH INSTITUTIONS STILL BANNED IN RUSSIA; NO SINGLE SCHOOL EXISTS
In national and cultural activities, Dr. Goldmann said, there has been no improvement. “There are still no national Jewish institutions,” he reported, “or organizations, nor is there any relaxation of the total prohibition of Jewish clubs, societies and other institutions.”
The “few words” by contemporary Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union, Dr. Goldmann said, “have been permitted in Russian translation only.” However, he reported, an almanac in Yiddish and Russian was published during the last year in Birobidjan, as well as a volume of verse by Ascher Schwartzman and selected works by David Bergelson.
The announced publication of a Yiddish bi-monthly, entitled “Sovietische Heimland,” has offered, according to Dr. Goldmann, “some outlet to contemporary Soviet Yiddish writers.” “These meager concessions, however,” the Jewish leader continued, “emphasize the void in Jewish national, creative life, and are of significance only in that they, by inference, admit the hunger for Jewish culture.”
In spite of claims by Soviet authorities, Dr. Goldmann said, the Soviet Union has not, up to now, granted facilities for leading a full, Jewish cultural life. There is no Jewish school in the entire Soviet Union, nor is there a single general course where Jewish language and history is included in the curriculum.”
“Cracks in the wall” noted in the Goldmann report include the fact that “during the past year, there have been denials that a Jewish problem exists at all in the Soviet Union.” A Russian-Hebrew dictionary, containing some 30, 000 words, will be put on sale, according to an announcement by Soviet authorities reported by Dr. Goldmann.
Regarding “the tragic aspect of the family reunification plan,” Dr. Goldmann stated: “In these days, when the Eichmann trial has revived the memories of the terrible tragedy suffered by millions of Jews, it is surely the first duty of every government to help heal the wounds inflicted upon countless families.”
The report was submitted to participants and signatories of last year’s conference, including Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt; U S Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas; former French President Vincent Auriol, and British philosopher Bertrand Russel.