NEW YORK (Nov. 6)
Three leaders of the Jewish community in Leningrad have been arrested, and one of them was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, after closed trials on charges of being “secret agents” and carrying on “treasonable” activities, the New York Herald Tribune reported today.
The report was written by Rowland Evans, Jr., a Washington correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, who returned recently from an 8,000-mile tour of the Soviet Union. The arrested men are reported to be Cedalia Rubinovich Pechersky, former lay chairman of the Leningrad Jewish Community; and Jews named Dynkin and Kaganov, whose first names could not be established by Mr. Evans.
According to the correspondent, Mr. Pechersky was put on trial on or about October 9, his trial lasting four days. He had been arrested in June, accused of “crimes against the State;” Mr. Pechersky was for years “the outspoken advocate of Jewish religious life,” the report said; He was elected to the leadership of the Jewish religious community of Leningrad in 1953, immediately after the death of dictator Josef Stalin. Leningrad has a Jewish population of 250,000, but not all of them are “practicing” or religious Jews.
The head of the Leningrad State Committee for Religious Affairs approved the election of Mr. Pechersky to the Jewish religious leadership, the report emphasized. However, according to Mr. Evans, Mr. Pechersky’s “stubborn and public battle for Jewish rights apparently forced his demotion in 1956 to the post of deputy chairman.” Between 1953 and 1956, Mr. Pechersky, according to the correspondent, “had succeeded in repairing the premises of the Leningrad synagogue, establishing the ritual slaughtering of fowl, and gaining official approval for the baking of Matzoth.”
In 1957, the correspondent continued, Mr. Pechersky was demoted still further, being stripped of his deputy chairmanship, but “he continued his public pressure for reforms.” Mr. Evans reported that Mr. Pechersky “was a prominent figure, not only to Leningrad Jews but also to important foreign visitors who toured the synagogue which for years has served as a showplace to tourists.”
The correspondent reported, further, that the Jewish community in Leningrad was “known for its aggressive stand and its stubborn struggle” to restore and preserve Jewish traditions. “The history of Soviet discrimination against Russia’s Jews offers evidence to support the view that the Pechersky trial, disclosed for the first time in this report, could be a harbinger of a new anti-Jewish campaign,” the correspondent stressed.