LONDON (Nov. 9)
The news that three aged leaders of the Leningrad Jewish religious community had been arrested and sentenced to prison last month, after a secret trial, was confirmed today in cables from Moscow to London newspapers.
The three leaders were Gedalia Pechersky, former lay chairman of the Jewish Community in Leningrad, and Dynkin and Kaganov whose first names were not learned. The Moscow despatches said that the three Jews were tried on charges of being “secret agents” and conducting “treasonable activities.”
The reports from Moscow revealed that the trial of the three, which was held in secret, took place from October 9 to October 13. Pechersky, who is 60 years old, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. The other two received sentences of four years each only because of their age, the reports said. They are both over 70.
According to the confirmatory reports, some 12,000 young Jews, plus a six-piece orchestra from a Leningrad Conservatory, gathered around a Leningrad synagogue on Simchas Torah, last October 2, and sang Jewish folk songs and danced Jewish dances until midnight. Jewish sources here believe that this massive demonstration added to the severity of the sentences of the three Jewish leaders.
The Jewish community in Leningrad is known for its stubborn struggle to restore and preserve Jewish traditions and Pechersky was in the forefront of that struggle, according to the Moscow reports. As a result of such efforts, he was stripped of his official position but continued his fight for Jewish religious rights.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews today asked about the reports at the Soviet Embassy here and an Embassy spokesman denied any knowledge of the case. The Board in a statement expressed “deep concern.”
Sir Barnett Janner, MP, president of the Board, said he was “astonished” that the Leningrad Jewish leaders had apparently been accused of “consorting with foreign agents,” whatever “that meant.” He expressed fears that the episode was “still another example of the discriminatory trend against Jews” in the Soviet Union.