WASHINGTON (May. 14)
The Soviet Embassy here today released the text of a letter purportedly signed by “five prominent Soviet Jews,” denying charges of Kremlin-inspired mistreatment of Russian Jewry. The letter, written to the Russian Novosti press agency, said the five were acting because they “have read with indignation the allegations in the Western press about an anti-Semitic campaign in the USSR.”
The Embassy stated it was issuing the letter specifically in response to charges of Russian anti-Semitism made recently by U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits. However, the same charges have been made widely and reported in the Western press by many other prominent Americans for many months.
“We declare before all the world: The Soviet Jews need no ‘protectors’ or ‘patrons,’” the letter stated, adding: “an objective observer cannot but admit that there is no Jewish problem in the Soviet Union.” Asserting that Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality constitute a part of the entire Soviet people, and that Soviet Jews’ “private and public interests coincide with the interests of all the Soviet people,” the letter alleged that “the Soviet State takes care of the Jewish population in the same way as it does Soviet citizens of any other nationality.” It cited these “facts” to back the contention:
“The Jewish population of the Soviet Union as of the 1959 census was 2,268,000.” Of the almost 2,400,000 undergraduates turned out by Soviet institutions of higher learning. there were 77,177 Jews. There are currently 427,000 Jews in the Soviet Union who are “specialists with higher and secondary specialized education in the Soviet economy.” Soviet scientific workers include 33,529 Jews.
The letter said also that, although the Jews of the Soviet Union make 1.1 percent of the total population, they constitute “14.7 percent of all Soviet doctors, 8.5 percent of all writers and journalists, 10.4 percent of all jurists, and seven percent workers” in such fields as acting, music, and other forms of art.
CONTEND JEWS SERVE IN ELECTIVE OFFICES; EDITORIAL CHALLENGES APOLOGISTS
The letter asserted that “Jews take an active part not only in the development of the Soviet economy and culture, but also in running the state.” It said that, in 1961, there were 7,623 Jews elected as deputies of “the local organs of the Soviet Government.” In addition, it said that “there are Jews among the deputies of the Supreme Soviets of the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania and other republics, as well as of the USSR Supreme Soviet.”
It said also that “the Jewish religion is not persecuted in the USSR,” but is “placed in the same conditions as any other religion.” It ascribed “the decreasing number of believers” to the fact “that the materialist outlook prevails over the idealistic.” Asserting pride in “our Soviet homeland,” the letter asked: “Is it possible to speak of discrimination against Jews under such circumstances?”
The letter was signed by Z. Vendrof, a writer; professor Boris Eidelman, master of laws; composer Lev Pulver; Professor losof Braginsky, editor in chief of the magazine, “The peoples of Asia and Africa”; and Professor Ilya Strashun, a member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences.
(An editorial today in the New York Times, referring to the letter, pointed out that “these data, however, do not meet the specific questions raised in the West.” The editorial asked:
“Why are Jews not permitted to have matzos at Passover? Why has such prominence been given to Jewish criminals in the Soviet press in recent months, though no corresponding prominence is given to the important role Soviet Jews play in their country’s scientific, medical, literary and legal life? And why are Soviet Jews treated worse than any other major Soviet minority when it comes to freedom to express their cultural interests in the traditional language of Soviet Jews, Yiddish?”)