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U.S. Clergymen Ask Soviet Officials About Fate of Judaism in Russia

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A six-man delegation of the Protestant World Council of Churches which returned from an official visit to the Soviet Union, reported today that it had questioned Soviet officials about the fate of Judaism in Russia and that the officials had denied the existence of any problem.

The Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, executive head of the United Presbyterian Church of America and former president of the World Council who headed the delegation, said the denials came when the American clergymen inquired as to why the baking of matzoh for last Passover was banned in Soviet Russia and why the Moscow Yeshiva was closed last April. Dr. Blake said that the Soviet officials promised “to look into” the matter, despite their own denials.

Dr. Blake said this was the first time such a high-level Christian group had raised the issue with Soviet officials. Noting that the World Council had accepted, at its international conference in New Delhi last December, the Russian Orthodox Church as a full-fledged member, Dr. Blake commented that his prerogative of maintaining contact with co-religionists abroad is one of many denied to Soviet Jews.

He reported the delegation had visited the lone remaining synagogue in Odessa which he said was “dreadfully run-down and in desperate need of repair and painting.” He said even this synagogue, in a city with a Jewish population of 100,000 has no rabbi.

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