B’nai B’rith Head Sees Possible Change in USSR Restrictions on Jews

A “glimmer of encouragement” that Soviet state-inspired restrictions against Jewish community life may be eased in the USSR was expressed here today by B’nai B’rith president Label A Katz at the annual meeting of the B’nai B’rith International Council. Mr. Katz, who is the Council chairman, listed a recent series of “small but possibly significant developments” within the USSR that “suggest Soviet authorities are seriously disturbed by the extent of Western criticism over the discriminatory status of Soviet Jews.”

Among these, Mr. Katz said, were (1) the Khrushchev letter to Bertrand Russell denying any anti-Semitic implications in the wave of “economic trials”; (2) “contradictory Soviet responses” to a recent B’nai B’rith report of “blood libel” in Uzbekistan, and (3) appearance of the first Yiddish theatre group since 1948, when Stalin demolished almost every vestige of Jewish education and culture in the country.

“Publication of the Khrushchev letter in Izvestia is the first time in more than two decades that the Soviet people have been given to understand by the highest-ruling Party and State authorities that anti-Semitism is officially frowned on, ” Mr. Katz said. “In the past, Soviet denials have been limited to the foreign press.”

Since at least 60 percent of the 121 known death sentences for economic crimes were imposed against Jews in 58 trials in 36 Soviet cities reported as of last month, “there can be little doubt that anti-Semitism was a factor in the trials, ” Mr. Katz said.

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