Situation of Soviet Jews Reflected at U.N. Council Parley in Geneva
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Situation of Soviet Jews Reflected at U.N. Council Parley in Geneva

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Discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union was cited here at today’s session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council as an example of the need for the adoption of the draft Declaration on Religious Intolerance.

The importance of immediate adoption of such a declaration, to assure religious freedom, was stressed at today’s session by United States delegate W. Means. Yesterday, the same request was voiced by Mrs. Marietta Tree, U.S. delegate, and by delegates from the United Kingdom and Austria during a discussion on the Human Rights Commission of the Economic and Social Council. In the debate over the Commission’s report earlier this year, several delegations had raised the problem of the situation of Soviet Jews. The Soviet delegates at that session had blocked any declaration alluding to Soviet Jewry.

With obvious reference to the Soviet Union, but, in accordance with accepted procedure, without mentioning that country by name, Mr. Means said today that in a country where freedom of religion is officially granted by the constitution, synagogues are closed, Jews are discriminated against, sacramental food is denied them and only one yeshiva is open for a community of millions.


Noting that Jews are systematically accused and put to trial for economic crimes, Mr. Means said the Jews “have no possibility to emigrate” and that this denial of their right to leave was a disregard of fundamental human rights. Other delegates who raised the question of the fate of Soviet Jewry at today’s session were M. Bouquin of France, Sir Samuel Hoare of the United Kingdom, Mr. Garcia of Argentina and the Austrian delegate.

During the debate, a heated discussion took place on the issue between the Soviet delegate, who tried to minimize the importance of the question of religious intolerance, and the French and British delegates. The representatives of Britain and France insisted on the urgency for the adoption of a declaration against religious intolerance.

At an earlier session today, the Social Committee of ECOSOC defeated by a vote of 15 to two, a Czech proposal calling for the postponement of the publication of a U.N. study by Judge Ingles of the Philippines on the right of persons to leave any country –a sensitive issue in the eyes of the Soviet Bloc delegates. The Soviet delegate also favored the postponement, declaring that the problem of the right to leave a country was “of no importance.”

The World Jewish Congress, today submitted a memorandum to the Economic and Social Council stressing the need to deal with the problem of religious intolerance. Citing the problem of restrictions placed on the baking of matzot by the Soviet Government, the document refers to the U.N. study on religious intolerance prepared by M. Krishnaswami of India, which declares:

“The members of a religion or belief shall not be prevented from acquiring or producing all materials and objects necessary for the performance or the observance of prescribed rituals or practices, including dietary practices. Where the Government control the means of production and distribution, it shall make such material or objects, or the means of producing them, available to the members of the religion or belief concerned.”

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