WASHINGTON (Feb. 5)
For the first time a high Soviet diplomatic official addressed today a conference of American rabbis, answering questions on the status of the Jews in the Soviet Union.
The official was Victor P. Karpov, First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington. He spoke on disarmament and world peace before 200 Reform rabbis attending a two day conference on this subject organized by the Central Conference of American Rabbis which was conducted by the Religious Action Center of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The conference was held in the State Department building.
Answering questions, at the end of his prepared talk, on the treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union, Mr. Karpov quoted the customary statistics to assert that while Jews composed only one per cent of the Russian population, the participation of Jews in Soviet life was proportionately greater in some fields and less in others. He said that 14 per cent of Soviet doctors were Jews and that eight per cent of lawyers were Jews. He added that “the question of religious practice is only a small part of Jewish participation.”
He also asserted that Jews could “worship freely” in synagogues and that “there are tens of thousands of books printed in Yiddish.” However, he claimed that many Soviet citizens of Jewish origin “are not Jews,” an implication that they did not practice Judaism.
When questioned about permission to the first Secretary of the American Embassy in Moscow to talk with rabbis in the Soviet Union, the Soviet diplomat stated that American Embassy personnel were “free to visit USSR rabbis” but, he added, this was “their business–not mine.”
Another question from the rabbis concerned Soviet arms aid to Arab countries against the background of the stated concern of the Soviet Union on arms control. He replied that the USSR was no more guilty of this than was the United States. He also said that when the Soviets suggested some time ago the prohibition of arms exports, there was no favorable response from any western country. The exchange of questions and answers took place before the entire audience but lasted only 15 minutes.