Passover Starts Tonight; Messages Highlight Soviet Discriminations
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Passover Starts Tonight; Messages Highlight Soviet Discriminations

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Passover will be ushered in at sundown tomorrow by Jews in the United States and throughout the world. With the observance of the first seder tomorrow night–even in the Soviet Union, where grave restrictions are in effect against the baking or obtaining of matzoh–the Jewish people will start celebrating the ancient, traditional festival of liberation, marking the emergence of the Jews to freedom from Egyptian bondage. A joyous holiday, Passover this year–as in other recent years–will be marred for the Jewish people by the severe, anti-religious oppressions imposed by the Soviet Government on the 3,000,000 Jews living in the USSR.

Thousands of American Jewish men and women in the service of their country, whether in the armed forces or in civilian capacities, will celebrate Passover in Army, Navy, Air Force and other installations around the world. The National Jewish Welfare Board has arranged Passover facilities for Jewish service personnel on duty in 600 military installations abroad, as well as for their families, aboard Naval vessels and troop transports, at missile bases and tracking stations, and for patients in Veterans Administration hospitals in this country.

Also included in JWB’s worldwide Passover arrangements are a number of American Jewish civilians serving with the Peace Corps in Nepal, Tanzania, Tunisia, Pakistan, Liberia, and Ethiopia and with State Department missions in Thailand and India. Passover services, sedarim on base, in synagogues, Jewish Community Centers and other community facilities, home hospitality, and, at many installations, special Passover meals for the entire eight days of the holiday, were organized in the United States and at some 70 overseas points by the 270 full and part-time Jewish chaplains, regional JWB consultants, community Armed Services Committee and Veterans Committees and Jewish Community Centers.


In 10 European countries where matzoh and other Passover supplies were either unavailable or in short supply, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee furnished 665,000 pounds of matzoh and other Passover needs. Charles H. Jordan, JDC’s director-general for Europe, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Geneva that the shipments, largest in 13 years, would make possible full observance of the Passover by 100,000 needy Jews.

One of JDC’s major recipients was the French Jewish community which is still struggling to meet the needs of the huge influx of refugees from North Africa. Mr. Jordan also reported that, because of a breakdown in local sources of supply, the Orthodox community of 1,800 Jews in Melilla, Spanish Morocco appealed to the JDC and received 13,000 pounds of matzoh.

In other parts of Morocco and Algeria, Tunisia, and Iran, the JDC made special cash grants to enable poverty-stricken Jews to buy Passover foods locally. In Poland, matzoh has been baked by the religious community with equipment provided by the JDC. Needy Polish Jews also were given funds to buy matzoh.


But while relative freedom from religious persecution was being enjoyed by Jews in most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain–not only in Poland but also in Hungary. Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria–the anti-Jewish discriminations were pointed up especially during Passover for the Russian Jewish population, second largest in the world.

The American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, comprising 24 national Jewish organizations representing the overwhelming majority of American Jews, dealt with that subject in a special Passover statement, issued by the chairman of the Conference steering committee, Label A. Katz. He is also rational president of B’nai B’rith. The Conference statement was supplemented by a lengthy special report, entitled "The Soviet Assault on Passover," detailing the history of Soviet restrictions on matzoh from 1957 to 1965.

Expressing the American Jewish community’s "chagrin and dismay" over the USSR’s "pernicious assault" on Passover observance, Mr. Katz said: "As a result of official Soviet policy, the vast majority of Soviet Jews will not have matzoh again this year. This means that they are again forcibly deprived of the chief means of observing Passover properly. American Jewry protests this discriminatory deprivation with all the force at its command."

Nothing that, "consistent, systematic, world-wide protests" had apparently caused the Soviet Government to shift its policy on Passover observance, by making this year’s ban on matzoh "less than total," Mr. Katz voiced gratification over this slight change in policy. But he noted that the change affects Jewish religious congregations in only three "showcase cities"–Moscow, Leningrad and Odessa. Even there, he pointed out, many difficulties have been put in the way of those Jews wanting matzoh, and the costs of matzoh are "exorbitant."

Except for Odesea, he stated, the matzoh ban remains in force throughout the Ukraine, affecting hundreds of thousands of Jews all over that region, including the capital Kiev, where the congregation’s request for a matzoh-baking permit had been denied. He charged that:

"Matzoh baking has been prohibited this year in Minsk, capital of Byelorussia; there is no sign of matzoh baking in any of the Baltic countries; in Riga, capital of Latvia, arbitrary obstacles prevented implementation of the permit which the congregation ostensibly received; in Moldavia, which has a sizable Jewish population, especially in its capital of Kishinev, no matzoh baking is allowed."

Mr. Katz’s belief that only world-wide protests had brought about the slight shift in the Soviet Government’s anti-matzoh policy this year was supported by a statement made in an interview here last night by Associate Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg. "The limited action of the Soviet Government in regard to its permission for the baking of matzoh, at least in Moscow," he said, "is certainly an action in response to world opinion. Facts show that there is still anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, and anti-Jewish actions by the Government persist, in spite of Soviet denials."


Virtually every Jewish organization in the United States issued a special Passover message. Max H. Fisher, general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, declared that, as American Jews marked the exodus of the Hebrews from bondage, "we can be joyful and proud that we have aided the modern exodus which, in the 27 years since the founding of the UJA, has resettled more than 1,335,000 uprooted Jews in Israel, and another 350,000 in other havens."

Abraham Feinberg, president of the Israel Bond Organization, pointed cut that the observance of Passover "sharpens our vision as Jews, and heightens our sense of achievement and responsibility in the work that we are doing to strengthen Israel as the expression of the Jewish love for freedom."

Dewey D. Stone, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Inc., said that, while "the commitment to freedom expressed in the Passover holiday is as old as the Jewish people," American Jews must remember that "in each generation, freedom may again become a perishable commodity." Dr. Emanuel Neumann, chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, stated that the resettlement in Israel from 1960 to 1964 of some 250,000 Jewish refugees, under Jewish Agency auspices, constituted a "modern recreation of the Biblical Exodus" which was "in keeping with the Passover spirit and tradition."

Dr. Max Nussbaum, chairman of the American Zionist Council, and president of the Zionist Organization of American, urged all Jews to rally under the Zionist banner to help safeguard Israel’s security and the welfare of Jews everywhere, adding that the Passover festival signified the need for Jewish alertness against dangers to Israel, and to the survival of the Jewish people.


The plight of the Jews of the Soviet Union was cited in a message from Mrs. Rose L. Halprin and Dr. Israel Goldstein, as co-chairmen of the World Confederation of General Zionists, who said that neither the Jewish people, nor the free world "can rest peacefully" until the bonds on Soviet Jewry were lifted. Further concern for the fate of Soviet Jewry, calling for world leadership to halt those operations, were voiced in Passover statements by Mrs. Mortimer Jacobson, president of Hadassah; Rabbi Uri Miller, president of the Synagogue Council of America; and Moses I. Feuerstein, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Max Bressler, president of the Jewish National Fund of America, called on American Jews to remember at the seder table the unfinished work of land reclamation in Israel, and the need to help both the new settlers and those en route to Israel. Mrs. Eli Reznikoff, president of the Mizrachi Women’s Organization, said that if Jews in the United States are to be "truly free" they must give "total moral and spiritual support" to the struggle of the American Negro for freedom, and to the integration of the Oriental newcomers in Israel.

A similar call for American Jewish support for the struggle of the Negro for full civic equality was contained in the Passover message of Dr. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, Murray I. Gurfein, president of United Hias Service, said some 12,000 Jewish men, women and children would be helped by Hias this year to find new homes, fleeing from "spiritual bondage."

Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, the would leader of the Lubavitcher Hassidic movement, called on Jews to implement the spirit of Passover by rejecting modern idolatries of every kind.

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