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U.S. Rabbis Address Worshipers in Moscow Synagogue During Services

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Three American rabbis addressed the congregation of the Central Synagogue in Moscow at services last Saturday, and six other rabbis from the United States joined the Sabbath services there, along with 500 to 600 local worshipers, the New York press reported today from the Soviet capital.

All of the Americans represented the Rabbinical Council of America, which is composed of Orthodox rabbis in the United States. The three who had been given permission to speak to the congregation in Moscow were Rabbi Israel Miller, president of the Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Bernard Poupko, of Pittsburgh; and Rabbi Bernard Bergman, of New York.

According to Rabbi Bernard Twersky, spokesman for the Council, and a member of the group that visited Moscow, the rabbis had asked Moscow’s Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin last Thursday whether they would be permitted to address the congregation. Permission was granted Friday night, with the stipulation that politics be avoided, Summarizing the three five-minute addresses, Rabbi Miller said:

“We told them we were happy to be with them and gratified at the privilege of standing in the pulpit in which famous rabbis have preached. We tried to encourage them to speak up. The prayer before we spoke said, ‘The Almighty should fulfill all the requests of the heart for good.’ We told them their requests and ours were the same.

“We said we were grateful to the Soviet Union for voting with the United States in the United Nations for the establishment of the state of Israel. There was applause at this, which the Chief Rabbi stopped. We said we had not come on a political mission but had come to seek our brethren.”

After the three spoke, Rabbi Levin made a short speech in which he told the visitors to take home greetings from the Soviet Union and a wish for peace, particularly in South Viet Nam. According to Rabbi Twersky, members of the congregation wept, applauded, and otherwise showed great emotion over the participation of the Americans in their services. He said the delegation officially invited Chief Rabbi Levin to visit the United States.

During the services, a Soviet Jewish boy officially celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. The boy was Shlomo Shapiro, of Dushambe, capital of Kirghizistan, a Soviet republic in central Asia. His public celebration of Bar Mitzvah was believed to be the first in Moscow’s Central Synagogue in 15 years.

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