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Desire for Jewish Identification Reported Increasing in Russia

There is a greater desire for Jewish identification among Jews in the USSR than ever before, and that wish is increasing, an American rabbi who just returned from the Soviet Union reported here today.

The report was brought by Rabbi Raphael G. Grossman, of Long Branch, N.J., on his way home after a tour of principal Jewish centers in the USSR as one of the nine rabbis who visited the Soviet Union on behalf of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group. Rabbi Grossman was among the Jewish spiritual leaders from the United States who visited the Central Synagogue in Moscow a week ago Saturday, when three of the rabbis were given the rare privilege of preaching five-minute sermons to the Moscow congregants.

Emphasizing the fact that he was speaking as an individual, and that the nine-rabbi delegation is still to prepare a collective report dealing with their visit to the Soviet Union, Rabbi Grossman said the delegation of rabbis was received graciously wherever it went in the USSR. In addition to Moscow, the rabbis visited Leningrad, Tbilisi in the Caucasus (formerly Tiflis) and Kiev. “We consider that the visit was of great importance both to Jewry as a whole and to Russian Jewry in particular,” he said.

“There is more ‘Yiddishkeit’ among Russian Jews than we realize.” he said. “Communication between Jews in Russia and Jews in other countries, on the religious level, would be of great benefit, and we could perhaps do more in this respect than we are doing. For example, there is room for more visits to Soviet Russia by religious Jews. I do not mean visits by investigators or by negotiators. I mean visits by religious Jews to seek their brethren in communion of prayer.

“This is what our delegation has done and it was a great moment for us–and, I hope, for the congregation at the Moscow Central Synagogue–when three of us preached in the synagogue at the invitation of Rabbi Levin,” the American rabbi declared. He said that, after the visit to Tbilisi, “there were scenes of genuine emotion as we boarded our bus to leave. Oriental Jews from the Caucasus came up to shake hands; they virtually mobbed us in affection. It was an expression of a common faith.”

Rabbi Grossman also said he felt that Sovietisch Heimland, the Yiddish language monthly published in Moscow, while a good literary magazine, “does not meet the needs” of Soviet Jewry. He said he felt the Russian Jewish community might be served more usefully by a publication similar to the community newspaper issued in Rumania by that country’s chief Rabbi, Dr. Moshe Rosen.

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