NEW YORK (Aug. 30)
The Soviet Union was urged by an American rabbi today to take a “creative step toward relaxation of the cold war,” by extending its constitutional guarantees of religious and cultural freedom to its Jewish citizens. Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, of the Hillcrest Jewish Center, Queens, told a press conference at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that such a step would also redound to the benefit of the Soviet Union itself and, at the same time, “liberate the cultural and religious expression of its Jewish community.”
The rabbi had just returned from a two-month world tour which included the Soviet Union, as chairman of the board of the new International Synagogue at Kennedy Airport, and as chairman of the Interreligious Cooperation Committee of the ADL.
Rabbi Mowshowitz clearly distinguished between an official policy of anti-Semitism–which he said is not followed by the Soviet Union, although there are many anti-Semites in the country–and a general practice by “an atheistic, materialistic nation” of religious and cultural discrimination which “falls heaviest upon the Jew” because of his close identity with his religion and his cultural heritage.
He pointed out that the Soviet Jewish religious community is seeking “no more but no less than other religious groups,”: its constitutional rights to worship without fear. This means, he said, the right to publish and distribute prayer books, establish more synagogues and religious schools, including Yeshivoth (seminaries), and to Join and meet with international religious bodies of one’s faith. He indicated that Christian and Moslem groups in the Soviet Union do engage in such international relationships, but that the Jews do not.