Chanukah Marked in U.S. with Message of Concern for Scviet Jewry

The eight-day celebration of Chanukah, which started last night, was marked by a Chanukah message issued by the Synagogue Council of America — the central national coordinating religious body which is composed of the official Conservative, Orthodox and Reform congregational and rabbinical groups — expressing “deep concern” for the survival of Soviet Jewry as a religious community.

“At a time when we commemorate the heroic struggle of the Maccabees against religious oppression, a struggle that occurred in the infancy of history, it is profoundly sad to observe that in our own day Jews in the Soviet Union are denied those communal institutions and activities which are the very life blood of their religious existence, “the message said.

“As we kindle the lamps of Chanukah 1965, we utter a special prayer for our brethren in the Soviet Union,” the statement continued. “We also rededicate ourselves to renewed efforts to arouse the conscience of the world to their plight. We dare not slacken or grow tired in calling the attention of men everywhere to the tragedy of an historic community that stands at the very brink of cultural and religious oblivion. To this task we must obligate ourselves if we are to be true to the legacy of the Maccabees and if our celebration of their heroic dedication to religious freedom is to have any meaning in our lives.”

The Synagogue Council of America also issued a statement criticizing the withdrawal of a Good Government Award from Rabbi Roland B. Gittlesohn of Boston by a local American Legion Post. The statement described the Legion’s action as undermining “both our democratic process and our religious heritage.” The Grosscup-Pishon Post of the American Legion retracted its decision to confer its Good Government Award on Rabbi Gittlesohn because it disapproved of Rabbi Gitttlesohn’s support of a march on Washington protesting U.S. policy in Viet Nam. “The issue is not the Viet Nam problem in itself, on which conscientious citizens can and do differ,” the Council’s statement declared. “The issue is freedom of expression and the right to dissent, which are integral parts of our American heritage.”

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