NEW YORK (Mar. 31)
Major Jewish communities in the Soviet Union have received matzoh for this year’s Passover in quantities sufficient to provide all who want this holiday necessity, the Novosti Press Agency, official Soviet feature news agency which serves the foreign press only, informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today. Novosti dispatches are not published in the USSR.
According to Novosti, 90 tons of matzoh have been baked and distributed this season in Moscow; enough for “more than 10, 000 people” in Leningrad; “sufficient for all who want it” in Kiev; 15 tons in Kishinev; and 15 tons in Odessa.
Informed sources in New York today questioned the accuracy of the Novosti report. On the basis of an authoritative report received from Moscow this week, they said that no more than 40 tons of matzoh had been baked in the Soviet capital this year.
These sources questioned another portion of the report. They noted that the Jewish population of Kishinev is estimated now at between 25, 000 and 50, 000. On the basis of this data, they doubted the Novosti figure contending that Jews in both Kishinev and Odessa had been provided the same quantity of matzoh, 15 tons in each case. Odessa’s Jewish population totals 250, 000, five to ten times the Jewish population of Kishinev.
JEWISH LEADERS CITED; MOTIVES IDENTIFIED FOR TIMING OF ANNOUNCEMENT
Novosti quoted Chief Rabbi Yehuda Leib Levin, of Moscow, as saying that the matzoh bakery under the supervision of his Central Synagogue had provided matzoh for those who wanted it, not only in his congregation but also in the synagogues of Marina-Roshcha, Cherkivozo and Malakhovka. He was quoted as saying: “In 1965; we managed to make not more than 45 tons of matzoh, and this year there will be exactly double that quantity;”
Yakov Khazin, executive secretary of the Jewish Religious Community of Leningrad, was quoted by Novosti as saying that his synagogue started baking matzoh in December, and has supplied matzoh “for more than 10,000 people. ” He was quoted as adding: “We have not restricted anyone, and matzoh has been provided for the whole congregation of the synagogue.”
The Soviet agency attributed the Kiev portion of the report to Iona Genedelman, chairman of the Jewish community in the Ukrainian capital; and the Minsk report to Ilya Charny, chairman of the Jewish community in the Byelorussian republic. Minsei Gruzman, head of the religious community in Kishinev, capital of the Moldavian Republic, was cited as the author of his city’s report; and Abram Vandeland, chairman of the Jewish religious community in Odessa, reported from that city.
From Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, Novosti reported that Georgia Chief Rabbi Emanuil Davadashvili said: “Apart from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, there are synagogues functioning in Batumi, Sukhumi, Tskhinvali, Kutaisi, Kulashi, Gori and other places, In almost all the Jewish religious communities of our republic, the baking of matzoh began in the end of last year. More than 90 tons of matzoh has been produced by the matzoh bakery of the Tbilisi Synagogue. “
The figures for Georgia were not questioned by experts here on Soviet Jewish conditions, who pointed out that, for many years, the Georgian Republic has been the most liberal in the entire USSR regarding freedoms granted to Jewish religious communities.
In general, it was pointed out here, the very fact that Novosti has issued the report on Soviet matzoh supplies on the eve of Passover indicates that USSR authorities are highly sensitive to increasing criticisms on Soviet discriminations against Russian Jewry, voiced throughout the world. The sources noted also that Novosti, as an official Soviet propaganda agency, may have wanted to influence world opinion at this time because many protests against anti- Jewish bias in the USSR have been sent to the 23rd congress of the Soviet Communist Party, now in session in Moscow.