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Soviet Embassy in London Rejects Petition on Jews; Receives Delegation

A petition for the granting of full religious and cultural rights to Soviet Jews was rejected here today by the USSR Embassy, after 1,000 students staged a parade to the Embassy. However, two second secretaries of the Soviet mission, E. F. Rogov and I.F. Pavlov, received a delegation representing the students from universities throughout Great Britain who had participated in the protest march. Both officials said they could not receive the petition on the grounds that “there is no Jewish problem in the USSR.”

In a discussion relating to Soviet Jewry, the student representatives pointed out that no Hebrew prayer books are being published in the Soviet Union, the Yiddish press is suppressed, there is no Yiddish state theater, there are no Yiddish schools, and only eight books have been published recently in the USSR, where the last census showed that 478,000 Jews claim Yiddish as their “mother tongue.”

The Soviet officials replied negatively or evasively to every one of the student charges. They said there were four synagogues in Moscow, but could not say how many synagogues are existent throughout the rest of the Soviet Union. They named the monthly, pro-Communist magazine, Sovietisch Heimland, as a Yiddish publication, and claimed that the Birobidjaner Shtern is published twice weekly in the “Autonomous Jewish Republic of Birobidjan.” They denied the charge about Yiddish schools. They produced a recent photograph of a Yiddish drama group, which the students said showed “pathetic, itinerant old people.” They insisted that more than eight Yiddish books have been published in the USSR in recent years, but failed to back up that claim with any hard facts or figures.

Regarding the charge that no Hebrew prayer books have been published in the USSR in recent years, the Embassy officials said that there had been such publication — but could not name either the year or the number of Hebrew prayer books printed.