Columbia U. Students and Faculty Present Petition on Soviet Jews

The Committee on Soviet Jewry at Columbia University announced today that several hundred students and faculty members from universities in the metropolitan area will march tomorrow from Hunter College to the Soviet Mission to the United Nations and seek to present a petition on behalf of Soviet Jewry to Nikolai Fedorenko, the Soviet permanent representative at the United Nations.

The petition to be presented tomorrow makes a number of proposals aiming at increased exchanges in the educational field between students and scholars in the two countries, with particular reference to Soviet Jewish citizens. It requests the Soviet Government “to give serious consideration and view with favor” the following proposals:

“1. The Soviet Union and the United States have for a number of years encouraged and increased the exchange of students and scholars. Thousands of students have participated in such exchange programs over the last few years not one Soviet Jewish student has been among those coming to the United States. We therefore urge that Soviet Jewish citizens be included in the regular exchange of scholars between our countries.

“2. In both countries there are many great libraries and sources for study in the field of Jewish research and cognate subjects. There are large collections of books and manuscripts, for example, in Leningrad and Moscow, which could be made more accessible for research to all scholars of Judaism. We would like to be able to make equally available to Soviet Jewish citizens the great repositories of Jewish learning and knowledge in the United States. American Jewry is prepared to provide funds to assure the implementation of this exchange.

“3. We, in the United States, are aware that not one seminary for the training of rabbis and teachers exists today in the Soviet Union, We therefore are willing to undertake the training of Soviet Jewish students here in the United States as rabbis. We are also willing to provide funds and teachers for the establishment of a rabbinic seminary in the Soviet Union.

“4. We propose that teachers at the primary and secondary level, who are qualified to educate the Soviet Jewish children in the culture, history, religion and heritage, be permitted to serve the communities in which there are large Jewish populations. There are numerous students and teachers in the United States willing to assume the task out of a sense of dedication with no financial burden to the Soviet community. We are troubled that no such schools exist today in the Soviet Union. It is our hope that this program will eventually result in the creation of an exchange program of trained teachers in Jewish studies between our two countries.

“5. We are concerned that the once thriving literary and scholarly Jewish community has only produced token publications within the last two decades. We therefore recommend that permission be granted for the development of Jewish literature and liturgical material in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish. We Americans are prepared to send books, prayerbooks and educational materials to the Soviet Union for use in schools, libraries, and synagogues in the hope that they will be made available to any Soviet Jewish citizen seeking them. We are eager and willing to help finance and develop these endeavors.

“6. We are concerned that the once flourishing Yiddish theater and literature in the Soviet Union have virtually vanished. The enthusiastic and positive response of Jews in the Soviet Union to occasional Yiddish cultural programs by Jewish artists from outside the Soviet Union has demonstrated the need for expanding these activities. We recommend that cultural and recreational facilities be developed to provide for the study and nurture of prospective artists in these disciplines. We are also prepared to provide funds and artisans necessary for the development of cultural and community institutions for Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union.

“7. We wish to have established wider contact between the Jews of the Soviet Union and the Jews of other countries. The type of contacts which the Armenian citizens of the Soviet Union have developed with Armenians abroad sets a pattern which is both feasible and desirable. We hope that representatives of Soviet Jewry might attend international conferences and contribute to Jewish thought and scholarship.”

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